DEBUNKING THE “SEPARATION OF CHURCH AND STATE” FICTION

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Source: Don Brown, October 3, 2023

How to respond when they claim it is illegal to pray in Jesus’ name on public property.

In this article, we will discuss how to deal with the “separation of church and state” objections when liberals claim that it’s “illegal” or “unconstitutional” to invoke Jesus’s name in the public square, or on public property.

Let’s start with a question: What do you say when somebody comes along and claims, “Hey, you can’t pray out loud in a public square because the Constitution prohibits it,” or “You can’t erect this manger scene because it’s unconstitutional?”

What if somebody says, “You can’t pray in Jesus’ name” at a town council meeting, or they try to stop the Baptist preacher from doing a benediction at a public high school football game because it violates the “separation of church and state”?” (We use the Baptist example because there are so many Baptists around).

How do you react, specifically, to defeat these claims?

First, some of our readers may already know that “separation of church and state” is a Constitutional fiction. That’s because the phrase is not found in the Constitution at all.

It’s a made-up phrase often used to attack evangelical Christian practices in public. The phrase is virtually never used to rebut other public “religious’ practices that are non-Christian, such as Islamic, Buddhist, or satanic, but rather, has become a war cry applied by anti-Christian leftists against believers.  For example, Islamic prayer mats are welcomed and encouraged in numerous large public-school districts. [1] [2] [3] [4] [5] In 2002,  the University of North Carolina required freshmen in its summer reading list to read a book to be read which contained large excerpts of the Quran.[6]

In 2011, with Obama as Commander in Chief, the Air Force Academy, a public military institution,” erected an outdoor shrine “to pagans, druids, witches and Wiccans.”[7]

Leftists never cried “separation of church and state argument” to block any of this. But if Christian students began reciting the  Lord’s Prayer in a public school, they would squeal like tormented pigs.

The “separation of church and state” argument, as pointed out, has been aimed against Evangelical Christianity.

But without going too deep into the weeds, we can rest easy, because the best way to rebut this fallacy is to quote the Constitution itself, and specifically, the very short section in the First Amendment addressing religious freedom.

Let’s consider a brief First Amendment overview.

The First Amendment spells out five unalienable (fundamental) rights: There’s freedom of religion, the very first; freedom of speech; freedom of the press; right to petition the government for redress of grievances; and the right to peacefully assemble.

When someone raises this “separation of church and state” garbage, first, we must know the exact language in the Constitution in the Bill of Rights dealing with freedom of religion.

It’s not that hard to learn. Here we go: “Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”

That’s it. Now, there are a couple of words to remember which will help defeat these arguments. The first word is Congress, and the second word is law.

So, when the Baptist preacher is prohibited from praying in Jesus’ name at the end of a public high school football game, or if someone wants to pray at a county council meeting and some liberals claim it’s a violation of law, ask this: What does the Baptist preacher praying in the football game have to do with Congress? What does a County Council meeting have to do with Congress? Congress has nothing to do with any of that.

And what does the Baptist preacher praying have to do with the law? Congress isn’t passing a law in that case.

Understand that the liberal Supreme Court in the past has taken the Establishment Clause, and twisted it into something it was never meant to be.

They’ve twisted it out-of-context to reach ridiculous results never intended: No God in school; No Jesus in school; No reciting the Lord’s prayer; No Bibles in the classroom.

The nation has paid for this foolishness.

Remember that the Supreme Court has reversed itself numerous times during our nation’s history,  and sometimes for the better, like on slavery, and abortion, which SCOTUS once legalized, then struck down.

The Supreme Court is a creation of the Constitution.[8] The Constitution itself trumps the US Supreme Court, not the other way around.

But let’s go back to the basics.

You see, the First Amendment freedom of religion declaration has two clauses, which we call  (1)The Establishment Clause and (2) the Free Exercise Clause.

The Establishment Clause simply says that Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion. In other words, the Constitution prevented Congress from passing a law making the Church of England a national religion. Likewise, Congress can’t make the Baptist Church the national religion or the Church of God or the Methodist Church or whatever it is.

That’s the Establishment Clause in a nutshell.

The liberal courts and those advocating this “separation of church and state” fiction, forget about and ignore the second half of that phrase: Congress shall make no law … prohibiting the free exercise thereof.

The Baptist preacher praying in Jesus’ name in a public high school football game has a right to free exercise of religion and also has a right to free speech. So, the objections against praying in Jesus’ name, or praying or reading the Bible in public schools, or during a County Commissioners or City Council meeting, or whatever, is a constitutional fallacy.

