What Does The Separation of Church and State Mean? Is There Such A Law?

by Jack Wellman · Print Print · Email Email

Where did the term separation of church and state come from?  Is it in the Constitution?  Is it in the Bill of Rights?  Perhaps it’s one of the Amendments.  Is there such a law?

Origins of the Term Separation of Church and State

The term separation of church and state has been used, misused, and abused to mean separation of church from state.  But where did this term come from and is it a federal law?  Surprisingly, you won’t find it in the U.S. Constitution, the Bill of Rights, the Amendments or in any federal statute even though 69% of Americans believe it is.  Yet others think it’s in the First Amendment.  It most certainly is not.  The phrase separation of church and state originated from Thomas Jefferson on January 1st, 1801.  Jefferson used this metaphor in a letter sent to the Danbury Baptist Association of Connecticut.  Jefferson used the term “wall” to make clear that the government was not to interfere with any religious practice.  His intent was most certainly not to keep religion or religious symbols out of the public, state, or governmental offices or property.  The term separation of church and state has been taken completely out of context and made into a pretext to say “keep religion out” of public, state, or government property or offices.  This term has basically replaced what the First Amendment really says even though the words “separation of church and state” is not even in it!

Interestingly, Jefferson attended worship services in the place that most politicians today would believe was illegal…in the House Chambers of the U.S. Capital Building.  Why would Jefferson believe that religion should be removed from the state and then hold worship services on federal property and at the same place where the Ten Commandments were displayed?  Ironically, the term separation of church and state did appear in the constitution; of the former U.S.S.R.!

The First Amendment

Separation of Church and State — is it Federal Law?

The First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution is not a restriction of religion from the state but a restriction of the establishing of a state sanctioned and state-supported religion. It does not mean that the Ten Commandments should be taken out of the public square, from government or state offices, the taking down of crosses from public roadways or preventing the free exercise of Christian religion from being seen by the public.  Here is what the First Amendment in reality says and what it doesn’t say:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Notice that Congress, which consists of the House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate, are not to make any law respecting any establishment of a religion.  The original intent was to keep the state from sanctioning or sponsoring a particular religion as the official religion.  Neither is it to prohibit the free exercise or expression of religion.  There is nothing in this that says religion should be removed from public, state, or government offices or property.  It is simply restricting Congress’s establishing a specific religion itself.  As the First Amendment says,  “prohibiting the free exercise thereof” means no one should prohibit religious practices anywhere in this country.  Instead of Jefferson’s original intent to not restrict the freedom of religion, it has become a law to restrict religion, religious freedom, religious expression and confine it to only one’s place of worship or at home.  Rather than being a prohibition of the free exercise of religion, it has been placed on its head and has been contorted to mean religion is to be restricted from the public square and state and federal places.  If Jefferson meant that, then he was a hypocrite because the first places of worship where the seat of government was were in the federal offices themselves!

Thomas Jefferson’s Original Intent

Thomas Jefferson wanted a wall of separation from there being a state-church. This is what many whom fled from England experienced; where the church and state were one and the same.  He was concerned that the government would fund religion as they did in England and that religious worship at a state-church would be deemed compulsory.  In his memoirs, he wanted to make sure that the state would not impose their own ideology or theology upon all churches. The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision concerning separation of church and state is clearly a violation of the U.S. Constitution itself. This was most certainly not the founding fathers’ intent. The separation of church and state is not found in the U.S. Constitution, the Bill of Rights, the Amendments, or in any legal document in the United States.  It is the U.S. Supreme Court’s job to enforce the law, not make laws.  The U.S. Supreme Court has also violated its original mission.  They have been making laws, they have invalidated laws, and they have declared them constitutional or not.  This is not their job…this is the job of Congress.  If there should be any separation, it should be for the Supreme Court to act as a court and judge whether cases are true or not.  Let Congress do their job of passing, writing or restricting laws.  If anything, the Supreme Court should be separated from making laws or declaring them invalid.  It would be better to say let there be a “separation of the court from lawmaking“, or “separation of the court from the state.”  Maybe the First Amendment would better read “The U.S. Supreme Court shall make no law.  Let Congress make the laws.  That is their job!

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{ 21 comments… read them below or add one }

Mabel November 4, 2012 at 9:19 am

This is so true, whenever you try to relate God to a political issue, this would be the first thing a nonbeliever will bring up! And as far as restricting worship to one’s church and home, that soon will be regulated as well, if no altogether prohibited. Our only hope is that Jesus comes back soon and in the mean time reach as many for His kingdom as possible and pray for a revival in this nation!

Hey, Mr. Wellman, did you change your profile picture recently? Just curious!!! 🙂 God Bless!

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Jack Wellman November 4, 2012 at 4:56 pm

Thanks Mabel…,yes I did change my profile to what I look like now…I don’t take a lot of pictures so that old was 10 years old. Thanks friend.

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anilkumarbudala November 4, 2012 at 12:03 pm

Br. Jack i want to be a good children of GOD. But thats too difficult for me. What can i do for be a good beliver

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Jack Wellman November 4, 2012 at 5:42 pm

Hello Anilkumarbudala. There is nothing you can do but what Jesus has done for you. The Holy Spirit enables us and gives us the power to do good works for God. To be more like Christ, read His Word, share the gospel with the lost, feed the poor, pray to God, memorize parts of the Bible. Here are some of the most important Scriptures to know at this link below my friend and thank you and God richly bless you.

http://www.whatchristianswanttoknow.com/come-to-jesus/

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Sam Jones November 4, 2012 at 1:46 pm

Jack I know this has nothing to do with the article but I want to ask you a question. I was having a little nostalgia so I decided to google Ed, Edd, and Eddy an old show on and one of the search results was titled Ed, Edd, and Eddy conspiracy theory. It said that the characters in the show actually died along time early in their childhood and when they died they didn’t go to heaven or hell they went in a place called a purgatory. I didn’t know what this was, but it also says the kids stay there forever. So can you tell me what a purgatory is?

