Barber’s Nonsense on Church/State Separation

Barber’s Nonsense on Church/State Separation July 31, 2013

The latest column from Matt Barber of Liberty Counsel accuses “lying secularists” of distorting the truth about separation of church and state. I’m sure it will come as no surprise that he’s pretty much completely wrong on all of his claims and arguments.

Anti-Christian extremist groups like the ACLU, the Freedom From Religion Foundation and People for the American Way hate God.

They also hate America.

True America.


To know the hearts, minds and collective will of our Founding Fathers and American pioneers, one need only look to what they wrote in their respective state constitutions. Most will be amazed to learn that all 50 state constitutions explicitly and unequivocally thank God for his benevolence and acknowledge that we as a nation are dependent upon Him – that He is the sole source of our freedoms. This is true, not just for the “red states,” but for the bluest of the blue.

Uh, he does realize that the founding fathers had nothing to do with the writing of nearly all of those constitutions, right? And that, despite such language, the original states that they did have influence under quickly began disestablishing their official churches around the time of the constitution? And that this very fact shows how unique the constitution was because it didn’t include such language. And it isn’t as if they didn’t have that option. In fact, there were many attempts to add in such language at the state ratifying conventions and they all failed. This is why Christian Reconstructionist Gary North argues that the constitution was a radical break with previous founding documents because it did not include such covenantal language.

What do you suppose the framers of the U.S. Constitution – a document specifically designed to limit the powers of federal government – intended with the word “Congress”? Did they mean state government, municipal government, your local school board or third-grade teacher?

Of course not. They meant exactly what they said: Congress – as in the United States Congress.

Of course that is what they meant. But Barber conveniently ignores the 14th Amendment, which applies the Bill of Rights to the states. He knows this, of course, because he is an enthusiastic fan of applying the 14th Amendment to the states when it comes to the Free Exercise Clause. If a state violates someone’s religious liberty, Barber would cheer if the federal courts came in and applied the First Amendment to prevent them from doing so (if they’re Christian, of course; if not, screw them). And the last thing you’d hear from him is, “But the First Amendment only applies to Congress!” He just doesn’t want the Establishment Clause applied because it interferes with his desire to impose his religion on others.

Now what did they mean by “… shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion?”

Well, in a letter to Benjamin Rush, a fellow-signer of the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson – often touted by the left as the great church-state separationist – answered this question. The First Amendment’s Establishment Clause was simply intended to restrict Congress from affirmatively “establishing,” through federal legislation, a national Christian denomination (similar to the Anglican Church of England).

As Jefferson put it: “[T]he clause of the Constitution” covering “freedom of religion” was intended to necessarily preclude “an establishment of a particular form of Christianity through the United States.”

Now that’s a clever use of ellipses and out of context quotes to distort the meaning of what Jefferson said. Now let’s look at the entire quote in context:

[T]he clause of the Constitution which, while it secured the freedom of the press, covered also the freedom of religion, had given to the clergy a very favorite hope of obtaining an establishment of a particular form of Christianity through the United States; and as every sect believes its own form the true one, every one perhaps hoped for his own, but especially the Episcopalians and Congregationalists. The returning good sense of our country threatens abortion to their hopes and they believe that any portion of power confided to me will be exerted in opposition to their schemes. And they believe rightly.

He is not here trying to define the limits and purpose of the Establishment Clause, he is only saying that the clergy of his day were hoping that they could get their own sect established and that he opposes them and the First Amendment prevents them from doing so. Remember that Jefferson was so consistent in his opposition to the government having any say in the religious lives of citizens that he refused to issue even advisory and non-coercive declarations of prayer and thanksgiving. As usual, the Christian historical revisionists are lying.

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  • Abby Normal

    Now that’s a clever use of ellipses and out of context quotes to distort the meaning of what Jefferson said.

    Indeed, his cherry picking skills have been well honed, as if he’s had a lifetime of practice at creating selective, self-serving, interpretations of writings he claims to revere.

  • Don Williams

    1) US Constitution Article VI, Para 3: “no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States”

    2) Treaty of Tripoli, ratified by UNANIMOUSLY by US Senate and signed by President John Adams in 1797:

    “As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion,”

    3) Why doesn’t anyone ask the alleged “Christians” why they keep violating God’s Commandment “Thou Shalt Not Lie” ??

  • abb3w

    “No True American would put sugar on his porridge!”

    One of the great elements to the genius of the Founding Fathers was their humility, in not presuming that they had achieved an eternal zenith. Barber, however, seems to have confused his personal concept of an ideal with “True”, which seems a careless equivocation.

  • No separation of church of state, eh? I guess he wouldn’t mind churches having to pay taxes then.

  • freehand

    I guess he wouldn’t mind churches having to pay taxes then.


    I wouldn’t mind having churches required to pay taxes, and still maintain the wall of separation. I see them as any (usually) legal private club. I suppose there are reasons to not tax some groups – non-profit status, for example – but I don’t see why religion should be one of those reasons. Have there been any studies into whether they have been a net force for good or ill for society? (Assuming that simply being religious isn’t a priori defined as a “good effect”.) More education, or less crime, or more informed voting, or anything like that?

  • I do have quite a bit of pride in our constitution. But I don’t really care what it says if what it says is wrong. I defend the First Amendment because I think it is beneficial to humanity; ie.: a really damn good idea. So even if I learned that it did apply only to Congress and that they meant only Christians, protestant Christians, could have a freedom of religion, so what? The constitution also meant only rich, white men could vote. We grew the fuck up since then.