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Separation of Church and State is not a "Misnomer"

Mike Johnson calls the separation of church and state a “misnomer.”[1]

 

The First Amendment to the Constitution states that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…”[2]

 

Speaker Johnson repeats an oft cited trope that since the exact words “separation of church and state” appears nowhere in the constitution that the Founders envisioned a Christian nation. The establishement clause was enshrined in the constitution so that no one Christian sect would be favored by the government.[3]

 

To underscore that point, Johnson and other Christian Nationalists like Marshall Foster note that the term separation of church and state first appeared in an 1802 letter from Thomas Jefferson. Indeed, Jefferson wrote “Christianity neither is, nor ever was a part of the common law” during his first term as President.[4] 

 

However, Jefferson was not part of the Constitutional Convention – he was the author of the Declaration of Independence.

 

It is the writings of James Madison, the Father of the Constitution,[5] that then inform us as to the Founders intent. Madison’s “Memorial and Remonstrations Against Religious Assessments”[6] has become the greatest single presentation of the case for strict separation of church and state.

 

Madison wrote “Religion and government will both exist in greater purity the less they are mixed together.”[7] John Adams states more definitively that "The government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion.”[8]

 

While many of the Founding Fathers were religious, they did not intend to create a Christian nation. Separation of church and state reflected concerns by the Founders based on centuries of religious wars in Europe.[9]

 

The lasting scars of those wars lead to the First Amendment prohibition on “establishment of religion.”[10] James Madison wrote “The purpose of separation of church and state is to keep forever from these shores the ceaseless strife that has soaked the soil of Europe with blood for centuries.”[11]

 

The Founding Fathers created the Constitution based on the rule of law.

 

Christian Nationalism must be rejected. It is a threat to our rights and the democratic republic of the Founding Fathers.

 

 

 

 

 

[4] Foster, Marshall and Mary-Elaine Swanson, The American Covenant: The Untold Story. Foundation for Christian Self-Government. 1983.

 

 

 

[7] Robert S. Alley, ed., James Madison on Religious Liberty (Buffalo, NY: Prometheus Books), 83.

 

[8] 'Whether Christianity is Part of the Common Law?', letter to Dr. Thomas Cooper, from Monticello, February 10, 1814

 

[9]Berstein, R.B., The Founding Fathers Reconsidered. Oxford University Press. New York.

 

 

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