Hear ye. Hear ye. I hereby challenge every atheist, heathen and non-believer within ear shot to find the phrase "separation of church and state" anywhere in the Constitution of these United States of America.
You should be forewarned, however, that President James Madison would have told you it does not appear in it. President George Washington would also have told you those words are not in it. And they should know, after all they were both there when it was ratified.
If you could ask the thirty-nine delegates who signed the U.S. Constitution every last one would tell you that the phrase "separation of church and state" does not appear anywhere in it.
If you don't believe me go ahead and read it…it's a fascinating document and you might even learn something about democracy (such as that word never appears in the Constitution either).
So, just where do those five words which have been used to drive such a wedge between our country and God come from? I'll tell you. They're taken from a mere letter penned by a man who did not even sign that sacred document. In fact, he was not even in the United States during the Constitutional Convention--he was in France!
Those words were taken from a personal letter written by Thomas Jefferson in 1802, a full fourteen years after the Constitution was ratified. The Baptist Association of Danbury, Connecticut was worried that the phrase “free exercise of religion” implied this right was government granted rather than God granted. Jefferson, then President, understood their concerns and wrote said gentlemen, “Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between man & his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, and not opinions, 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.”
Hmmmm, when read in its proper context, it's sure a lot different than what you've been led to believe. The truth is Jefferson wrote that phrase to assure the Danbury Baptist Association the government would never interfere with religious activities.
Want more? Let's go straight to the man who actually put quill to parchment, James Madison, who historians regard as the Father of the Constitution. He said, “Religion (is) the basis and foundation of government” and “We have staked the whole future of American civilization, not upon the power of government, far from it. We have staked the future of all of our political institutions upon the capacity of mankind for self-government; upon the capacity of each and all of us to govern ourselves, to control ourselves, to sustain ourselves according to the Ten Commandments.”
In fact, it wasn't until 1947, 160 years after the Constitution was written, that Supreme Court Justice Hugo L. Black selected exactly eight words out of context from Jefferson's letter when he wrote the courts opinion in Everson v. Board of Education. Those words, taken wholly out of context, are now commonly referred to as the “Establishment Clause.”
Since very few ever read such opinions, why do people believe that this phrase is actually in the Constitution? Well, as Hitler's propaganda minister Joseph Goebbel's oft said, “If you tell a lie big enough, and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it.” And the whoppers don't come any bigger than that one.
So, now that you know the truth about the big lie, let's fast forward to the current date. For the last sixty years, spineless politicians and jurists have been selling out Mr. Madison's legacy by buckling under to the demands of a tiny number of vocal atheists. From the late Madalyn Murray O'Hair (one of the litigants in Murray v. Curlett which led the Supreme Court to ban organized prayer in public schools in 1963) to Buffalo Grove resident Robert Sherman (who has pressured many a local suburb into removing all traces of their religious heritages from their logos) we, the God fearing majority, have been silent far too long. We have no one to blame but ourselves.
Excellent illustration: Last month Rob Sherman's daughter Dawn (a freshman member of the Student Council) was instrumental in having Buffalo Grove High School (District 214) ban the singing of "God Bless America" at their homecoming. I had the opportunity to interview Sherman about his daughter's “achievement” in having the patriotic song banned and offer our exchange for your consideration.
Sherman opened by saying, “it's an excellent set of questions. You'll love my secular answer.”
Sherman and I began with a discussion of school calendars being written to accommodate religious holidays. Since Sherman chose to provide one lengthy answer to the several individual questions--which selectively addresses only parts of each actual question--I have edited his response to remove redundancy.
RFFM.org's contributing editor Dan Gura interviews atheist Rob Sherman:
Q. Should District 214 schools require atheists and those of other religions to attend school on December 25th lest the child recognize on some level that their non-attendance is an acknowledgement of Christmas?
A. Public schools classes should be scheduled for only those days on which most students AND most faculty are available to attend.
Public school classes should NOT be scheduled on those days on which the school board knows, in advance, that a substantial number of students and/or faculty will not be available to attend. No religious favoritism nor discrimination here. It's all about numbers.
If the school board knows that most students and/or staff will be unavailable on a particular date, schedule school for a different date. State laws generally require a minimum of 180 to 190 school days in a year. For financial reasons, school districts almost always limit the number of school days to the state minimum. Therefore, there is no shortage of dates in a 365-day calendar year for holding school, so it's not like they'll be missing out on a possible day of education during a year by scheduling school for only those dates when most will be available to attend.
A substantial number of students and faculty are not available on Saturdays or Sundays, so, fine, that leaves 260 weekdays in a 52 week year to pick and choose from the necessary 180 to 190 required school days.
