No sooner had I expressed my differences with the president’s announcement supporting same-sex “marriage” than a young man named Collin posted on my Facebook page, “You have to leave your stupid religious dogma behind when talking about state and national issues. You are basing your objection to homosexual marriage on the Bible which would be violating the American principle of separation of church and state.”
Not only is this the opposite of what our Founding Fathers intended, but it is also completely hypocritical, since Collin voiced no objection to the president pointing to his religious beliefs in support of same-sex “marriage.”
And so, President Obama can invoke “Christ sacrificing himself on our behalf,” Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi can invoke her Catholic faith, Episcopal bishops in North Carolina can invoke the Bible and their religious traditions, even to the point of actively campaigning for gay “marriage,” and virtually no one (perhaps with the exception of Barry Lynn) is crying out, “Separation of church and state!”
But let conservative Christians invoke the Bible or quote the words of Jesus or point to their religious traditions in opposition to redefining marriage, and comments like this one come pouring in faster than you can count them: “I live in North Carolina where the separation of Church and State doesn’t exist.” (This was from “Eric R.” after the marriage amendment passed on May 8th.)
I have even been told that I have no right to cast a vote for a candidate or a bill if my viewpoint is based on the Bible. What? This notion is as idiotic as it is outrageous.
Let’s set the record straight for those who might be misinformed. First, “the separation of church and state” is not mentioned or alluded to in the Constitution. Second, the concept of “the separation of church and state” is found in the First Amendment, the relevant part of which simply reads, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” In other words, the state needs to stay out of the church’s business. It was not until 1947 that the Supreme Court invoked the principle of “separation of church and state” in a legal ruling.
Third, the wording for “separation of church and state” is based on Thomas Jefferson’s reply to the Danbury Baptist Association in Connecticut in 1802, but as Yale law professor Stephen Carter pointed out, “The separation of church and state, properly understood, comes from the work not of Thomas Jefferson, as is widely perceived, but from the insights of Roger Williams.”
Michael Brown holds a Ph.D. in Near Eastern Languages and Literatures from New York University. He is the author of 25 books, includingLine of Fire. Follow him at AskDrBrown on Facebook or @drmichaellbrown on Twitter.