Christian Columnist: Why is Church-State Separation So Hard to Understand?

Sam Venable is a Christian and a columnist for the Knoxville News Sentinel in East Tennessee.

Recently, Americans United for Separation of Church and State threatened a lawsuit because nearby “Sevier County Commission’s long-standing habit of starting each meeting with the Lord’s Prayer is illegal.”

Obviously, that’s correct. That’s religion seeping into the government and it has no business being there.

But good luck explaining that to the 500 Constitution-be-damned Christians who crowded the county courthouse recently to pray that AU would fail in their possible lawsuit. They prayed that their god’s name would continue to be praised during government functions.

What did Venable have to say about this?

If you want to pray, then pray, for Pete’s sake. Pray, as the Good Book says, without ceasing.

Pray from dawn’s first light until long after the sun has set. Pray before meals, after meals, between bites. Pray at school, at work, while texting, when standing in line at the grocery store. Pray on the lake or at the bowling alley. Pray while washing the dishes or mowing the lawn.

Pray, children, pray! It is your right, and no court in the land will stop you.

Ah, but I do have one caveat about this prayerfesting. So does the law.

Don’t ask the government to pray with you or for you.

Religion is none of the government’s business. The courts have been very clear on this matter.

Wow. That’s exactly the response I would’ve hoped for.

I’m just surprised it came from a Christian.

Venable makes even more sense later on:

County Mayor Larry Waters didn’t start this practice. He says it was in place when he came into office 32 years ago.

Again, fine. But that doesn’t mean it’s legal. It simply means nobody has called the county’s hand until now.

Venable deserves far more praise in the comment section of that column than he’s getting right now. He’s only getting a few comments and some of the people making them are denouncing him.

It would be great to flood that column with comments of praise. (Yes, it requires registration, but isn’t it worth it here?)

He did something courageous by calling his fellow Christians out on their bullshit interpretation of the law. Good for him.

Maybe if more sensible people were brave enough to speak up, they could get through to a few of the religious fanatics who care nothing about the law.

(Thanks to Ben for the link!)

  • Andrea

    That reminds me of the event at Moody where you said something about getting religion out of the government is not the same as the government promoting atheism, and Ronald said something to indicate that he had no idea how those could be two different things.

  • http://ottodestruct.com Otto

    Matthew 6:5-6. Always a good argument to use against people pushing for public prayer.

  • Ryan

    Good for Venable. I am a Canadian Christian, and I honestly have no idea why separation of church and state is such a big deal in the US. I know I am more of the Anabaptist theology which has been teaching separation of church and state for 500 years (we would argue that was the opinion of Jesus and the apostles), but still, I just don’t get how even an evangelical/conservative thinks it is ever a positive to force people into acting as if they believe something they don’t. In Canada even the conservative segments of the church mostly stay conservative WITHIN THE CHURCH and rarely try to play politics.

  • Reginald Selkirk

    Don’t ask the government to pray with you or for you.
    Religion is none of the government’s business. The courts have been very clear on this matter.

    I think the courts could have been a tad bit more clear.

  • Canadiannalberta

    I’m with Ryan. It boggles my mind why this is so important for American Conservative Christians.

    Are they so insecure in their belief that they have to have it government approved? Or is it about control? Or are they just bored?

    I mean, really, there are so much more important things to worry about.

    Instead of whining about meaningless things, how about doing something that will make people want to be Christian? Help out the less fortunate. They should follow their book. Of course, they probably haven’t read it, and even if they did, it isn’t like they agree with everything in it anyway…

    And the reason why they are making a fuss is probably a mixture of everything.

  • http://religiouscomics.net Jeff P

    Christianity has historically been an unquestioned (and unchallenged) dominant force in American culture for so long that when secular interests start to flex their muscle (mainly due to internet blogging, YouTube, and popular atheism books) the Christians fear they are losing their clout. They then want their religious memes formalized into US and state law as a way to help perpetuate what they believe in for future generations.

    The irony is that if they succeed, then all the various religious groups will be at each other’s throats over rival interpretations of how the law treats these religious beliefs. Then they might start to agree that separation of church and state was a good idea after all.

    For example, should the law require full body immersion baptism or is a little sprinkling adequate?

  • MountainHumanist

    Thanks for calling attention to Sam. Although I live in North Carolina now, I grew up near Knoxville, Tenn. and I followed Sam Venable for years because his columns were always insightful. Great to see a fellow Tennessean portrayed in a non-stereotypical way. Disclosure: I have never tried moonshine, never flirted with a cousin and have worn shoes for most of my life. I may have tried chewing tobacco once time but I threw up quickly thereafter. And, yes, I had the great fortune to grow up some 30 miles from Dayton, Tenn — home of the Scopes Monkey Trial.

