“Separation of Church and State”; Is It In The Constitution?

By Matthew Desmond

The separation of church and state is an issue that is widely debated throughout America. I chose this topic for my first post (I’m not sure if I should call it a blog, or article or something else) is because this is something I believe in very strongly. The marriage of religion to politics is something I believe our Founding Fathers were firmly against. Each of my posts on this site will include a quote or two from the Founding Fathers that I think accurately conveys how they felt about religion and politics.

I would like to state first and foremost that the term “separation of church and state” is not in the constitution, but it is clear, from the Constitution, that the Founders wanted to keep religion and politics separate. In Article IV of the Constitution it states “no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.” This states clearly that religious beliefs should have no bearing on whether someone is fit to hold public office, or to earn the trust of the public.

In Amendment I of the constitution it states “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof ….” Taken out of context it’s very easy for people that don’t believe in a separation of church and state to say that this does not clearly state that there should be a separation of church and state. This is incorrect, while the term “separation of church and state was not specifically used in the Amendment, in 1802 Thomas Jefferson wrote a letter to the Danbury Baptist Church that said, “I contemplate with sovereign 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.”

It’s pretty clear just from those 2 sentences that the Founding Fathers didn’t want someone’s worth or ability to hold office to be determined by their religious affiliation. It’s also clear that they didn’t want religion and politics to become intertwined, and that no law should dictate whether or not someone has to have a religious affiliation.

The words “separation of church and state” might not be directly in the constitution, that doesn’t mean that it wasn’t The Founders intentions. Using their own words at the end of each of my editorials I will show you that they thought religion had no place in politics.

“Strongly guarded is the separation between religion and government in
the Constitution of the United States.” – James Madison

“Christianity neither is, nor ever was a part of the common law.” Thomas Jefferson in a letter to Dr. Thomas cooper 1814

  • JAFisher44

    The problem is that no matter how obvious it should be, up and coming theocrats will just put their fingers in their ears, close their eyes really tight and go, "LALALALALALALALALA…I can't see it…LALALALALALALALALA…it's not there!"

    Sigh. I despair for mankind :(

    • Troy Bowman

      Read my posts today. I outlined why there is no Separation. The problem is with atheists and secularists is they are trying to see something in the Constitution that is not there.

  • Mac

    I'd like to caution people about sanctifying the founders and/or their intentions re: the constitution. Those men were human, acted largely in self-interest and were not always wise, tolerant, "good" (whatever that means) or even necessarily nice.

    That being said, the only completely accurate statement about what they meant re: the constitution is that they did provide for changes to it.

    The entire opinion at the following link is well worth reading; especially the history which led to the establishment clause.


    "The 'establishment of religion' clause of the First Amendment means at least this: Neither a state nor the Federal Government can set up a church. Neither can pass laws which aid one religion, aid all religions, or prefer one religion over another. Neither can force nor influence a person to go to or to remain away from church against his will or force him to profess a belief or disbelief in any religion. No person can be punished for entertain- [330 U.S. 1, 16] ing or professing religious beliefs or disbeliefs, for church attendance or non-attendance. No tax in any amount, large or small, can be levied to support any religious activities or institutions, whatever they may be called, or whatever from they may adopt to teach or practice religion. Neither a state nor the Federal Government can, openly or secretly, participate in the affairs of any religious organizations or groups and vice versa. In the words of Jefferson, the clause against establishment of religion by law was intended to erect 'a wall of separation between Church and State.' Reynolds v. United States, supra, 98 U.S. at page 164."

    This is the law regardless (and I can't emphasize this enough) of the founders' intentions. Arguing about what they meant or didn't mean is an exercise in irrelevancy.

  • Bryan Trim

    The problem is…we are having a tax levied on us to support churches. Rather, churches are given tax exemptions, which then takes monies away from the tax base of the area where the church is. Now, for you run of the mill small church, this is not a big deal. For your multimillion or BILLION dollar megachurches, such as the ones who dot Dallas, TX or have huge radio and television "ministries" this money is considerable indeed.

