Myth of Separation

In the Case of Everson v. Board of Education (1947), the Supreme Court pronounced that the First Amendment erected a wall between church and state and that wall must be kept high and impregnable. The Court also pontificated that it could not approve the slightest breach in that wall. But did the First Amendment erect such a wall?
The First Amendment says, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof….” Who shall make no law? Congress. What is that law they are not to make?  A law respecting “an establishment,” not “the establishment” of religion, which means that Congress was not to favor one denomination as the national church over another. In fact, many of the early settlers purposed to establish their own religious affiliations in the colonies they founded.  Many came to escape religion.  Roger Williams, for example, escaped the Puritans of Massachusetts and founded Providence in order to be free to exercise his Baptist leanings. The result of not establishing a national church allowed the public the free exercise of their personal religious quests.
            In Emerson, the vote was 5-4 with Justice Hugo Black writing the majority opinion. He stretched the limits of constitutional review by going outside the constitution to support his personal view. He quoted from a letter that Thomas Jefferson wrote to the Danbury Baptists who feared Presbyterianism would become the national church. Jefferson’s words to them in 1802 were, “I contemplate with reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should ‘make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,’ thus building a wall of separation between church and state.”
James Madison, the author of the First Amendment and greatly influenced by the Baptist preacher, John Leland, did not intend the amendment to be construed as Hugo Black then interpreted it. In fact, the Bill of Rights was composed to influence the southern States to endorse the Constitution. The various rights listed were proposed in order for the states to have sovereignty over such things as religion, press, and assembly. If a state desired to endorse a certain religious affiliation, it may do so. Hence, the Catholic Church became the religion of choice in Maryland, the Anglican Church in Virginia, and the Congregational Church in Massachusetts, which paid from public funds the salary of ministers. Madison listed his reasons for the First Amendment, which were as follows:
(1)   Complete freedom of conscience with no one subject to penalties by any authority on account of religions belief.  (The Baptists were previously persecuted in Massachusetts.)
(2)   Complete freedom of religious practice and propagation within the bounds of human decency and safety.
(3)   Complete separation of church and state in regard to governmental interference; no taxation for any religious establishment or activity – this would prevent government from controlling religion and favoring one denomination over another.
Madison did not intend the elimination of God, or Christian institutions, or biblical customs, or quotations from the national scene.
            The Court of Hugo Black definitely wanted God removed from the civil scene and so reached into a personal letter from Jefferson to affirm their political agenda. Everson was a landmark decision, for it applied the Establishment Clause not to itself or the Federal Law, but extended it to hijack State law. Prior to this decision the First Amendment imposed limits on the federal government, while many states continued to grant certain religious denominations legislative power and privilege. Because of the Fourteenth Amendment’s due process clause, the ruling of the Court now took away state sovereignty over denominational privilege. Constitutional law has been taken out of the founding Fathers’ hands and now made into anything the Court decides.
Hope for our nation, however, resides not in nine justices of the Supreme Court or in one president of the United States, but in God Himself. Though our nation has drifted from Christ, may we remain firmly anchored to our Lord and Savior, where true independence is found!