  • oldtimer

    Are they so insecure in their belief that they have to have it government approved? Or is it about control? Or are they just bored?

    Just to be clear… Christians appeal to God’s authority not government authority.

    As an Atheist, you have no authority to appeal to but the government’s.

    Common sense SHOULD inform you that the people’s Constitutionally protected religious freedom would naturally be protected where ever the Constitution is in force and to whomever its protections it covers.

    Are Atheists so insecure in their unbelief that they have to have it government forced?

    Isn’t it ironic that America’s Christian freedom has historically afforded the maximum liberty to all religions, including Atheism and when Atheism finally succeeds in getting it’s “foot in the door”, its first official acts is to attempt to restrict and kill religious freedom?

  • Canadiannalberta

    Thanks, Jeff P, that explains quite a bit :)

  • muggle

    “I’m just surprised it came from a Christian.”

    I’m not. Plenty of good people out there that happen to be Christian. Many are even sensible. Let’s not succomb to stereotyping people ourselves.

    Of course, I’ve belonged to Americans United for about a dozen years now give or take. So I’m familiar with sane, sensible people with various deity beliefs. :)

  • idioteque

    Ironic that just a couple lines prior to the “Lord’s Prayer” in Matthew it says this:

    “And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.”

  • Trans Sami

    Isn’t it ironic that America’s Christian freedom has historically afforded the maximum liberty to all religions, including Atheism and when Atheism finally succeeds in getting it’s “foot in the door”, its first official acts is to attempt to restrict and kill religious freedom?

    I love the many sources you cited for this statement of fact.

  • John Major

    oldtimer:

    So telling you that you can’t force you religion on others in a government meeting restricts and kills your religious freedom? Really?

    ‘Isn’t it ironic that America’s Christian freedom has historically afforded the maximum liberty to all religions’

    You do recall when they had a Hindu prayer in the senate? Just how did all the good Christians react to that?

  • Siamang

    “Are Atheists so insecure in their unbelief that they have to have it government forced?”

    Dude, weedsmoking day was yesterday.

  • Casimir

    Isn’t it ironic that America’s Christian freedom has historically afforded the maximum liberty to all religions…

    It should be obvious that the Founders’ intentions on the separation of church and state and the 1st Amendment are what have historically afforded the maximum liberty to all religions. For point of comparison you can always look at Christian Europe in the same time period, and consider whether the US or Europe afforded more liberty to all religions.

  • Casimir

    Venable deserves far more praise in the comment section of that column than he’s getting right now. He’s only getting a few comments and some of the people making them are denouncing him.

    It would be great to flood that column with comments of praise. (Yes, it requires registration, but isn’t it worth it here?)

    If it’s comments of praise it will do NOTHING. If anything it’ll make things worse, he’ll be accused of playing into the atheists’ hands. They won’t look at it with any sort of logic or reason, it’s all tribalism, and they’re just going to fall back on their tribal roots.

  • http://andrewparkauthor.com Andrew Park

    Whew. I thought for sure he was going to make me embarrassed to be a journalist.

  • Flah the Heretic Methodist

    “The irony is that if they succeed, then all the various religious groups will be at each other’s throats over rival interpretations of how the law treats these religious beliefs. Then they might start to agree that separation of church and state was a good idea after all.”

    JeffP, it’s the reason our schools are as secular today as they are. The Protestants and Catholics when at it back in the late 1800s over whose version of the bible would be used in classrooms and the courts had no choice but to toss everything out. As I was taught in sixth grade, separation of church and state is to protect both from each other. Too bad most Christians can’t see beyond the logs in their eyes to understand that.

  • oldtimer

    It should be obvious that the Founders’ intentions on the separation of church and state and the 1st Amendment are what have historically afforded the maximum liberty to all religions.

    It should be obvious? Most people, including yourself, are not able to point to any reference to “separation of church and state” in our Constitution or any other founding document. Nor can you provide any quotes, constitutional debates, journals or any document that would support your contention.

    As the Constitution attests to… the Founders were deliberate, plain spoken men and did not equivocate.

    Show me why you think the Founders’ intentions on the separation of church and state should be obvious.

    For point of comparison you can always look at Christian Europe in the same time period, and consider whether the US or Europe afforded more liberty to all religions.

    Or better yet… just take the Founders’ at their word for why they left and came to America.

    So telling you that you can’t force you religion on others in a government meeting restricts and kills your religious freedom? Really?

    If it’s government of the people, by the people and for the people, and the said person exercises his Constitutionally protected religious freedom and prays… how is he forcing his religion on anyone? He’s not forcing anyone to believe anything… he’s not forcing anyone to pray. Are you saying that he is not entitled to protection from a Constitution that he swore an oath to uphold and defend?

    Congress can not pass a law that prohibits him from praying… nor can they pass a law that forces you to pray. That’s equal protection of the law.

