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What I think about…Separation of Church & State

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Separation of Church and State

The First Amendment of the Constitution says, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof . . .” The two parts of that statement, formally known as the “establishment clause” and the “free exercise clause”, provide the foundation for the Supreme Court’s interpretations of the “separation of church and state” doctrine.  The First Amendment, as it reads, is in line with the teaching of Scripture.  God has ordained the government of the church as well as civil government.  Each has a distinct sphere of operation.  The purpose of civil government is stated in Romans 13:1-7.  The purpose of the church is declared in Matthew 28:19-20.  As stated in the First Amendment, I do not believe that the government should control the church.  Neither do I believe that the church should be in power over the affairs of civil government.

Unfortunately, the First Amendment is often interpreted in a way that attempts to drive religious principles and morals out of government and even to limit the role of religious individuals, particularly pastors, from being involved in civil government and community service.  I believe that every individual American has a responsibility to seek to have as great of an influence in society as possible for the good of the nation.  A church employee (i.e. a pastor, priest, rabbi, mullah, etc.) should be no less engaged in current affairs and community service individually than a person representing any other profession.  What should not take place is for a particular church or denomination to be placed in a position of power in government.  In other words, I do not believe in a theocracy, where a particular religion is required for all citizens.  That is an entirely different matter from that of an individual Christian (regardless of profession) who serves in a political office, and is the exact concern of the First Amendment.

I believe in religious freedom.  Religious belief is a personal matter of the heart.  What you and I believe will certainly influence our decisions, or morals, our judgment, and our behavior, all of which will bear specific consequences.  You cannot separate one’s beliefs (religious or other) from their actions.  The one will inevitably influence the other.  It is for this reason that I believe that people with character and Christian beliefs and values are exactly the kind of people that are needed to lead our nation.  They are the ones who founded our nation.  Almost half of the signers of the Declaration of Independence, as well as most every Founding Father graduated from orthodox Christian teaching seminaries and were pastors, church elders, and church officers.  Here is a sample:

Samuel Adams: Signer of the Declaration of Independence, Father of the Revolution, Attended Harvard (an orthodox Christian seminary at that time)

John Hancock: First signer of the Declaration of Independence, Acting President of the United Sates, Started the “Minutemen,” commissioned George Washington as the commander-in-chief of the Continental Army, Governor of Massachusetts, Attended Harvard (an orthodox Christian seminary at that time)

John Quincy Adams: Sixth President of the United States, Vice-President of the American Bible Society, Vice-President of the Massachusetts Bible Society, Attended Harvard (an orthodox Christian seminary at that time)

Robert Treat Paine: Signer of the Declaration of Independence, Military Chaplain, Helped write the Massachusetts Constitution, Attended Harvard (an orthodox Christian seminary at that time)

Rufus King: Signer of the Constitution, Selected as manager of the American Bible Society, Signer of the Constitution, Ratifier of the Bill of Rights, Attended Harvard (an orthodox Christian seminary at that time)

Bushrod Washington: U.S. Supreme Court Justice, Vice-President of the American Bible Society, Vice-President of the American Sunday School Union, Attended William and Mary (an orthodox Christian seminary at that time)

John Lowell: Revolutionary Officer, Member of the Continental Congress, Member of the Society for the propagating of the Gospel among the Indians and others, Authored Article I in the Massachusetts Constitution of 1779 and insisted that it be adopted into the Bill of Rights—“All men are born free and equal, and have certain natural, essential and inalienable rights, among which may be reckoned the right of enjoying and defending their lives and liberties…”, Attended Harvard (an orthodox Christian seminary at that time)

Jonathan Trumbull: Governor of Connecticut, Ordained Pastor, Attended Harvard (an orthodox Christian seminary at that time)

Timothy Pickering: Revolutionary General, Secretary of State, His ideas formed the Northwest Ordinance, Attended Harvard (an orthodox Christian seminary at that time)

William Samuel Johnson: Signer of the Constitution, Attended Yale (an orthodox Christian seminary at that time)

Zephaniah Swift: Author of America’s first legal text, Attended Yale (an orthodox Christian seminary at that time)

James Bowdoin: Governor of Massachusetts, Member of the Society for Propagating the Gospel Among the Indians and Others, Attended Harvard (an orthodox Christian seminary at that time)

James Kent: Father of American Jurisprudence, Attended Yale (an orthodox Christian seminary at that time)

Joel Barlow: Diplomat under Washington and Adams, Chaplain in the American Revolution for three years, Did not become liberal until 1794, Attended Yale (an orthodox Christian seminary at that time)

John Cotton Smith: Governor of Connecticut, U.S. Congressman, Puritan Minister, President of the Litchfield County Foreign Missionary Society, First President of the Connecticut Bible Society, President of the American Bible Society, President of the American Board of Foreign Missions, Attended Yale (an orthodox Christian seminary at that time)

John Treadwell: Governor of Connecticut, Member of Continental Congress, Member of the Missionary Society of Connecticut, Attended Yale (an orthodox Christian seminary at that time)

These men, and others, are the same ones who declared that all Americans are free to practice religion in whatever way that we deem best.  Our country was founded by religious men, but they recognized that government cannot require religion or disallow it, it can only protect religious freedom.  Who better to do that, than those who are religious?

In Romans 13:1-3 the Bible also uses similar terms to make it clear that a Christian individual seeking to be an influence in politics is not the same as a denomination or group of churches running the government.  Thus, I do believe in the separation of church and state as originally presented in the First Amendment of the Constitution.  I do not believe that statement to in any way be in conflict with my personal desire to serve my community and country in the realm of politics.  My beliefs and values certainly shape the decisions that I make, and have led me to my current role of a minister.  Those values and beliefs have also driven me to step out and lead in the arena of politics.  Again, I believe strongly that religious people with character and integrity should not be excluded from political leadership, but I do not believe that religion should be regulated by the government whether it is done so in a positive sense by requiring a particular system of belief, or done in a negative sense by denying religious freedoms.  Both are an infringement upon Constitutional rights.  I will not seek to use any political platform to regulate religious belief and practice.  At the same time, I will stand up for religious freedom and the individual’s right to make whatever religious choice that he deems best, so long as it does not hinder another’s equal rights and freedoms.

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