It’s the Conservatives’ Turn to Advance the Idea of Separation of Church and State

Church

If you asked most Americans where the concept of the separation of church and state is rooted, most of them would likely point to one of the nation’s founding documents. If you didn’t already know, you won’t find that phrase anywhere in the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, or the even the Bill of Rights.

Despite that fact, liberals in America have used the separation of church and state to rip down Christian crosses on public lands, remove prayer from schools, and manger scenes from city parks. Even though most school children don’t recite the Pledge of Allegiance any more, it’s is still under attack because of the words, “Under God,” and sadly, there is a similar effort to remove, “In God We Trust,” from our currency.

In the wake of last week’s Supreme Court Ruling that recognized same-sex marriage, it dawned on me that religious conservatives will now be the ones clinging to the notion of separation of church and state. Before modern agnostics hijacked the idea of separation of church and state, President Thomas Jefferson used the expression to reassure the Danbury Baptist Association in Connecticut that the new federal government would, “make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, thus building a wall of separation between Church and State.”

The concerns over religious liberty the Danbury Baptists shared with President Jefferson in the fall of 1801 are exactly the same concerns that religious conservatives have today. The Danbury Baptists wrote, “Religion is at all times and places a matter between God and individuals, that no man ought to suffer in name, person, or effects on account of his religious opinions, [and] that the legitimate power of civil government extends no further than to punish the man who works ill to his neighbor.”

Jefferson’s response was clear, “Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between man and his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legislative powers of government reach actions only, and not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should “make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,” thus building a wall of separation between church and State.”

More than ever before, our country needs a leader, who like Jefferson, will clearly stand by the First Amendment and will reassure religious believers that the court’s decision in Obergefell v. Hodges will do nothing to limit or impose restrictions on their personal religious beliefs. While the First Amendment is abundantly clear, it is understandable why millions of religious Americans fear what the Supreme Court could say on the matter if it ever got to that point.

Some Quick Thoughts on the Marriage Decision

  1. I have avoided social media like it’s a plague for the past week. I’ve had enough of rainbow and confederate flags for a while. I actually wrote an entire piece on what I was doing Friday morning. Since I doubt it is of much interest to any of my readers let me just say that I was happy to be unplugged for most of the weekend.
  1. The Court’s decision in Obergefell v. Hodges gives same-sex couples in America what they have desired for years – acceptance and validation. I’m sure that many same-sex couples wanted marriage rights and the benefits that come with that, but deep down, they wanted approval for their chosen lifestyle. As a Christian, I do not need nor do I seek government approval for my chosen lifestyle or Biblical beliefs.
  1. I’m disturbed how five Supreme Court Justices could find (and manipulate) legal precedent to issues such a ruling. Perhaps because the Iowa Supreme Court ruled to legalize gay marriage in 2009, the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision on Friday wasn’t all that upsetting to me. Sure is was disappointing, but I can’t remember the last time the Supreme Court issued a ruling that I was excited about. Instead, it was like finally getting the news you had dreaded, but knew would eventually come.
  1. While the White House was bathed in the colors of the rainbow on Friday night, deep down some of the most vocal proponents of same-sex marriage rights know that they are cowards. Not all that long ago Democrats controlled the Iowa House, Iowa Senate, and controlled the Governor’s office. They did nothing legislatively to advance same sex marriage rights. The same is true of our federal government.   Instead, these liberal “leaders” sat back and waited for the life-tenured justices to do their dirty work for them.

    I agree with Chief Justice John Roberts when he wrote in his dissent, “Five lawyers have closed the debate and enacted their own vision of marriage as a matter of constitutional law. Stealing this issue from the people will for many cast a cloud over same-sex marriage, making a dramatic social change that much more difficult to accept.”

    That is exactly what happened in Iowa back after the court recognized gay marriage here. Since neither the people nor their representatives in the legislature actually passed legislation to bring about this change, voters looked for an outlet to channel their frustrations. The retention vote of 2010 took out three Iowa Supreme Court Justices. While it’s not possible to do that sort of thing on a national level, the presidential race might provide voters that outlet.

  1. While I do think this issue may help Iowans pick which of the 16 potential Republican presidential candidates fits them best, I don’t think the landscape has really changed all that much. More on that later this week.