    You do recall when they had a Hindu prayer in the senate? Just how did all the good Christians react to that?

    I imagine they would react as though they didn’t elect hindu representatives and we’re not living in a Hindu nation. But most importantly… our nation was not founded as a Hindu nation.

  • muggle

    oldtimer, you must be getting senile. We are a democratic republic. Your government of the people, by the people and for the people, means all the people not most of the people. Minority rights are protected. You don’t get to majority rule a state religion.

    Scratch your head and pull enough brain cells together to recall the objection in the column was to government calling for prayer or leading in prayer. That, old fart, is public endorsement of prayer.

    If your argument were valid (and as I just pointed out it’s not) about the individual praying, then the Hindu prayer would be valid too. Neither it or all the Christer ones were.

    What the hell kind of lame argument from might is right was that? And isn’t that damned convenient? Keep electing persons of your faith to government office and that there then gives y’all the right to ride rough shod over the rights of ‘em others.

    Nor was our nation founded as a Christian nation. It most decidedly wasn’t.

  • http://frans.lowter.us Frans

    Show me why you think the Founders’ intentions on the separation of church and state should be obvious.

    Read this Wikipedia article.

    In summmary: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof . . .”

    That sounds like the definition of separation of church and state to me.

    If it’s government of the people, by the people and for the people, and the said person exercises his Constitutionally protected religious freedom and prays… how is he forcing his religion on anyone? He’s not forcing anyone to believe anything… he’s not forcing anyone to pray. Are you saying that he is not entitled to protection from a Constitution that he swore an oath to uphold and defend?

    In the right place, at the right time. I don’t see how this is at all related because it’s neither. Besides, this reasoning makes your argument against the Hindu prayer rather hollow.

    I imagine they would react as though they didn’t elect hindu representatives and we’re not living in a Hindu nation. But most importantly… our nation was not founded as a Hindu nation.

    You can’t be serious.

  • http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/1580421.Fringe Silent Service

    Oh yeah, he’s serious. He’s also willfully ignorant of anything he doesn’t want to believe (if he’s not a Poe stiring the pot for fun).

  • plutosdad

    You don’t get to majority rule a state religion

    Indeed the Bill of Rights very purpose is not only to stop government from treading on individuals but to stop the majority from treading on rights of minorities. That is the inherent danger of democracy the Bill of Right is meant to stop. As Jefferson wrote

    “Democracy is nothing more than mob rule, where 51% of the people may take away the rights of the other 49%.”

    and

    “Bear in mind this sacred principle, that though the will of the majority is in all cases to prevail, that will to be rightful must be reasonable; that the minority possess their equal rights, which equal law must protect, and to violate would be oppression.”

    It doesn’t matter what % of the Fathers were Christian and what % were Deist, no one can force their religion on anyone else. The Majority don’t get to do whatever they want, which includes holding a government-sponsored prayer day for their religion only. Have their own private prayer day? Sure they can. No one is stopping them.

    Amazingly, even though few Hindus were around at the writing of the Constitution, they are still equal.

  • Flah the Heretic Methodist

    “the Founders were deliberate, plain spoken men and did not equivocate.”

    Yes, thank goodness, they certainly were, which is why there is NO mention of Christianity or Jesus in the founding documents, nor will there ever be as long as my fingers can still pull a voting lever.

    Plain speaking from John Adams: “This would be the best of all possible worlds, if there were no religion in it.” And from Jefferson: “History, I believe, furnishes no example of a priest-ridden people maintaining a free civil government. This marks the lowest grade of ignorance, of which their political as well as religious leaders will always avail themselves for their own purpose.” ::cough::Huckabee::cough::

  • Canadiannalberta

    Oldtimer:

    On the whole, Atheist aren’t insecure in their beliefs. That’s why – mostly- we are not forcing it on anyone.

    Religious people, in America and other places, are pushing their brand of religion on everyone – other religious people and non-religious people. They want to force people to do as their own certain branch of religion says for them to do.

    Atheist are not wanting an Atheist run government, but the religious want a religious run government. That is the difference.

    That is why I asked those questions. Do they want simple control or are they bored, ect, ect. I mean, the Bible makes it clear what they are doing is wrong by their own god’s laws.

    I was answered, by the way, so I’m not asking again, I’m just trying to clarify my point.

    Religious people have no reason – not for better freedom, not even from their own books- to make their religion the only government approved religion.(Except Islam, which states clearly that there is no separation between religion and state) Once they do that, as Jeff P points out, they will tear each other apart on how to proceed.

    A properly run secular government is the best – it gives everyone freedom to practice their religion(or lack thereof), freedom from fear about being tortured or killed or maimed just because you don’t believe a certain branch of a certain religion(even though you believe in the same god), and it promotes a good life, one where you aren’t afraid of superstitions. Unless, of course, you want to be. :)

    As for Christian belief being why America has so many freedoms – I call bullshit. Canada has many Christians, but I’ve never heard of one trying to get Christianity into our government. And we have just as much freedom as Americans – perhaps more, if you count free health care, and such.

