“This is a heretic.”
The story behind one of my favorite heroes of the faith, John Hus, is a great example of what our founding fathers had in mind when they penned The First Amendment to the Constitution.
John Hus, a Bohemian, became acquainted with the Bible translation of John Wycliffe in the latter Middle Ages. John Wycliffe, the English zealot who studied at the University of Oxford, felt rightly that the Bible, not the Church of Rome, should be the only rule of faith. He took it upon himself to work diligently at translating this masterpiece into English so that “the people” would be able to read it. At that time the Bible was written in Latin and the general population, notwithstanding the clergy, wasn’t able to freely read, discern or participate in “the written word.” The people were at the mercy of the Church, The Pontiff and clergy in matters of the faith. If the ruling class within the church deemed it so, then so be it.
Bear in mind that at that time, the church was the government. To speak out against either was punishable, often by a cruel death. We would be wise to recall the Middle Ages, The Inquisitions and the murders which proceeded our founding fathers’ arrival to America.
John Hus enthusiastically embraced the English Bible and the concepts put forth by John Wycliffe. Hus was a bold reformer and preached tirelessly. He predates Martin Luther and John Calvin as a brave Christian soul who stood face to face against the powers of the government, emperor and papacy. For his boldness he was rendered heretical and was burned at the stake.
“Renounce your error,” shouted the Duke of Bavaria.
“I have taught no error. The truth I will seal with my blood, ”replied John Hus.
It is in remembrance of the martyrs who stood up to the marriage and unrestrained control of church and state throughout Europe that our founding fathers rightly drafted our US constitution to include the fundamental predated Gettysburg concept, “by the people for the people.”
The birth of our US constitution included the birth of a democracy; a government in which the people take part in the decision making process to avoid an overreach of governing authority. The First Amendment of The United States Constitution was solely to protect us from federal government control.
“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.”
In stating that “congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion,” the Constitution upholds that the Federal government has no right to impose a national religion on its citizens, nor involve itself in states or individual religious freedom (including freedom of worship). That said, the US Supreme Court has, at times, ruled against “practices” deemed extreme, protecting the belief while condemning a practice. Some examples of this would be monogamy, deviant sexual behavior or satanic rituals. Yet, on a federal level the foundational right is to not “prohibit the free exercise of religion, speech or peaceable assembly thereof.”
I have pondered if those who decry an extreme view of “separation of church and state” are aware of the fact that these words are not found in the Federal Constitution but have their beginnings elsewhere. Thomas Jefferson originally referred to “the walls of separation of church and state” when addressing the Danbury Baptist in Connecticut, who were a bit bothered by their Congregationalist brethrens. The Congregationalists were the established church at the time, and while the Baptist understood autonomy in states’ rights, they were seeking a sympathetic ear in Jefferson. As they expressed to Jefferson, “national government cannot destroy the laws of each state; but our hopes are strong that the sentiments of our beloved president…will shine and prevail through all the states and all the world, till hierarchy and tyranny be destroyed from the earth.”
Jefferson replied acknowledging that a wall of separation between church and state existed at the federal level, assuring the Baptist the federal government would not interfere with matters of the church. He was in hopes that this would be philosophically adopted at the state level too. Jefferson had helped Virginia by drafting their Religious Freedom Act in 1786 after the US Constitution of 1776. Virginia declared that people would have a right to worship as they pleased, including the freedom to not worship. The authority over religious matters rested with the states as to limit the power of the federal government.
His sentiments were not to abolish religion or to hide it in the public square, but to uphold denominational religious freedom from federal and state interference. In his writing of the Virginia Religious Freedom Act, Jefferson’s first words were “Almighty God hath created the mind free.” It was unfathomable to think different church denominations couldn’t worship in federal executive office buildings at that time.
Additionally, on or about 1947 the Supreme Court began to apply the Federal First Amendment or “establishment clause” … “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion,” in the context of “separation of church and state.”
They overrode states’ rights and interjected language not fixed within the US Federal Constitution. The Supreme Court has interjected their interpretation out of context to its original historical intent. Their rulings are “religious freedom gone amuck.” It is the Supreme Court’s rulings which have destabilized the balance of thoughtful and rational people to include removal of the Ten Commandments or religious symbols’ from public areas and courts, not allowing prayer at graduations, or a moment of silence within a school classroom.
Like the Darwinian Theory that is treated as fact, The Doctrine of Separation of Church and State is wrongly treated as law.
It is not law. It is merely a doctrine up for debate. How easily an ignorant person is fooled…Theory and doctrine are not facts and laws.
The wall of separation of church and state is not a double edged sword with equal leanings, it is a sword which behooves the government to obey so that the people are entitled to freedom of liberty, religion and worship. The strong-arm of the United States government isn’t to eliminate or control freedom it doesn’t like in the name of political expediency. It is similar to the “right to bear arms.” The intent of the constitution was not for the government, but for the people against tyranny.
Just as Hus and Wycliffe and the many reformers of Europe wanted religious freedom, so did many of those who had now had established their lives here in the New World. Freedom of religion or speech in the United States also means freedom from persecution. It is an inalienable God given right. It makes us who we are as a nation.