Church, State and the First Amendment: What O’Donnell needs to know

By Ken Paulson
President, the First Amendment Center

Sometimes political debates generate light as well as heat.

Delaware Republican Senate candidate Christine O'Donnell's question "Where in the Constitution is the separation of church and state?" in an exchange Oct. 19 over teaching creationism in public schools tells us something about her but also reminds us of how often America's bedrock principles on government and religion are misunderstood.

Democratic candidate Chris Coons was quick to tell O'Donnell that religion and government are kept separate by the First Amendment.

"You're telling me that's in the First Amendment?" she responded.

Indeed it is. Here's a quick take on what the First Amendment says -- and doesn't say:

Keeping government out of religion and religion out of government is a core principle of the First Amendment. The first 16 words say, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof." That means government can't limit our personal faith or favor one religion over others. It also means that creationism cannot be taught in America's public schools. [Ed. note: Paulson clearly does NOT understand the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. Read the editor's note at the end of this article.]

The separation of church and state has been a cornerstone of American ideals for centuries. As early as 1640, Rhode Island founder and theologian Roger Williams cited the need for "a hedge or wall of separation between the garden of the church and the wilderness of the world." James Madison, the author of the Bill of Rights, would later explain the need for this separation, saying, "religion and Govt. will both exist in greater purity,  the less they are mixed together."

The words "separation of church and state" appear nowhere in the Constitution. That's true, and O'Donnell's camp now says that's what she really meant. The phrase stemmed from a letter Thomas Jefferson wrote to the Danbury Baptist Association in 1802. He cited the language of the First Amendment and said that it built "a wall of separation between Church and State." This was not just some poetic flourish. This was one of the nation's founders and author of the Declaration of Independence explaining exactly what the First Amendment means.

The separation of church and state means that teachers in public schools can't teach their faith to their students. Public schools are government bodies and teachers are their employees, so the restrictions of the First Amendment apply. But teachers can teach about religion. Faith and history are deeply intertwined, and students should understand the diversity of beliefs in the world today.

Later in the debate, O'Donnell challenged Coons to name the five freedoms of the First Amendment. He came up four freedoms short. (10.19.2010)

[Ed. note: The claim that creationism cannot be taught in public schools is a LIE! That is the personal opinion of liberal loons. Creationism was taught in all public schools until the 1960s. Contrary to popular belief the Scopes Trial did not remove creationism from public schools. Instead it prompted many states to make the teaching of evolution in schools illegal such as Tennessee’s 1925 Butler A. The 1968 Epperson v. Arkansas judgment ruled that state laws prohibiting the teaching of evolution violate the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Evolution eventually became the dominate religious doctrine taught in public schools while creationism was prohibited. Careful examination of the First Amendment shows us that the Eperson v. Arkansas ruling was not correct. States can prohibit any subject from being taught in public schools. They prohibit creationism. The Establishment Clause of the First Amendment says, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof." Only Congress is prohibited from passing laws that would make a religion the state religion, and from prohibiting an individual's right of exercising his religion.

States can make a specific religion the state religion and they can also prohibit individuals from practicing their religion. We have seen examples of this by states that prohibit some religions from using "illegal" drugs in their worship services. It must also be noted that for "state" public schools to allow creationism to be taught in public schools is NOT establishing religion. All states allow various religions and religious doctrines to be taught in their schools. You can take courses in Protestantism, Catholicism, Judaism, Hinduis, Buddhism, Islam and numerous other religions in most public colleges and some high schools. The states are NOT establishing a religion or religious doctrine by allowing courses to be offered dealing with various religions. The same is true of creationism. If a public school teaches the religious doctrine of creationism in a biology, chemistry, history or anthropology class it is NOT establising a religion. It is giving one point of view concerning the creation of the universe. Remember, the religious doctrine of evolutionism is taught in numerous classes in all high schools and colleges in America. Evolution is a fundamental doctrine in the religions of humanism and atheism. To allow evolution to be taught and not creationism is a double standard. It is not a violation of the First Amendment, but it is a clear double standard.

Unfortunately, the Constitution cannot be used to remedy this major bias. The only way to have creationism taught in public schools is for the state legislatures to pass laws allowing it.] 

"To Achieve World Government it is necessary to remove from the minds of men their individualism, their loyalty to family traditions and national identification" Brock Chisholm - Director of the World Health Organization
"A society whose citizens refuse to see and investigate the facts, who refuse to believe that their government and their media will routinely lie to them and fabricate a reality contrary to verifiable facts, is a society that chooses and deserves the Police State Dictatorship it's going to get." Ian Williams Goddard

The fact is that "political correctness" is all about creating uniformity. Individualism is one of the biggest obstacles in the way of the New World Order. They want a public that is predictable and conditioned to do as it's told without asking questions.

"The two enemies of the people are criminals and government, so let us tie the second down with the chains of the Constitution so the second will not become the legalized version of the first."   Thomas Jefferson

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