  • http://www.noforbiddenquestions.com NFQ

    I registered and left my comment on the article. Good catch, Ben and Hemant!

  • Jolly Sapper

    I felt the need to give some positive support in the comments section for Mr. Venable. I hope it helps.

  • Unkleskunky

    Is this recitation a Law?

    Are council members forced to recite?

    Is a county commission a body of government?

    Is participation in the commission voluntary?

    What inalienable right is violated by being present when prayer is recited?

    I believe oldtimer has a point, rights not granted by man cannot be revoked by man. Inalienable, god given, right of man, natural law, etc, Do have a place in our history, and should not be ignored out of hand. The state will and does step into that role of “creator” whenever possible.

  • oldtimer

    Flah the Heretic Methodist,

    Plain speaking from John Adams: “This would be the best of all possible worlds, if there were no religion in it.”

    You handle historical quotes as well as many here handle biblical verses… inaccurate and out of context.

    Twenty times in the course of my late reading have I been on the point of breaking out, “This would be the best of all possible worlds, if there were no religion in it!!!” But in this exclamation I would have been as fanatical as Bryant or Cleverly. Without religion this world would be something not ft to be mentioned in polite company, I mean hell.

    Adams is saying that it would be fanatical to desire a world without religion and such a world would be “hell.” A statement that Jefferson agreed with, in his response.

    “History, I believe, furnishes no example of a priest-ridden people maintaining a free civil government. This marks the lowest grade of ignorance, of which their political as well as religious leaders will always avail themselves for their own purpose.”

    Jefferson, like most of the Founders, had a powerful distrust of Catholicism (which is a far cry from “the general principles of Christianity”) and for good reason. Read up on the Church of England.

  • oldtimer

    Minority rights are protected.

    Did I not say the same, up thread?
    “Isn’t it ironic that America’s Christian freedom has historically afforded the maximum liberty to all religions, including Atheism
    Congress can not pass a law that prohibits him from praying… nor can they pass a law that forces you to pray. That’s equal protection of the law.”

    government calling for prayer or leading in prayer… Nor was our nation founded as a Christian nation. It most decidedly wasn’t.
    As for Christian belief being why America has so many freedoms – I call bullshit.

    Our government was and our nation most certainly was.

    “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.” — John Adams

    “Without morals a republic cannot subsist any length of time; they therefore who are decrying the Christian religion whose morality is so sublime and pure. … are undermining the solid foundation of morals, the best security for the duration of free governments.” — Charles Carroll, a signer of the Constitution

    “Is it not that the Declaration of Independence first organized the social compact on the foundation of the Redeemer’s mission upon earth? That it laid the corner stone of human government upon the first precepts of Christianity…? — John Quincy Adams

    “Religious faith was not only important in official American life during the periods of discovery, exploration, colonization, and growth but has also been acknowledged and incorporated into all 3 branches of American Federal government from their very beginning;

    The Supreme Court of the United States affirmed this self-evident fact in a unanimous ruling declaring ‘This is a religious people … From the discovery of this continent to the present hour, there is a single voice making this affirmation.’

    Political scientists have documented that the most frequently-cited source in the political period known as The Founding Era was the Bible.

    The first act of America’s first Congress in 1774 was to ask a minister to open with prayer and to lead Congress in the reading of 4 chapters of the Bible.

    Congress regularly attended church and Divine service together en masse.

    Throughout the American Founding, Congress frequently appropriated money for missionaries and for religious instruction, a practice that Congress repeated for decades after the passage of the Constitution and the First Amendment.

    In 1776, Congress approved the Declaration of Independence with its 4 direct religious acknowledgments referring to God as the Creator (`All people are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness’), the Lawgiver (`the laws of nature and nature’s God’), the Judge (`appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world’), and the Protector (`with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence’)

    Upon approving the Declaration of Independence, John Adams declared that the Fourth of July ‘ought to be commemorated as the day of deliverance by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty.’

    4 days after approving the Declaration, the Liberty Bell was rung; the Liberty Bell was named for the Biblical inscription from Leviticus 25:10 emblazoned around it: `Proclaim liberty throughout the land, to all the inhabitants thereof’

    In 1777, Congress, facing a National shortage of `Bibles for our schools, and families, and for the public worship of God in our churches,’ announced that they `desired to have a Bible printed under their care & by their encouragement’ and therefore ordered 20,000 copies of the Bible to be imported `into the different ports of the States of the Union.’

