The Original Intent of Our Founding Fathers Part I
I hope everyone had a great day in celebrating our country's independence. In belated honor of that great day I'd like to begin a series on the original intent behind the First Amendment and what our Founders had envisioned for our country, namely the separation of church and state and the role Christianity is to play in our society. Our Founders never dreamed that our religious freedoms would be as horribly stripped away as they have been in recent decades.
Revisionist historians have effectively beguiled the citizenry into believing that religion should be kept out of the public square and nothing could be further from the truth. Unfortunately, that belief has, over the years and for various reasons, helped to erode many of our Christian freedoms, but I think the church is finally waking up to the fact that they have made a grave error and are beginning to fight back. I hope to spark a flame in those reading to do further research on the subject so that they, too, can join in the fight to reclaim our religious freedoms. We need Christians to learn the truth about our nation's rich Christian heritage so that they can be equipped to share their knowledge of the truth with others. Let's hope it is not too late.
When studying the founding documents, debates and writings of the founders, et al we must be careful not to read them anachronistically. For example the word "religion" had a different definition than the definition of religion today which includes atheism and humanism. Depending upon the context, the Founders held to three distinct connotations of the word "religion":
- A particular denomination within Chrsitianity
- A fundamental set of beliefs other than Christianity (e.g., Muslimism, Judaism, etc.)
Religion: [I]ncludes a belief in the being and perfections of God, in the revelation of His will to man, and in man’s obligation to obey His commands, in a state of reward and punishment, and in man’s accountableness to God; and also true godliness or piety of life with the practice of all moral duties. . . . [T]he practice of moral duties without a belief in a Divine Lawgiver, and without reference to His will or commands, is not religion.--The American Dictionary of the English Language 1828
Keeping this in mind is a must to properly interpret the original intent of the founders when addressing the subject of religion. Revisionists have been very effective at spreading their misinformation by reinterpreting the writings of the Founders to bolster the idea that government cannot promote religion or promote one relgion over another.
The Founders in no way repudiated religion in government and felt that guidance from God was needed in running a successful government, thus, the enactment of prayer each day in both Houses of Congress. They believed that true religion [the Christian religion] and morality were the support of a just government, but believed that the federal government had no jurisdiction in the establishment of religion [a particular Christian denomination], nor should there be a federal religious test; they believed these decisions should be left up to the States via the people. In fairly recent years, the religious test ban in Article VI has been grossly misapplied and misinterpreted.
The Founders believed in religious freedom and the right to worship the deity according to the dictates of one's conscience. The Founders believed that the government should not intermeddle in the affairs of the church meaning that they could not regulate or dictate the operation of the church. The Founders did not discourage, but rather encouraged, government aid (notice I said, AID, not taxation) in the propagation of the Christian religion because they knew that a religious and moral people would be a great support to our government. They also believed that the Christian religion was the one true religion or the best of all religions or both because of the teachings of Jesus Christ. They also believed that the Christian God was a God of liberty and that the people should learn of the Christian religion.
The Founders did not set out to form a federal religious theocracy (the subject of religion was to be left up to the states) and were very careful not to allow the country to turn into one, but they also did not want the government to be able to prohibit religion; thus, the First Amendment. True history (how sad that we now have to qualify history by preceding it with the word "true") speaks for itself. We were a Christian nation at our founding and our Founders did NOT prohibit the free exercise of religion within the confines of government. I will set about to prove this in future articles.