Some Common Misunderstandings
By Don Long
Under the guise of the First Amendment, sometimes called the “Separation of Church and State amendment,” the United States government has discouraged the public practice of the Christian faith. The U.S. Supreme Court banned the posting of the Ten Commandments in public buildings. It has banned prayer in public schools. The government continues an aggresive stand against any display of religious faith in civic areas or other public lands. This is not right. The purpose of the First Amendment was not to withdraw Christianity from society, but to protect it from government manipulation.
Christianity not only played a major role in America’s independence, but also in the formation of this new country’s government. References to God, the Lord, Jesus Christ, and the Creator abound in such historical documents as the Declaration of Independence, the Mayflower Compact, and the Articles of Confederation. In addition to this the symbols of this nations’ faith, the Lincoln Memorial, the Washington Monument, the Liberty Bell, and scores of others, all have verses from the Bible engraved upon them. These memorials and historical documents testify to the fact that Christians took the leadership in our country.
Prompted by religion, and the freedom to worship God according the dictates of Scripture and conscience, many early colonists came to this land. A major cause of the colonies breaking away from the British was England’s attempt to establish a national religion in the colonies. The colonists felt it was not government’s role to regulate Christianity.
The First Amendment states “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” This amendment prohibits government from establishing a national religion. It guarantees the free exercise of religion without entanglement by the government. It is not a mandate requiring the elimination of Christian influence on society.
Religion and government are inseparable. Government laws and regulations are based on people’s convictions. Convictions are based on people’s beliefs concerning right and wrong. Theft is illegal because it is believed to be wrong. Any belief in a standard higher than one’s own self constitutes a religion. Government merely reflects the religious view of a nation. It should not control that view.
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The current distorted view of the First Amendment has brought about the government intrusion into religion which the amendment was to protect people from. It prohibits the free exercise of religion. There is nothing in the First Amendment to suggest the separation of Church and State; that is like suggesting people should not be involved in government.
Don Long is a member of CHANGE.