    • Troy Bowman

      Not all churches take exemptions on taxes. But so what if they do. Many churches are good and do good all around the world. There is no other organizations anywhere that give more to humanity than Christians. and that includes governments. I trust my church to get the money to where its most needed more than the government. The government gives millions and billions of our Tax payer money to countries with dictators that the money never gets to where its needed the most. And I say this to you. You have no idea what good churches do not only in our own country but around the world. And it is all documented. Every week we see exactly how much money is tithed to the church and we see where it goes out. Its in the program for the public to see. You best start criticizing our Mega Trillion Dollar Government who wastes our money before you condemn the Churches for doing what is right with there money.

    • Troy Bowman

      By the way, I am not at suggesting that all churches are good. There are some that are not good. But you cannot condemn the entire community for the sake of the one.

  • Mac

    @Bryan: "Rather, churches are given tax exemptions, which then takes monies away from the tax base of the area where the church is."

    True, but short of catching their leaders out for dipping the till,how would you sort them out from other definitionally non-profit charities without requiring *all* of them to pay taxes?

  • Adam

    The way we tax (or don't tax) the church and it's staff isn't constitutional. The church, maybe, but we also let their ministers claim their rent/mortgage as 100% tax deductible income… so they don't pay an tax on the money they use for housing. Other non-profit 501C3s don't get this same exemption. That right their is a statute giving preferential treatment to churches.

    Check out the Freedom From Religion Foundation. I got to hear the president, Dan Barker, speak this weekend. They are currently fighting the "National Day of Prayer" which congress enacted in the 50's requiring the president to declare a National Day of Prayer each year. That is easily a situation violating the constitution. They clearly enacted a law making an establishment of religion. They won the first time, but now the Federal Lawyers are appealing it in a superior court in Chicago. Hearings start on December 2nd.

    • Troy Bowman

      Sorry Adam but it is not a violation. Read my two posts from today. I give factual historical context to debunk the so called wall of separation.

  • Troy Bowman

    Your interpretation is clearly wrong. There is no separation and there is plenty of proof of that in many of the founders writings not just the one you quoted from Thomas Jefferson. Which by the way is taken out of context. If you want the Truth I will give it to you if you can handle it. One of the main things that was taught by law scholars for many years, up until today that is, that in order to understand or fine definitions of words or meanings the founders meant when they wrote the Declaration and Constitution is that you have to read it in the context of the era. In other words you have to research dictionaries, and text books, and other writings of the same era. Example. I researched the requirement for POTUS which is to be a natural born citizen. In the context of today, we could assume that it merely means to be born in the country. But if you research to the time of the writing of the Constitution (1787) You will note writings of John Locke, Blackstone, Adam Smith, and Emir de Vattel. And in De Vattel’s book “Law of Nations” you will find the definition of “Natural Born Citizen” is not just by virtue of birth in the country, on the contrary, it was defined as a citizen born in the country to TWO PARENTS WHO ARE BOTH CITIZENS. My point is today a lot of things in the Constitution are misinterpreted or reinterpreted by law scholars, Judges and Acedemia. And there is not one opinion of the Supreme Court more egregious than Everson v board of education. In which the court magically pulled out of thin air that the first amendment means there is a separation of church and state. Further proof to debunk your argument: If the founders TRULY believed that they meant to erect a Wall of Separation of Church and state in the Constitution, why they would they have created a day of Thanksgiving (which is still observed today). You think that we are giving thanks to the Government for giving us our daily needs? No. We are giving thanks to the Living God. And why would the founders in the Congress at that time have Prayer Services EVERY DAY BEFORE THE START OF BUSINESS? Oh and why would the founders have held Church services in the CAPITOL Building every Sunday? That went on for many years. Oh and why did they feel it necessary to teach the Bible in public schools? Which that went on all the way up to the turn of the 20th century. Here is another one. Why would there be a huge mural of MOSES painted on the inside of the SENATE CHAMBER looking down on its members? which by the way is still there today. I could go on and on and on with factual proof that the founders had no such notion of a wall of separation between Church and State. Read some more friend and try to read their writings objectively and not with your beliefs clouding your objectivity. Don’t just look for quotes or phrases or words that you are looking for to line of with your narrative. Trust me if you do, there will be no way that you could come to any other conclusion that there was never any such notion of a wall of separation. Thank you.