Q. The same holds true for Good Friday, March 21st of the following year. Will every child who does not attend know the reason their vacation begins at the close of school on Thursday, instead of the close of school on Friday, is to allow Christians the day off to honor Christ’s sacrifice? Should non-Christian students and staff be required to attend school on these days? And what about Thanksgiving?
A. Since a substantial number of students and staff are going to be unavailable on July 4th and December 25th, it doesn't matter WHY they will be unavailable, it only matters that they will be unavailable, so schedule school for another one of those 260 dates when students and faculty will be generally available. Otherwise, you'll be using up a school day on a day when the education process will not be progressing, because the next day, the teacher and class would have to go back over the material from the previous day.
Q. Do you intend to demand Buffalo Grove High School be open seven days a week for those who do not obey God's laws (“Remember the Sabbath day”), again, lest observers conclude that God’s laws are being obeyed by teachers and students?
A. No direct answer was given, however, Mr. Sherman did state, “I would like for them to schedule an off day for next year on Monday, October 27th, because that's the day that everybody will want to go downtown to watch the victory parade after the Cubbies win next year's World Series. Couldn't they at least schedule an off day for Opening Day at Wrigley Field? That's a major cultural holiday in Chicagoland, at least on the North Side of the metropolitan area.” He declined my offer of a wager--that he attends a service at my church when the Cubs do not win the World Series next year versus my attendance at the event of his choosing if they do--and offered instead to send his wife, a die-hard Sox fan, in his place.
We next discussed Sherman's daughter's recent activism.
Sherman's website describes it as follows: “One of the first things Dawn did upon starting the school year was to apply for membership in the Student Council so she could be part of a team to challenge any injustice that Dawn came across at school. Dawn was promptly appointed to the Student Council by school administrators. Last week, school administrators presented to the Student Council, for their comments, a list of songs that were planned for homecoming. One of the songs was 'God Bless America.' Dawn immediately objected to the inclusion of that song, on the grounds that songs at public schools should be secular. The Student Council and school administrators both concurred that Dawn was correct, so school administrators removed 'God Bless America' from homecoming. Thank you, Dawn, for banishing God from Buffalo Grove High School. Does this prove that Dawn is more powerful than God? It certainly proves that one person can make a difference, especially if the last name of that person is 'Sherman.' Don't mess with Dawn.”
Q. Since it's “all about the numbers” and there are significantly more believers in God (both Christian and Jew) than atheists at Buffalo Grove High School, please reconcile your response with your daughter's recent actions.
A. The Student Council is about majority rules. Dawn proposed a policy. The majority of the Student Council and the administration agreed that her proposal should be adopted.
Q. Should majority rules be used to set other school precedents?
A. Constitutionally guaranteed civil rights are not subject to popularity polls. That's why the administration took out GBA. The government cannot select a prayer to be played over the PA system in the hallways between periods during homecoming week or any other time.
Q. What would your response be if, at some date in the future, another member of the student council proposes a policy, which is approved by a majority vote, whereby the students are encouraged to sing God Bless America at some function?
A. The Student Council is bound by the Constitution because it acts as an agent of government. Therefore, it is not permissible for this governmental agency to encourage prayer. Article I, Section 3 of the Illinois Constitution states, in pertinent part, that "No preference shall be given by law to any denomination or mode of worship. Therefore, the Student Council, being an agency of government, can't do it.
Q. Currently, adherents to the Muslim religion are in the minority (in southern Lake County). However, that is not the case in many school districts across the country. Do you feel similar accommodations should be made for Muslim religious holidays where they are in the majority? What about rearranging class schedules to allow Muslim students time to pray? (At minimum, two of their six daily prayer times (DHuhr-noon and ASir-afternoon) fall during the school day.) Should the school provide a place for them to pray?
A. Muslims: Reasonable accommodation.
Q. And do I understand your response, reasonable accommodation, to mean that, in your opinion, a school can provide a place for Muslims to pray?
A. That depends. Another part of that same sentence in Article I, Section 3 states, "No person shall be required to support any ministry or place of worship against his consent." If a school wants to allow them use of a room that is not needed for a secular purpose at that time, that's fine, but the government can't go spending money building a mosque for them inside the school. There is the balance in reasonable accommodation.
Q. What if every student except your daughter voted to boycott an assembly because they would not sing God Bless America?
A. Boycott? Children around here, and most adults, are a bunch of sheep. They follow just about anything that they're told to do by the authorities. My daughter and I, on the other hand, are leaders. We question authority every time what they ask for is improper.”
So there you have it. Answers which may appear as elusive as the mists of Brigadoon, but are as subtle as the blow of a hammer by a man skilled in its use. And if they don't scare you into getting involved nothing will.
Psalm 14-1…"The fool says in his heart, There is no God."
RELATED ARTICLE: The Founding Fathers: Their True View On Religion's Role In Government
Dan Gura is a contributing editor to RFFM.org