    In 1782, Congress pursued a plan to print a Bible that would be `a neat edition of the Holy Scriptures for the use of schools’ and therefore approved the production of the first English language Bible printed in America that contained the congressional endorsement that `the United States in Congress assembled … recommend this edition of the Bible to the inhabitants of the United States’

    In 1782, Congress adopted (and has reaffirmed on numerous subsequent occasions) the National Seal with its Latin motto `Annuit Coeptis,’ meaning `God has favored our undertakings,’ along with the eye of Providence in a triangle over a pyramid, the eye and the motto `allude to the many signal interpositions of Providence in favor of the American cause’

    The 1783 Treaty of Paris that officially ended the Revolution and established America as an independent begins with the appellation `In the name of the most holy and undivided Trinity’

    In 1787 at the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia, Benjamin Franklin declared, `God governs in the affairs of men. And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without His notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without His aid? … Without His concurring aid, we shall succeed in this political building no better than the builders of Babel’

    The delegates to the Constitutional Convention concluded their work by in effect placing a religious punctuation mark at the end of the Constitution in the Attestation Clause, noting not only that they had completed the work with `the unanimous consent of the States present’ but they had done so `in the Year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and eighty seven’

    James Madison declared that he saw the finished Constitution as a product of `the finger of that Almighty Hand which has been so frequently and signally extended to our relief in the critical stages of the Revolution,’ and George Washington viewed it as `little short of a miracle,’ and Benjamin Franklin believed that its writing had been `influenced, guided, and governed by that omnipotent, omnipresent, and beneficent Ruler, in Whom all inferior spirits live, and move, and have their being’

    From 1787 to 1788, State conventions to ratify the United States Constitution not only began with prayer but even met in church buildings.

    [cont;]

  • Autumnal Harvest

    Isn’t it ironic that America’s Christian freedom has historically afforded the maximum liberty to all religions, including Atheism and when Atheism finally succeeds in getting it’s “foot in the door”, its first official acts is to attempt to restrict and kill religious freedom?

    I guess that would be ironic, if this statement had any remote connection to reality.

  • oldtimer

    In 1795 during construction of the Capitol, a practice was instituted whereby `public worship is now regularly administered at the Capitol, every Sunday morning, at 11 o’clock’

    In 1789, the first Federal Congress, the Congress that framed the Bill of Rights, including the First Amendment, appropriated Federal funds to pay chaplains to pray at the opening of all sessions, a practice that has continued to this day, with Congress not only funding its congressional chaplains but also the salaries and operations of more than 4,500 military chaplains.

    In 1789, Congress, in the midst of framing the Bill of Rights and the First Amendment, passed the first Federal law touching education, declaring that `Religion, morality, and knowledge, being necessary to good government and the happiness of mankind, schools and the means of education shall forever be encouraged’

    In 1789, on the same day that Congress finished drafting the First Amendment, it requested President Washington to declare a National day of prayer and thanksgiving, resulting in the first Federal official Thanksgiving proclamation that declared `it is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favor’

    In 1800, Congress enacted naval regulations requiring that Divine service be performed twice every day aboard `all ships and vessels in the navy,’ with a sermon preached each Sunday.

    In 1800, Congress approved the use of the just-completed Capitol structure as a church building, with Divine services to be held each Sunday in the Hall of the House, alternately administered by the House and Senate chaplains.

    In 1853 Congress declared that congressional chaplains have a `duty … to conduct religious services weekly in the Hall of the House of Representatives’

    By 1867, the church at the Capitol was the largest church in Washington, DC, with up to 2,000 people a week attending Sunday service in the Hall of the House.

    By 1815, over 2,000 official governmental calls to prayer had been issued at both the State and the Federal levels, with thousands more issued since 1815.

    In 1853 the United States Senate declared that the Founding Fathers `had no fear or jealousy of religion itself, nor did they wish to see us an irreligious people … they did not intend to spread over all the public authorities and the whole public action of the nation the dead and revolting spectacle of atheistical apathy’

    In 1854 the United States House of Representatives declared `It [religion] must be considered as the foundation on which the whole structure rests … Christianity; in its general principles, is the great conservative element on which we must rely for the purity and permanence of free institutions’

    In 1864, by law Congress added `In God We Trust’ to American coinage.

    In 1864, Congress passed an act authorizing each State to display statues of 2 of its heroes in the United States Capitol, resulting in numerous statues of noted Christian clergymen and leaders at the Capitol, including Gospel ministers such as the Revs. James A. Garfield, John Peter Muhlenberg, Jonathan Trumbull, Roger Williams, Jason Lee, Marcus Whitman, and Martin Luther King Jr.; Gospel theologians such as Roger Sherman; Catholic priests such as Father Damien, Jacques Marquette, Eusebio Kino, and Junipero Serra; Catholic nuns such as Mother Joseph; and numerous other religious leaders.

