Gee whiz, I didn''t know the lakes froze up so early in the year, over thar..........._/)
Anytime religion is mentioned within the confines of government today people cry, "Separation of Church and State". Many people think this statement appears in the first amendment of the U.S. Constitution and therefore must be strictly enforced. However, the words: "separation", "church", and "state" do not even appear in the first amendment. The first amendment reads, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof..." The statement about a wall of separation between church and state was made in a letter on January 1, 1802, by Thomas Jefferson to the Danbury Baptist Association of Connecticut. The congregation heard a widespread rumor that the Congregationalists, another denomination, were to become the national religion. This was very alarming to people who knew about religious persecution in England by the state established church. Jefferson made it clear in his letter to the Danbury Congregation that the separation was to be that government would not establish a national religion or dictate to men how to worship God. Jefferson''s letter from which the phrase "separation of church and state" was taken affirmed first amendment rights. Jefferson wrote:
I contemplate with solemn 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. (1)
The reason Jefferson choose the expression "separation of church and state" was because he was addressing a Baptist congregation; a denomination of which he was not a member. Jefferson wanted to remove all fears that the state would make dictates to the church. He was establishing common ground with the Baptists by borrowing the words of Roger Williams, one of the Baptist''s own prominent preachers. Williams had said:
When they have opened a gap in the hedge or wall of separation between the garden of the Church and the wilderness of the world, God hath ever broke down the wall itself, removed the candlestick, and made his garden a wilderness, as at this day. And that there fore if He will eer please to restore His garden and paradise again, it must of necessity be walled in peculiarly unto Himself from the world...(2)
The "wall" was understood as one-directional; its purpose was to protect the church from the state. The world was not to corrupt the church, yet the church was free to teach the people Biblical values.
The American people knew what would happen if the State established the Church like in England. Even though it was not recent history to them, they knew that England went so far as forbidding worship in private homes and sponsoring all church activities and keeping people under strict dictates. They were forced to go to the state established church and do things that were contrary to their conscience. No other churches were allowed, and mandatory attendance of the established church was compelled under the Conventicle Act of 1665. Failure to comply would result in imprisonment and torture. The people did not want freedom from religion, but freedom of religion. The only real reason to separate the church from the state would be to instill a new morality and establish a new system of beliefs. Our founding fathers were God-fearing men who understood that for a country to stand it must have a solid foundation; the Bible was the source of this foundation. They believed that God''s ways were much higher than Man''s ways and held firmly that the Bible was the absolute standard of truth and used the Bible as a source to form our government.