Separation of Church and State

Separation of Church and State

We have all heard “Separation of Church and State”, yet do we truly know where this comes?  If you would look at our Bill of Rights, Declaration of Independence and even the Constitution, you would not find this phrase.

In our Country, people state freedom of religion, even some mistakenly say “freedom from religion”.  If we see a Bible, Ten Commandments or scripture within a public setting, it is accused of being wrong due to “separation of Church and State”.  

Where did this phrase come from if it is not found in any of our founding documents?  It first appeared in a letter written by Thomas Jefferson to the Danbury Baptist Association of Connecticut in 1801.

Thomas Jefferson had separated the Anglican Church from the government of the state of Virginia, hence ending government run religion.  The purpose being, all other denominations could now practice their faith without government interference.  When he became President, the Danbury Baptists along with other denominations wrote with the concern the government might try to regulate their religion.

In response to this letter, President Jefferson wrote in his letter, using the phrase “Separation of Church and State” to reassure them the First Amendment prohibited the government from controlling religious practice.

First Amendment of 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.”

Meaning, the government cannot set up a national or state denomination and Congress cannot limit the free exercise of religion.  In no way, does the First Amendment limit people from practicing religion, it only limits the government.

Why is the First Amendment in the Constitution?  As many may recall, the immigrants to the new land wanted to escape the government-run Church of England.  They did not want to have government controlled religion.  When they setup the new form of Government, they included this in the Constitution to avoid ever having a state run religion.

The next time someone tries to dissuade you from the practice of your religion using the phrase “separation from Church and State”, simply tell them the truth.  This phrase is not found in any of the founding documents of the Unites States of America and we can freely exercise our religion with no interference from the Government.    

 

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