    In 1870, the Federal government made Christmas (a recognition of the birth of Christ, an event described by the U.S. Supreme Court as `acknowledged in the Western World for 20 centuries, and in this country by the people, the Executive Branch, Congress, and the courts for 2 centuries’) and Thanksgiving as official holidays.

    Beginning in 1904 and continuing for the next half-century, the Federal government printed and distributed The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth for the use of Members of Congress because of the important teachings it contained.

    In 1931, Congress by law adopted the Star-Spangled Banner as the official National Anthem, with its phrases such as `may the Heav’n-rescued land Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation,’ and `this be our motto, `In God is our trust!’

    In 1954, Congress by law added the phrase `one nation under God’ to the Pledge of Allegiance.

    In 1954 a special Congressional Prayer Room was added to the Capitol with a kneeling bench, an altar, an open Bible, an inspiring stained-glass window with George Washington kneeling in prayer, the declaration of Psalm 16:1: `Preserve me, O God, for in Thee do I put my trust,’ and the phrase `This Nation Under God’ displayed above the kneeling, prayerful Washington.

    In 1956, Congress by law made `In God We Trust’ the National Motto, and added the phrase to American currency.

    The constitutions of each of the 50 states, either in the preamble or body, explicitly recognize or express gratitude to God.

    America’s first Presidential Inauguration incorporated 7 specific religious activities, including–

    (1) the use of the Bible to administer the oath;

    (2) affirming the religious nature of the oath by the adding the prayer `So help me God!’ to the oath;

    (3) inaugural prayers offered by the President;

    (4) religious content in the inaugural address;

    (5) civil leaders calling the people to prayer or acknowledgement of God;

    (6) inaugural worship services attended en masse by Congress as an official part of congressional activities; and

    (7) clergy-led inaugural prayers, activities which have been replicated in whole or part by every subsequent President;

    President George Washington declared `Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports’

    President John Adams, one of only 2 signers of the Bill of Rights and First Amendment, declared `As the safety and prosperity of nations ultimately and essentially depend on the protection and the blessing of Almighty God, and the national acknowledgment of this truth is not only an indispensable duty which the people owe to Him’

    President Jefferson not only attended Divine services at the Capitol throughout his presidency and had the Marine Band play at the services, but during his administration church services were also begun in the War Department and the Treasury Department, thus allowing worshippers on any given Sunday the choice to attend church at either the United States Capitol, the War Department, or the Treasury Department if they so desired.

    Thomas Jefferson urged local governments to make land available specifically for Christian purposes, provided Federal funding for missionary work among Indian tribes, and declared that religious schools would receive `the patronage of the government’

    President Andrew Jackson declared that the Bible `is the rock on which our Republic rests’;

    President Abraham Lincoln declared that the Bible `is the best gift God has given to men … But for it, we could not know right from wrong’

    President William McKinley declared that `Our faith teaches us that there is no safer reliance than upon the God of our fathers, Who has so singularly favored the American people in every national trial and Who will not forsake us so long as we obey His commandments and walk humbly in His footsteps’

    President Teddy Roosevelt declared `The Decalogue and the Golden Rule must stand as the foundation of every successful effort to better either our social or our political life’

    President Woodrow Wilson declared that `America was born to exemplify that devotion to the elements of righteousness which are derived from the revelations of Holy Scripture’

    [cont;]

  • oldtimer

    President Herbert Hoover declared that `American life is builded, and can alone survive, upon … [the] fundamental philosophy announced by the Savior nineteen centuries ago’

    President Franklin D. Roosevelt not only led the Nation in a 6 minute prayer during D-Day on June 6, 1944, but he also declared that `If we will not prepare to give all that we have and all that we are to preserve Christian civilization in our land, we shall go to destruction’

    President Harry S. Truman declared that `The fundamental basis of this Nation’s law was given to Moses on the Mount. The fundamental basis of our Bill of Rights comes from the teachings which we get from Exodus and St. Matthew, from Isaiah and St. Paul’

    President Harry S. Truman told a group touring Washington, DC, that `You will see, as you make your rounds, that this Nation was established by men who believed in God. … You will see the evidence of this deep religious faith on every hand’

    President Dwight D. Eisenhower declared that `Without God there could be no American form of government, nor an American way of life. Recognition of the Supreme Being is the first, the most basic, expression of Americanism. Thus, the founding fathers of America saw it, and thus with God’s help, it will continue to be’ in a declaration later repeated with approval by President Gerald Ford.

    President John F. Kennedy declared that `The rights of man come not from the generosity of the state but from the hand of God’

    President Ronald Reagan, after noting `The Congress of the United States, in recognition of the unique contribution of the Bible in shaping the history and character of this Nation and so many of its citizens, has … requested the President to designate the year 1983 as the `Year of the Bible’,’ officially declared 1983 as `The Year of the Bible’

    Every other President has similarly recognized the role of God and religious faith in the public life of America.

