The first settlers in America came for religious freedom, to worship God as they believed appropriate. This belief was codified into national law at the nation’s founding with the 1st Amendment which states:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,
The Amendment prevented a national church of America that would discriminate against Christian denominations or other religions. All citizens were free to worship God as they wished, or to not worship Him. The 1st Amendment also strictly prevents government from “prohibiting the free exercise of” religion.
What does this mean? How was the second clause interpreted? If a public school wants to offer a religion class or graduation prayer, it is up to those who run the school – the elected school board. If a city wants to have a religious monument in a public space, it is up to the city council or mayor – elected office holders who have been placed in control. The Constitution allows voting citizens to ultimately decide what if any religion is found in the public square. This is exactly how American communities understood and practiced the right to religious freedom for 150+ years.
“Now there will probably be found few persons in this or any other Christian country who would deliberately contend that it was unreasonable or unjust to foster and encourage the Christian religion generally as a matter of sound policy as well as of revealed truth.”
– Commentaries on the Constitution of the United States. Volume 3. 1833. Supreme Court Justice Joseph Story.
While allowing freedom for all religions, America was still a nation formed by Christians, and the early governments promoted belief in the God of the Bible.
If the Constitution allowed religious activity in the public in the 1800’s, it allows it today, unless it has been amended – which it has not.
It is amazing to contrast the original Supreme Court thinking expressed by Chief Justice Story with modern court thinking. In the last century, judges began removing God from the public square, based on the judges’ personal preferences rather than constitutional text. Judges have banned the Bible from public school, banned the teaching of God as Creator, and even banned prayer at many public events.
America has gone from using the Bible to teach students how to read, to students being banned from leading a prayer. This didn’t just happen. It has been a concerted effort to remove God from the public.
There has been little if any response from America’s churches and Christians. If there is no opposing force, America will continue along the current path to secularism. What are likely next steps? The judicial forced legalization of homosexual marriage “have made sexual orientation a full-fledged protected class”. Already Christian businesses are being prosecuted for “discriminating” against homosexuals’ weddings. How long before a church is sued for not marrying a homosexual couple? Judicial logic could easily decide that there is no place in society for “hatespeech” found in the Bible regarding homosexuality. One day a suit ( $70M Suit Against Bible Publishers) like this may force printers to edit out the offensive biblical passages or face bankruptcy.
All is not lost however. America still has many faithful citizens. An abundance of citizens, armed with knowledge, can convince their representatives to stop and reverse the trend away from God. The Constitution is on our side if we use it. It is a contract between citizens and their government. But, the Bible and the Constitution have a commonality, they are mere words on a page or screen. Both are meaningless if people do not take them to heart and follow them.
The first step to returning America to her foundation of Bible and Constitution is education. Churches need to educate citizens about America’s religious heritage and the true meaning of the First Amendment. The book, The Bible and Constitution Made America Great By Providing Freedom and Liberty to Citizens, is a tool that I hope churches will use.
Book available at Amazon.com.