Separation of Church and State - The Metaphor and the Constitution
"Separation of church and state" is a common metaphor that is well recognized. Equally well recognized is the metaphorical meaning of the church staying out of the state's business and the state staying out of the church's business. Because of the very common usage of the "separation of church and state phrase," most people incorrectly think the phrase is in the constitution. The phrase "wall of separation between the church and the state" was originally coined by Thomas Jefferson in a letter to the Danbury Baptists on January 1, 1802. His purpose in this letter was to assuage the fears of the Danbury, Connecticut Baptists, and so he told them that this wall had been erected to protect them. The metaphor was used exclusively to keep the state out of the church's business, not to keep the church out of the state's business.
The constitution states, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof." Both the free exercise clause and the establishment clause place restrictions on the government concerning laws they pass or interfering with religion. No restrictions are placed on religions except perhaps that a religious denomination cannot become the state religion.
However, currently the implied common meaning and the use of the metaphor is strictly for the church staying out of the state's business. The opposite meaning essentially cannot be found in the media, the judiciary, or in public debate and is not any part of the agenda of the ACLU or the judiciary.
This, in conjunction with several other factors, makes the "separation of church and state" metaphor an icon for eliminating anything having to do with Christian theism, the religion of our heritage, in the public arena. One of these factors is the use of the metaphor in place of the actual words of the constitution in discourse and debate. This allows the true meaning of the words in the constitution to be effectively changed to the implied meaning of the metaphor and the effect of the "free exercise" clause to be obviated. Another factor facilitating the icon to censor all forms of Christian theism in the public arena is a complete misunderstanding of the "establishment" clause.
Separation of Church and State - The Establishment Clause in Context
In addition to the "Separation of Church and State" metaphor misrepresenting the words of the establishment clause, the true meaning of the establishment clause is also misrepresented. The "establishment" clause states, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion. . ." Before these words can be put in context and the true meaning of the clause can be correctly identified, we need to examine the word "religion" and put it in America's historical context at the time the constitution was framed. In addition, we need to examine the previous European historical background of the founders of our country to identify what specifically motivated them to place the "establishment" clause in the constitution.
To accomplish this, we need to add more specificity to the word "religion" to clarify both the American and European historical backgrounds and put the word "religion" in proper context. We need to delineate between doctrinal and denominational religion. We also need to understand that the doctrinal religion being discussed is Christian Theism, which is defined by a belief in the Bible. We know what specific Christian denominational religions are.
Separation of Church and State - Constitution Framers Historical Context
The "Separation of Church and State" metaphor blurs the distinction between a doctrinal religion and a denominational religion. This places the doctrinal religion we have embraced in the same basket as an organized denominational religion with potential to merge with the state. The documentary evidence of the doctrinal Christian religion origin of this nation is voluminous. The Supreme Court thoroughly studied this issue, and in 1892 gave what is known as the Trinity Decision. In that decision the Supreme Court declared, "this is a Christian nation." John Quincy Adams said, "The highest glory of the American Revolution was, it connected in one indissoluble bond, the principles of civil government with the principles of Christianity." The founders were definitely Christian for the most part. At least 90 to 95 percentage of them were practicing, Trinitarian Christians. This and the additional supporting evidence below show conclusively that the concern that motivated the framers to include the establishment clause in the constitution was definitely not fear of the doctrinal religion of Christian Theism. It was understood that Christian Theism was the default state doctrinal religion. As opposed to being something to fear, it was something believed to be vital to the success of our government. Consequently, the framers feared a state denominational religion not a state doctrinal religion! Some additional evidences that indicate Christian Theism was the national doctrinal religion are listed below: