How the Political Left Has Turned a Constitutional
Guarantee of Freedom into a Frightening Tool for Tyranny
Guarantee of Freedom into a Frightening Tool for Tyranny
A kindergartner in Florida bows her head to pray over her lunch and is suddenly stopped by a teacher and told prayer is not allowed. A valedictorian is told she cannot mention her faith in God in her address to her graduating class. Displays of the Ten Commandments are ordered removed from public schools, courtrooms, and from the Oklahoma capital grounds. A cross is ordered removed from a veteran’s memorial. A Marine corporal is court-martialed for refusing to remove a Bible verse posted at her desk. And the list goes on as the attempt to purge Christianity from America’s public life continues.
This purge is based on a wrenched and distorted interpretation of the First Amendment. Instead of being a guarantee of religious liberty as the Founders intended, secularists have wrenched it from its historical setting and cunningly shaped it into a tool for the exercise of tyranny over the consciences of God-fearing people.
The Historical Setting
Understood in its historical setting, the Founders were forbidding Congress from ever establishing a national, state-church such as their parents and grandparents had fled when they came to the New World in search of religious liberty. Yes, the First Amendment provides for a certain separation of church and state, but not a separation of God and state. It simply reads, "Congress shall make no law concerning the establishment of religion, or hindering the free exercise thereof."
To understand the original intent of the Founders in formulating the First Amendment, we must understand that they did not view “church” as synonymous with “God.” In their thinking, disallowing Congress from establishing a national church—which is what the First Amendment is about--in no way restricted God’s role in government, public affairs and their own lives.
The modern idea that allowing a student in a public school graduation to mention their faith in Jesus in their valedictory address somehow violates the “establishment clause” of the First Amendment is preposterous. The notion that a cross at a veteran’s memorial constitutes an establishment of religion and violates the First Amendment is equally inane. This sort of thinking would cause the "nonreligious" Benjamin Franklin and every other Founder to roll over in his grave.
God & Church are Not Synonymous
Viewing church and God as intricately linked is a Roman Catholic, and to a lesser degree, a Lutheran and Anglican way of thinking. The Founders thinking in this regard had been shaped by the more radical wing of the Protestant reformation that drew a clear line between obeying God and obeying church officials. This is the wing of Protestantism with which Benjamin Franklin identified when he spoke of his forebears as being “dissenting Protestants.”
These “dissenting Protestants” were the separatist Puritans, the Baptists, Quakers and others who, among other things, opposed the idea of church and state being merged, as had been the case since the time of Constantine.
The major reformers such as Luther, Zwingli and Calvin, maintained the Constantinan/Roman Catholic idea of a national church sanctioned and supported by the state. In Germany, for example, Lutheranism was upheld, and imposed on the populace by the German princes. In England, Anglicanism was upheld and imposed by the British monarchs. Those who dissented from the “official” form of worship and doctrine were harassed and persecuted.
The dissenting Protestants did not equate God with church. Many of them left the state churches because of their deep faith in God and commitment to His truth. It was these “dissenting Protestants” who developed ideas of religious liberty and freedom of conscience, which they brought to America and further developed on American soil. This is why historian, Benjamin Hart, has said;
It was Protestants of the most radical stripe, most zealous in their religious convictions (those whom the America Civil Liberties Union would like to see outlawed from the public discourse) who were in fact the greatest proponents of religious liberty as codified in America’s governing charter (Eddie Hyatt, America’s Revival Heritage, 20).
Interestingly, it is the progressive secularists today who seem to have no concept of religious liberty or freedom of conscience and would impose their view of religion and morality on everyone else. It is the political Left that would separate God from state and impose their religion of secularism on the American populace with no regard for a person’s conscience or religious convictions. Franklin and the Founders called this tyranny.
They Fled Persecution from State-Churches of Europe
When the Founders wrote the First Amendment they did so in light of the persecutions inflicted on their godly parents and grandparents by oppressive governments and their state-churches. In his Autobiography, for example, Franklin tells how his Protestant grandparents suffered during the reign of Mary Tudor when Catholicism was the “national church” or “state religion” of England. (Protestants were also abusive when they had the power of the state behind them)
Because the common people were banned from possessing a Bible in their own language, his grandfather fastened an open Bible to the bottom and underneath the cover of a stool. With one of the children watching at the door for civil or religious authorities, he would turn the stool upside down and read the Bible to his family. In case of danger, he would quickly secure the pages and return the stool upright to its place in the corner of the room. The danger was real for during Mary’s reign 288 Protestants were burned at the stake for their faith.
No Separation of God & State
These “dissenting Protestants” were the ones whose ideas of freedom of conscience and religious liberty ultimately triumphed in America, even with Catholics in Maryland and Anglicans in Virginia. Franklin and all of America’s Founders held a clear distinction in their thinking between a separation of “church and state” and a separation of “God and state.” They wanted the former, but were totally against the latter.
That the Founders did not want a separation of God and state will be obvious to anyone who studies America’s origins with an open, unbiased mind. For example, beginning in 1774 the Continental Congress issued no less than fifteen calls for prayer, humiliation and fasting. The proclamation of 1779 urged the American people “humbly to approach the throne of Almighty God” to ask “that He would establish the independence of these United States upon the basis of religion [Christianity] and virtue.”
At the first meeting of the Continental Congress in 1774 there was an extended time of prayer and the reading of the entire 35th Psalm. There was great concern for British troops had occupied Boston and shut down its harbor. The delegates were looking for Divine guidance and it came in the words of that Psalm. John Adams, one of the delegates, wrote to his wife Abigail,
Who can realize the emotions with which they turned imploringly to heaven for divine interposition and aid. It was enough to melt a heart of stone. I never saw a greater effect upon an audience. It seems as if heaven had ordained that Psalm to be read that day. I saw tears gush into the eyes of the old, grave pacific Quakers of Philadelphia. I must beg you to read that Psalm (Eddie Hyatt, America’s Revival Heritage, 69).
When the 81-year-old Benjamin Franklin called the delegates of the Constitutional Convention to prayer in 1787, he reminded them that during the war, “when we were sensible to danger, we had daily prayers in this room for Divine protection.” Addressing the convention president, George Washington, he went to say, “Our prayers, sir, were heard and they were graciously answered.”
Franklin admonished them to remember that they still needed God’s assistance in the forming of the nation. In making his point he quoted Psalm 127:1, which reads, Except the Lord build the house, they labor in vain who build it. Then alluding to the words of Jesus in Matthew 10:29, he said, “And if a sparrow cannot call to the ground without His notice, is it probable that an empire can arise without His aid?”
A few years prior to this, at the close of the Revolutionary War in 1783, and realizing that the work of forming a nation now lay before them, George Washington issued a circular letter addressed to the different states. In it he prayed that God would bind the nation together and grant its citizens the social and personal virtues necessary for its survival. He also stated, “It is impossible to rightly govern the world without God and the Bible.”
It’s Time to Stand for Truth
America’s Founders obviously had no thought of excluding God from the public life of the nation. In fact, without exception, they believed Christian morality and values to be absolutely necessary for a stable and prosperous nation. That is why, in his Farewell Address of 1797, George Washington warned the young nation to guard against the loss of religion [Christianity] and morality, which he called “indispensable supports” for human happiness and political prosperity.
Yes, the Founders intention in writing the First Amendment was to prevent Congress from ever establishing a state-empowered church, which they knew from history would inevitably become tyrannical. But as far as removing God from the public life of the nation; that is something they would vehemently oppose.
It is time to take a stand for truth. As Jesus said in John 8:32, You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.
This article was derived from Dr. Eddie Hyatt's latest book, The Faith & Vision of Benjamin Franklin, available from Amazon and from his online bookstore at www.eddiehyatt.com/bookstore.html. To read about Dr. Hyatt's vision for another Great Awakening for America and the world, check out his website at www.eddiehyatt.com.