Mar 13

Chatting it up with the locals: Church/State Myth

I have a confession. I used to be a local forum junkie. The fact that my town has always been a rural backwater meant that I had to weed through endless threads of gossip and poor grammar, people calling each other names and threatening to beat each other up. I decided to move to a semi-local forum, a college town about thirty miles away and see if the conversation gets any better. Oh yeah and I’m going to share anything interesting that goes on. I’ll probably make this a regular thing. If nothing else some of you will get to see a slice of the intellectual life of small town America. I’ll be starting with a response to a post I browsed earlier today.

The post I’m responding to can be found here.

My responses can be found here.


“My Point” wrote:

Does ‘Separation of Church and State’ really exist? By Warner Todd Huston constitutional scholar

Secularists today have a catch phrase that they use like a club against religion in America. That club is named “The Separation of Church and State.”

So many Americans have heard the phrase that they think it is one actually written right into the Constitution of the United States. Those who are more learned on the subject realize it is not. In fact, those who are learned on the subject know that it wasn’t mentioned in any law, or even in the halls of Congress, until long after the Constitution was written. In fact, there was not much attention paid to the phrase at all until after liberal movement of the late 60’s.

1st Amendment to the Constitution

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances. In the final analysis, many scholars have observed no stark separation of church and state, but a practice of delegating a regulation of religion that rested with the various states. The states should decide. There was no expectation by the founding fathers or any language placed in the Constitution whereby religion would be banished from the public sphere. So this mythical “Wall of separation” does not really exist but in the minds of later day anti-religionists.Unfortunatel y, anti-religionists today forget that our nation was based on and intimately connected with, religious freedom. Not freedom from religion.

My response:

Usually I have to at least dig into the first paragraph of a post to start finding lies. One would even think it would be hard for a poster to lie if they’re doing nothing more than copying and pasting from someone else’s blog. Turns out Mr. or Mrs.“My Point” couldn’t resist the temptation and decided to inflate the resume of the author by calling him a “constitutional scholar.” He is no such thing. He is, however, an uber-right-wing blogger and freelance journalist. I know. It just doesn’t have that flair you get by lying through your keyboard.

Our heavily inflated blogger goes on to insist that the separation of church and state is a myth. He makes a very big fuss about the exact phrase “separation of church and state” not being in the constitution. That is an interesting observation. Let me ask you this then: Do you think Americans have a right to privacy? Not according to Mr. Huston’s logic. The phrase “right to privacy” is nowhere in the constitution. How about the “right to a fair trial?” Nope. That phrase isn’t in there either. Basically this one useless fact is all he has to offer in support of his point. He mentions scholars and their opinions but fails to name them. Fortunately for those of us who care about the constitution, the part where the US Supreme Court gets to do the interpreting does happen to be in there. And that is exactly what they have done, over and over again. Interestingly enough they also utilized that remarkably handy Library of Congress in the process and consulted a number of historical documents relating to the establishment clause, documents that I also took the time to read but which our “constitutional scholar” seems to have missed.

Jefferson’s letter to the Danbury Baptists was one of those documents. In explaining the purpose of the first amendment, Jefferson uses the phrase “wall of separation” in reference. Right wing pundits try to downplay Jefferson’s importance to the first amendment simply because he seems to be the one to have spoken the most about church/state separation. They always fail to mention that Jefferson was mentor to James Madison, you know, that guy that wrote the constitution and later the bill of rights. They fail to mention that it was Jefferson who convinced Madison of the need of these amendments. They also neglect to include the fact that Jefferson considered this no mere letter. He saw fit to have his Attorney General review the letter before sending it, telling him it was a means for “sowing useful truths and principles among the people, which might germinate and become rooted among their political tenets.”

They really don’t like it when you point out that Madison himself later explained the purpose of the first amendment in these terms. He called it a “total separation of church and state.” In an essay he wrote in the early 1800’s he even said “Strongly guarded…is the separation between religion and government in the Constitution of the United States.” Elsewhere he called it a “perfect separation between the ecclesiastical and civil matters” and a “line of separation between the rights of religion and the civil authority.” It is rather embarrassing to have the author of the document in question disagreeing with you on its meaning. Rest assured the Supreme Court, all of them Christians, took this information into consideration before performing their constitutionally mandated job of interpreting the establishment clause.

I could go on and on tearing this deceitful argument apart but I have other fish to fry.


And that was my first installment of chatting it up with the locals. Feel free to descend upon the Cookeville Topix Forums and inundate them with a heavy-handed dose of secularism if you get the chance. Our whole state could use it.

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