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Jack Wellman November 4, 2012 at 4:58 pm

We are going to have an article on purgatory this month. Stay tuned. Purgatory is not in the Bible and there is no evidence for it in the gospels. If there is, I can’t find it. This month we have an indepth biblical analysis over this issue.

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Robert November 4, 2012 at 2:35 pm

Great article, Jack.
It amazes me that people still believe that the separation of Church and state is some kind of law. Non-believers love to challenge Christians with it, making it sound like Christianity is somehow forbidden to be spoken of in public, especially any large public gatherings. It is also amazing that the truth has been shared, as you have done here, so many times that it shoud be well-known, but it is not. Are there really that many heads in the sand? God bless you, brother, for one more attempt at making the truth know.
Yours in Christ,
Robert

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Jack Wellman November 4, 2012 at 4:59 pm

True Robert…most people fail to know the truth on this subject and it is a legend…in their own minds. The truth is they more want separation of church FROM state.

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Derek Hill November 4, 2012 at 3:36 pm

Well done brother! You always tackle the hard issues and you do it very well! I never knew the origins of the separation of church and state aka Jefferson’s wall. Thank you for a concise and well presented article. I am thankful for you brother, for you have enlightened me on a subject that I honestly did not know a lot about. I am praying for you brother, that God will hold you as you pass through the storm you are in.

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Jack Wellman November 4, 2012 at 5:00 pm

Thanks brother…I appreciate this. I am also thankful for the Barnabas in you. Always the encourager and I covet your prayers and I thank God for you sir.

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Dereck November 4, 2012 at 11:58 pm

Hi Jack,

Great article.!!!! Why do you think that no person or group has not tried to challenge the government on this issue? I have always wondered why this is.

It seems like I always hear of some person or group trying to bring a suit because of some symbol that may be on public property or on a building and they would win the case and I knew that the 1st amendment would not and is not being interpreted correctly.

I am a Legal Studies college graduate and in looking at each of the cases involving the separation of church and state, I could only imagine our founding fathers rolling over in their graves at the sight of their words and intentions being twisted around into what they have turned into in the 21st century.

Peace and Love

Dereck

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Pamela Rose Williams November 5, 2012 at 8:44 am

Hi Derek, I am not speaking for Jack but I could not resist your question. In my opinion the reason why folks Don’t challenge this is because they simply do not know their American History and have been led to believe a lie that has be repeated over and over again.

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Dereck November 5, 2012 at 10:31 am

Hi Pamela,

I hear what you are saying here, and I believe what you are saying. It seems though that there would be a lawyeror someone to challenge what is being done here over the wrong interprertation of the law.

Dereck.

Jack Wellman November 5, 2012 at 12:52 pm

I agree with Pam Dereck. I believe too many Christians don’t know the actual intent and real meaning of the First Amendment. That may be the reason that they don’t challenge it. Besides, I think that they might be swimming upstream against a secular tide and might be futile, but I am dissapointed in the way that this so-called law has been used for just the very opposite of the original intent. Thanks brother.

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Dereck November 5, 2012 at 2:09 pm

Hello Jack,

I do understand the possible outlook of people and the possibility of swimming upstream. It is just very upsetting when I think about what the founding fathers wanted and what reality has turned ito.

They wanted to serve God without the heavy hand of the government telling them what to do and how to do it.

If you think about Thomas Jefferson holding servises in the Whitehouse. To me, this is the very meaning of what is meant by the separation of chuirch and state.

In the area where I live, a group is trying to bring suit because of a cross that was put up in a highway circle. It was put there at the end of WWII for the men who were returning home. This cross is about 20 feet tall and made out of concrete.

Now, it bothers me that this group is using the separation of church and state as their legal argument. I just think it is so sad and wrong.

Peace and Love

Dereck

Jack Wellman November 5, 2012 at 2:30 pm

Indeed it is sad Dereck that they are trying to use the very law that should permit the cross to stand to be used to take it down, which is contrary to what the original intent is. We can easily see that this world is fallen and that the true god (little “g’) of this world is the Devil himself, but alas, his time is short, his end is near, the Lord of lords and King of kings will make all wrongs, right forevermore.

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Gail Wahl November 6, 2012 at 7:56 am

This article puts in words what I have always believed separation of church and state meant!

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Gail Wahl November 6, 2012 at 7:58 am

I like the article.

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Chevelle November 6, 2012 at 1:28 pm

Me too Gail 🙂

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Christina November 9, 2012 at 11:26 pm

It’s amazing how easy it is for the world to twist one’s beliefs. They tell us the truth about everything else so why would they lie to us now. Christians are just crazy people that don’t want us to have any fun. They like telling people what to do so they can be in charge.
I am almost 30 years old and that’s about how long it took for me to realize that separation of church and state was all a big lie. A few years ago I thought the secular crowd was startign to become a bit bold so I started questioning everything else I was taught as a child. Now that I read the first amendment again, without the help of my high school teacher, but with my heart turned completely to God I realize that is not at all what it means.
It’s people’s hearts that need changing because we can all reason but when our hearts turn from God it’s foolishness.

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Chevelle November 26, 2012 at 3:14 pm

Your comment is quite true. I am in college I did not expect to be around so many antiGod people. It starts with certain professors and spreads to their students and then spreads to their friends and so on and so forth. It is really quite disturbing and disheartening to see people trade the truth because of “man’s knowledge”. I at one point in my life was guilty of this and I abhor that period in my life. My heart is with God and will stay there.

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