Posted by: gmscan | January 15, 2013

Separation of Church and State

Some people in this country never miss an opportunity to disparage and diminish Christianity. Even a presidential inauguration is fair game.

You may have heard that a Georgia pastor was dis-invited to offer a prayer at the event. The Reverend Louie Giglio is widely known for his work against human trafficking and sexual slavery. But he also has rather conventional orthodox views of homosexuality and gave a sermon to that effect some twenty years ago.  That was enough to get him bumped, according to Ben Domenech in Real Clear Politics.

The article quotes Kirsten Powers, a usually liberal political commentator, as saying –

“Hey McCarthyite left: Are you going to object to Muslims who oppose homosexuality too? Didn’t seem to be problem with ‘ground zero mosque’… For the record, I don’t agree with a lot of what Giglio said, but his sermon was basic orthodox Christianity. Who is banned next? The pope?”

Indeed, but more fundamentally we are seeing how corrupting political power can be. The exact same people who were demanding tolerance for “alternative life styles” some years ago, have absolutely no tolerance for traditional views now that they believe they are in the political driver’s seat.

We saw the same thing in the good ol’ PCUSA. People who once insisted on “respecting diversity” when they were in the minority started demanding unity of thought once they won on the issue of homosexual ordination. Calls for unity used to be seen as oppressing minority views – until the minority became a majority. Now the message is “shut up and accept that you lost.”

All of this may be racked up to political hypocrisy, but there is more.

MSNBC host Lawrence O’Donnell thinks the Bible should be banned from being used for the oath of office at the inauguration. Actually, he has a point, though he doesn’t know it. Jesus admonished us not to take oaths but just to say ‘Yes” or “No’ – and mean it. He said —

“Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform to the Lord what you have sworn.’ But I say to you, Do not take an oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, or by the earth, for it is his footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. And do not take an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No,’ anything more than this comes from evil. (Matthew 5: 33-37)

But O’Donnell says no one really believes the Bible, so why should it be used? Alas, again he has a point, but his real intent is to banish Christianity from “the public square.” He is part of the “separation of church and state” movement that believes faith and government have no business being mixed.

But this was never an accurate description of the Constitution. Yes, Jefferson used the expression in a letter to the Danbury Baptists, but that was simply a letter and Jefferson was not involved in writing the Constitution.  It has (or should have) absolutely no precedential weight. Madison, who was deeply involved in the writing of the Constitution and this amendment, used the expression, “separation of the church from the state.” He was speaking of the institutional church and the institutional state, not of religion generally, and certainly not of religious expression or feelings.

In fact, the Constitution has an absolute ban on any governmental suppression of “the free exercise” of religion. Madison said, “all men shall be free to profess, and by argument to maintain, their opinion in matters of religion, and that the same shall in no wise diminish enlarge, or affect their civil capacities.” That means that anyone may express themselves on religious matters at any time in any capacity, including their civil capacity (say, as lawmaker, teacher, or civil servant). See Wikipedia for a longer discussion.

Whether Christians should swear an oath, or whether people really believe what the Bible says, is no business of Mr. O’Donnell. That is between the individual and his God.

At last some people are beginning to push back against the growing efforts to suppress religious expression. A high school science teacher in New York was ordered to remove any signs of religious expression from her classroom, including a quote from Ronald Reagan. This despite the school district encouraging teachers to personalize their classrooms with meaningful decorations. The American Freedom Law Center has taken her case and has filed suit against the district for suppressing her religious expression.

By the way, the Reagan quote she was ordered to remove says –

“Without God there is no virtue because there is no prompting of the conscience . . . without God there is a coarsening of the society; without God democracy will not and cannot long endure . . . If ever we forget that we are One Nation Under God, then we will be a Nation gone under.”

Our society may indeed banish religion if it chooses to. Many other nations have. But these countries have done so to their regret. The Founders didn’t insist on our being a nation under God for the benefit of God or of Christians. God will do just fine no matter what we do, and Christians have been persecuted many times before. Adversity tends to bring out the best in believers. No, we are a Nation Under God for the benefit of the nation as a whole, both believers and non-believers. We have all prospered only because of the moral foundation Christianity has provided our society. Without that foundation, we will all perish.




  1. The issue of separation of church and state is a difficult one. I do not object to faith-based speech at public events, but such speech must be chosen carefully so as not to offend other groups. The key word is “nonsectarian”.

    • Here I have to disagree, Bob. For several reasons. Offending other people cannot be the standard. I am offended all the time by political speech, also by Hollywood standards. I don’t have the right to demand other people curb their speech to avoid offending me.

      More importantly, Jesus never minded offending other people. Just speaking the truth will be offensive to people who are hiding from the truth. That is their problem, not ours.

  2. The student wrote: Dear God, why were you not at the school to help when my froends were murdered? – signed Tearful Student.

    Dear Tearful Student, I am not allowed in your school. – signed Tearful God

    • Ron,

      I have to call you out on such a thinly veiled Theo-political statement. Does it really imply that what happened in Sandy Hook is somehow the fault of the State for attempting to not impose a version of State Religion on our children? Is it really the shameless below-the-belt attempt to gain propaganda points from an unspeakable human tragedy that it seems to be? There is absolutely no cause and effect relationship between that act of unbridled violence and the practice of religion in public schools.

      Theologically, of course, it is completely wrong. The Psalmist sings for us in Psalm 139,

      “Where can I go from Your Spirit?
      Or where can I flee from Your presence?
      If I ascend to heaven, You are there;
      If I make my bed in Sheol, behold, You are there.

      If I take the wings of the dawn,
      If I dwell in the remotest part of the sea,
      Even there Your hand will lead me,
      And Your right hand will lay hold of me.

      If I say, “Surely the darkness will overwhelm me,
      And the light around me will be night,”
      Even the darkness is not dark to You,
      And the night is as bright as the day.
      Darkness and light are alike to You.”

      This is the God I worship. He is not captured or limited by the State or human politics.

      Jodie Gallo

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