    All sessions of the United States Supreme Court begin with the Court’s Marshal announcing, `God save the United States and this honorable court’

    A regular and integral part of official activities in the Federal courts, including the United States Supreme Court, was the inclusion of prayer by a minister of the Gospel.

    The United States Supreme Court has declared throughout the course of our Nation’s history that the United States is `a Christian country’, `a Christian nation’, `a Christian people’, `a religious people whose institutions presuppose a Supreme Being’, and that `we cannot read into the Bill of Rights a philosophy of hostility to religion’

    Justice John Jay, an author of the Federalist Papers and original Justice of the United States Supreme Court, urged `The most effectual means of securing the continuance of our civil and religious liberties is always to remember with reverence and gratitude the Source from which they flow’

    Justice James Wilson, a signer of the Constitution, declared that `Human law must rest its authority ultimately upon the authority of that law which is Divine … Far from being rivals or enemies, religion and law are twin sisters, friends, and mutual assistants’

    Justice William Paterson, a signer of the Constitution, declared that `Religion and morality … [are] necessary to good government, good order, and good laws’

    President George Washington, who passed into law the first legal acts organizing the Federal judiciary, asked, `where is the security for property, for reputation, for life, if the sense of religious obligation desert the oaths in the courts of justice?’

    Some of the most important monuments, buildings, and landmarks in Washington, DC, include religious words, symbols, and imagery.

    In the United States Capitol the declaration `In God We Trust’ is prominently displayed in both the United States House and Senate Chambers.

    Around the top of the walls in the House Chamber appear images of 23 great lawgivers from across the centuries, but Moses (the lawgiver, who–according to the Bible–originally received the law from God,) is the only lawgiver honored with a full face view, looking down on the proceedings of the House.

    Religious artwork is found throughout the United States Capitol, including in the Rotunda where the prayer service of Christopher Columbus, the Baptism of Pocahontas, and the prayer and Bible study of the Pilgrims are all prominently displayed; in the Cox Corridor of the Capitol where the words `America! God shed His grace on thee’ are inscribed; at the east Senate entrance with the words `Annuit Coeptis’ which is Latin for `God has favored our undertakings’; and in numerous other locations.

    Images of the Ten Commandments are found in many Federal buildings across Washington, DC, including in bronze in the floor of the National Archives; in a bronze statue of Moses in the Main Reading Room of the Library of Congress; in numerous locations at the U.S. Supreme Court, including in the frieze above the Justices, the oak door at the rear of the Chamber, the gable apex, and in dozens of locations on the bronze latticework surrounding the Supreme Court Bar seating.

    In the Washington Monument not only are numerous Bible verses and religious acknowledgements carved on memorial blocks in the walls, including the phrases: `Holiness to the Lord’ (Exodus 28:26, 30:30, Isaiah 23:18, Zechariah 14:20), `Search the Scriptures’ (John 5:39), `The memory of the just is blessed’ (Proverbs 10:7), `May Heaven to this Union continue its beneficence’, and `In God We Trust’, but the Latin inscription Laus Deo meaning `Praise be to God’ is engraved on the monument’s capstone.

    Of the 5 areas inside the Jefferson Memorial into which Jefferson’s words have been carved, 4 are God-centered, including Jefferson’s declaration that `God who gave us life gave us liberty. Can the liberties of a nation be secure when we have removed a conviction that these liberties are the gift of God? Indeed I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just, that His justice cannot sleep forever’

    The Lincoln Memorial contains numerous acknowledgments of God and citations of Bible verses, including the declarations that `we here highly resolve that … this nation under God … shall not perish from the earth’; `The Almighty has His own purposes. `Woe unto the world because of offenses; for it must needs be that offenses come, but woe to that man by whom the offense cometh’ (Matthew 18:7); `as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said `the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether’ (Psalms 19:9); `one day every valley shall be exalted and every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh see it togetherÌ (Dr. Martin Luther KingÌs speech, based on Isaiah 40:4-5)

    In the Library of Congress, The Giant Bible of Mainz, and The Gutenberg Bible are on prominent permanent display and etched on the walls are Bible verses, including: `The light shineth in darkness, and the darkness comprehendeth it not’ (John 1:5); `Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore, get wisdom and with all thy getting, get understanding’ (Proverbs 4:7); `What doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God’ (Micah 6:8); and `The heavens declare the Glory of God, and the firmament showeth His handiwork’ (Psalm 19:1)

    Numerous other of the most important American government leaders, institutions, monuments, buildings, and landmarks both openly acknowledge and incorporate religious words, symbols, and imagery into official venues.

    Such acknowledgments are even more frequent at the State and local level than at the Federal level, where thousands of such acknowledgments exist.”