  • Troy Bowman

    By the way. I respect your right to be atheist, its about time atheist start respecting the rights of Christians to be Christians (which by the way is not a religion). And that is one thing that actually is in the 1st Amendment:
    “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or
    prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of
    speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to
    assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.” There is another conflict here. In the establishment clause they are saying that Congress Shall make NO LAW (for emphasis) respecting the establishment of religion. The problem I have with Athesists and secularists is that they are removing prayer from schools and anything regarding Christianity from the Public square base on this clause. I ask you this how can they remove things that were never MADE LAW by Congress in the first place? And of course last but not least, what atheists and secularists forget about the first amendment because they do not look past the establishment clause is the second part of that clause which states OR PROHIBITING THE FREE EXERCISE THEREOF; So you see there is no wall of separation at all. this was a myth constructed by liberal secularist activist judges whom have infiltrated our judicial system since the early 1900s. Okay I have made my point. thank you.

  • Troy Bowman
  • Troy Bowman

    I have one more further point to make since you have gleefully quote James Madison. I did not point this out in my first rebuttle when I listed references. How could I forget to add the Federalist Papers and Anti-Federalist Papers.

    John Jay says this about Religion in Federalist number 2:

    “With equal pleasure I have as often taken notice that Providence
    has been pleased to give this one connected country to one united
    people–a people descended from the same ancestors, speaking the same
    language, professing the same religion, attached to the same
    principles of government, very similar in their manners and customs,
    and who, by their joint counsels, arms, and efforts, fighting side
    by side throughout a long and bloody war, have nobly established
    general liberty and independence.”

    Why bring in the Federalist Papers or Anti-Federalist Papers? Well simply put these were the two documents that argued for and against ratifying the US Constitution. Nowhere, let me say that again for emphasis, NOWHERE in either document does it mention anything about a separation of Church and State. Why? Because it was obviously a foregone conclusion that there was no argument about Separating the two. On the contrary the only argument was to ensure that the freedom of religion be clear. Hence, the Bill of rights and the First Amendment. Atheists and secularists have been working hard to rewrite our history books and in large part have been successful in doing so. They have also dominated Academia, and the Press, and the judicial system. I feel sorry for any American that is not taught history the correct and accurate way. All I have to say is do your research. I am not even sure James Madison ever said what you are quoting him as saying, but even if he did, like the Letter from Thomas Jefferson to the Danbury Baptist Association in Connecticut, it is not legally bound, and should not be used as a legal reference. However the federalists and Anti-federalist papers were in direct correlation with the framing of the Constitution, therefore can be used as official reference. Please wise up. Thank you.

  • Troy Bowman

    Here is another quote for you from the father of our Constitution:

    “The real wonder is that so many difficulties
    should have been surmounted, and surmounted with a
    unanimity almost as unprecedented as it must have been unexpected.
    It is impossible for any man of candor to reflect on
    this circumstance without partaking of the astonishment. It
    is impossible for the man of pious reflection not to perceive
    in it a finger of that Almighty hand which has been so frequently
    and signally extended to our relief in the critical stages
    of the revolution.”

    ~ James Madison, Federalist 37

    Still think there is a separation of church and state clause? You would be foolish to think so.

  • Troy Bowman

    Still not convinced?

    “The first question is answered at once by recurring to the
    absolute necessity of the case; to the great principle of selfpreservation;
    to the transcendent law of nature and of nature’s
    God, which declares that the safety and happiness of society
    are the objects at which all political institutions aim, and to
    which all such institutions must be sacrificed.” ~ James Madison Federalist 43.