Thomas Jefferson is generally hailed as the chief of separation. But proof that Jefferson was not trying to rid government of religious (specifically Christian) influence comes from the fact that he endorsed using government buildings for church meetings; signed a treaty with the Kaskaskia Indians, which allotted federal money to support the building of a Catholic church and to pay the salaries of the church's priests; and repeatedly renewed legislation that gave land to the United Brethren to help their missionary activities among the Indians.
Some might be completely surprised to discover that just two days after Jefferson wrote his famous letter citing the "wall of separation between church and state," he attended church in the place where he always had as president, the U.S. Capitol. The very seat of our nation's government was used for sacred purposes. The Library of Congress' website notes, "It is no exaggeration to say that on Sundays in Washington during the administrations of Thomas Jefferson (1801-1809) and of James Madison (1809-1817) the state became the church."
Do they sound like individuals who were trying to create an impenetrable wall of separation between church and state? Do they sound like those who oppose a street sign with the word "heaven" on it or the Pledge of Allegiance with the words "under God"?
If all that the American Civil Liberties Union said about the First Amendment were true, Jefferson would flunk the group's religion/state separation test. Liberal groups such as the ACLU don't want Americans to know that for the founders, Judeo-Christian beliefs and practices and government administration and policy were not separated at all. Denominational tests for public office were prohibited, but the idea that Judeo-Christian ideas and practices had to be kept separate from government would have struck the founders as ridiculous because the very basis for their ideas was the fact that there were rights endowed upon all of us by our Creator.
The ACLU and like-minded atheist groups and liberal media outlets are not preserving First Amendment rights; they are perverting the meaning of the establishment clause (which was to prevent the creation of a national church like the Church of England) to deny the free exercise clause (which preserves our rights to worship as we want, privately and publicly). Both clauses were intended to safeguard religious liberty, not to circumscribe its practice. The Framers were seeking to guarantee a freedom of religion, not a freedom from religion.
As Judge Roy Moore of Alabama reminded his readers, "the issue was addressed 150 years ago when the Senate Judiciary Committee, while considering the congressional chaplaincy, said, '(The founders) had no fear or jealousy of religion itself, nor did they wish to see us an irreligious people; they did not intend to prohibit a just expression of religious devotion by the legislators of the nation, even in their public character as legislators; 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.'"
Yet groups such as the ACLU, much of mainstream media and those New York atheists are spreading that "revolting spectacle of atheistical apathy" across our land, and in doing so, they are not only changing our laws but also revising our history.
If those groups existed during the Revolutionary era, they undoubtedly would have fought with our founders about whether to include any God language in the Declaration of Independence. They also would have ensured the prohibition (not the practice) of any religious expression and speech in any public arena -- something our founders secured in the First Amendment.
How grateful we can be this Independence Day week that those antagonists were not there.
The truth is that atheism was virtually nonexistent in those Revolutionary days. As Ben Franklin's 1787 pamphlet for those in Europe thinking of relocating to America highlighted, "serious religion, under its various denominations, is not only tolerated, but respected and practiced. Atheism is unknown there; Infidelity rare and secret; so that persons may live to a great age in that country without having their piety shocked by meeting with either an Atheist or an Infidel. And the Divine Being seems to have manifested his approbation of the mutual forbearance and kindness with which the different sects treat each other; by the remarkable prosperity with which he has been pleased to favor the whole country."
This week, as with others, we all should celebrate not only our independence from Britain but also our dependence upon God.