  • Autumnal Harvest

    Thanks, oldtimer. Please, if you don’t mind, could you follow up with several hundred more posts describing every law or statement for the last 200 years which encouraged or allowed racial segregation, or which put restrictions on freedom of speech? If you could continue to pad your posts with quotations irrelevant to the law, that would be great, too. We don’t have nearly enough spam here.

  • Citizen Z

    It should be obvious? Most people, including yourself, are not able to point to any reference to “separation of church and state” in our Constitution or any other founding document. Nor can you provide any quotes, constitutional debates, journals or any document that would support your contention.

    As the Constitution attests to… the Founders were deliberate, plain spoken men and did not equivocate.

    Show me why you think the Founders’ intentions on the separation of church and state should be obvious.

    It should be obvious but you are a blithering idiot. There is the Constitution itself. There are the writings of the Founders. There are numerous resources.

    For point of comparison you can always look at Christian Europe in the same time period, and consider whether the US or Europe afforded more liberty to all religions.

    Or better yet… just take the Founders’ at their word for why they left and came to America.

    Most of the Founding Fathers were born in America. Perhaps you’re thinking of the Puritans? Do you honestly think the Puritans would’ve had a favorable opinion on religious liberty in Europe?

    This isn’t really a conversation about America’s past, it’s about its future and the ideals it lives up to. Some of us would prefer a future where Hindus can be an equal part of this country, it’s a shame you do not.

  • muggle

    Well said, Citizen Z.

    Oldtimer doesn’t have his listening ears on. He’s definitely hear to spam, to drown out by shouting.

  • oldtimer

    It should be obvious but you are a blithering idiot.

    If that were true, I would have already adopted your position and we wouldn’t be having this disagreement.

    Most of the Founding Fathers were born in America.
    My statement didn’t say “Founding Fathers,” did it?

    Do you honestly think the Puritans would’ve had a favorable opinion on religious liberty in Europe?
    That was pretty much my point, which apparently escaped you.

    Some of us would prefer a future where Hindus can be an equal part of this country, it’s a shame you do not.

    Hindu citizens already enjoy the same Rights, Privilages and Protections, we all enjoy.

    What you are saying is… I believe in “separation of church and state” to get Christianity out of the government but Hinduism, Islam, Humanism (religion) should be excepted in the name of “all-inclusiveness.”

    He’s definitely hear to spam, to drown out by shouting.

    I guess that when one is confronted with overwhelming facts, the expeditious thing to do would be to declare it “spam” and “shouting.”

  • annie

    Thanks, Hemant. I should have gone to the newspaper’s website when I read Sam’s article this morning. I left a comment a few minutes ago.

  • Citizen Z

    Most of the Founding Fathers were born in America.
    My statement didn’t say “Founding Fathers,” did it?

    Anyone can read my previous post, I asked for clarification, since your post made no sense. “Founders” is a term typically used to refer to the “Founding Fathers”. Sigh. Don’t try and blame me since you were unclear.

    Do you honestly think the Puritans would’ve had a favorable opinion on religious liberty in Europe?
    That was pretty much my point, which apparently escaped you.

    Everyone else understands my point except you. Puritans and other immigrants fled Europe due to religious persecution by other Christians. The reason they came to America was protections provided by the Bill of Rights, a protection so important the Founders (Founding Fathers) included it in the first amendment to the Constitution. You would have us believe it is some magic Jesus juju that protects civil liberty, instead of the Bill of Rights.

    What you are saying is… I believe in “separation of church and state” to get Christianity out of the government but Hinduism, Islam, Humanism (religion) should be excepted in the name of “all-inclusiveness.”

    Don’t tell me what I’m saying. And it’s “accepted”, not “excepted”. I don’t think there should be any prayers or religious statements. But if there are prayers, at the very least they shouldn’t discriminate against non-Christian religions. The point posters were bringing up was that you can hardly say American Christianity protects the maximum liberty of all religions when they boo the Hindus in the Senate.

    (I just realized I’ve been posting as both Citizen Z and Casimir in this thread. Just wanted to make clear it’s just me.)

  • Baconsbud

    Citizen Z I might be wrong but most people say that the Puritans came well before there was a Bill of Rights. You are right that they fled Europe because they were persecuted by other christians. The thing is, as soon as they got to the Colonies and set up theirs they did to other what had been done to them.

  • Autumnal Harvest

    Citizen Z, Baconsbud is right. The Puritans weren’t supporters of religious freedom. They came to America so that they could practice their religion freely, and persecute those of different beliefs. Actually, some of the people they cast out for heretical beliefs – e.g. Anne Hutchison, Roger Williams – were some of the earliest American proponents of religious liberty and separation of church and state. The ideas of religious freedom and separation of church and state in the First Amendment owe more to these Puritan heretics than to the actual Puritans.


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