By: Shane Idleman
Local School District Needs A History Lesson
News reports this week noted that officials at Desert Rose Elementary School in Palmdale, California dispatched a sheriff’s deputy to stop a 7-year-old from sharing Bible verses with his classmates because someone could be “offended.” Yes, you read that right. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. Have they stopped to consider that that they may have offended God?
A monumental debate about the government’s role concerning religion has been ongoing in recent years. For those who understand the foundation on which the Constitution was constructed, there really is no debate. Don’t worry, this shouldn’t bore you; I’ll get straight to the point.
The misconception primarily surrounds the phrase “separation of church and state.” Although the First Amendment clearly says that Congress shall not prevent religious expression, one would think that it reads: Congress shall prevent religious expression. The courts have used the infamous “separation” phrase to ban religious activities, primarily those promoting Christian principles.
Sadly, many believe that “separation of church and state” appears in the Constitution, when, in reality, the phrase does not appear anywhere in the Constitution. Did you catch that? “Separation of church and state” does not appear in the Constitution. So where did it originate? Be very clear on this point, especially if you are a student in a public school or university, or even a “Christian” university. Thomas Jefferson, author of the Declaration of Independence, used the phrase in 1802 in a private letter written to the Baptist Association of Danbury, Connecticut.21
The Baptists feared that the government might someday try to regulate religious expression. Ironically, we are seeing this today. Remember, that’s one reason why the Pilgrims left England for Holland before coming to America. This is crucial in understanding the spirit in which the First Amendment was written. In other words, the Colonists, like the Pilgrims, did not want the government imposing a national religion or denomination on the people—they wanted to worship freely. Mr. Jefferson wisely agreed with them, as did many of the other Founders. Jefferson assured the Baptists that the primary purpose of the First Amendment was to prevent rivalry among Christian denominations. He said that Congress would neither establish a national denomination, nor prohibit the free exercise of religion. His statement was intended to protect religious expression by building a wall of separation between the church and the state; solidifying the fact that the federal government could not strike down religious freedoms.
The government cannot establish a national religion, but it can openly and unapologetically acknowledge the sovereign hand of God. Acknowledgment is not establishment. Ten Commandment monuments, Bible verses, and so on can be displayed and prayer can be honored in government offices and in schools. We can openly acknowledge God in all areas of civil government because our government was built on His Word, His precepts, and His principles—we must acknowledge Him as the source of our nation’s strength.
Some may be offended by America’s Christian heritage, but that does not give them the right to remove God from America’s history. John Chalfant, a member of the Council for National Policy, said the following in his book America—A Call to Greatness: “If we participate in dragging down our country by refusing to become involved when we are commanded to be virtuous and to let our convictions be known, do we deserve to be free?”