None of these scenarios involving public prayer or worship have anything to do with Congress passing a law, nor did the Founders ever envision banning God from the public square.

Many state Constitutions contain references to God. Most state Constitutions – 34 – refer to God more than once. Of the 116 times the word “God” appears in state Constitutions, eight are in the Massachusetts Constitution, and New Hampshire and Vermont have six references each.

The North Carolina Constitution has ten references to God, while the South Carolina Constitution has six.[9] Seven states have Provisions in their constitutions prohibiting atheists from holding public office.[10]

But here, we’re talking about the federal Constitution, and a liberal/progressive’s lie that the federal Constitution somehow prohibits Christian worship and prayer in public arenas.

Here’s how we attack the baseless claims that public prayer in the public sector, and public Christian displays in the public sector are prohibited by the Constitution.

First, unless Congress has passed a law to establish a national religion, the Free Exercise Clause does not come into play to block any religious display on public grounds or to block any prayers in Jesus’ name, any public sermons, or any preacher saying anything politically. The left has gotten away with this fallacy because we don’t understand or know the Constitution.

So, if this comes up in your arena, take them to the First Amendment. Say, “What’s Congress got to do with this? I can’t pray, you say? I don’t see Congress passing a law here.”

Regardless of what courts have said over the years, that’s what the Constitution says. We have to be responsible for it.

If the authorities still prohibit it, it’s time to consider legal action.

Want to know more?

I’m pleased to recommend a book by  Nicholas F. Papanicolaou called “Bring Down That Wall.” [11] Mr.  Papanicolaou, a Harvard graduate and former CEO for Aristotle Onassis and Austin-Martin,  writes an excellent, easy-to-digest little book debunking the whole “separation of church and state” fallacy.

That phrase, “separation of church and state” originated, by the way, from a letter written by Thomas Jefferson to the Danbury Baptist Association. The Baptists were worried about Congress making the Church of England the national church of the United States. Jefferson wrote back that the Constitution “erected a wall of separation between church and state, to keep the state out of the affairs of the church.“ In other words, the Constitution protects the church from the state, not the other way around.

Jefferson used that phrase to assure the Danbury Baptists that Congress would not make the Church of England the national religion of the United States. But that’s where it starts, and stops.

Here’s the best solution. Learn the Constitution. And concerning “separation of church and state”, learn the very first phrase of the First Amendment, and recite it when they try to stop prayer and displays of allegiance to the Lord.

The rights to Free Speech and Free Exercise of religion trump their fabricated lies.


[1] https://ing.org/resources/for-educators/other-educator-resources/religious-practices-of-muslim-students-in-public-schools/

[2] https://www.keranews.org/education/2017-03-23/prayer-rooms-are-just-one-way-public-schools-accommodate-students-and-religious-freedom

[3] https://www.politifact.com/factchecks/2015/feb/24/blog-posting/high-schoolers-had-recite-islamic-prayer-class-mak/

[4] https://wisconsinmuslimjournal.org/milwaukee-public-high-school-creates-a-space-for-muslim-students-to-pray/

[5] https://www.npr.org/2017/03/26/521567078/concerns-after-texas-school-opens-prayer-room-that-s-attracting-muslim-students

[6] https://www.pbs.org/wnet/religionandethics/2002/08/23/august-23-2002-quran-at-unc/18695/

[7] https://www.latimes.com/archives/la-xpm-2011-nov-26-la-na-air-force-pagans-20111127-story.html

[8] U.S. Constitution, Article III

[9] https://www.pewresearch.org/short-reads/2017/08/17/god-or-the-divine-is-referenced-in-every-state-Constitution/

[10] https://www.nytimes.com/2014/12/07/us/in-seven-states-atheists-push-to-end-largely-forgotten-ban-.html?_r=0

[11] https://www.amazon.com/Bring-Down-That-Nicholas-Papanicolaou/dp/149840975X

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Don Brown, a former U.S. Navy JAG officer, is the author of the book “Travesty of Justice: The Shocking Prosecution of Lieutenant Clint Lorance,” The Last Fighter Pilot: The True Story of the Final Combat Mission of World War II , and “CALL SIGN EXTORTION 17: The Shootdown of SEAL Team Six,” and the author of 15 books on the United States Military, including three national bestsellers.  He is one of four former JAG officers serving on the Lorance legal team. Lorance was pardoned by President Trump in November 2019.  Brown is also a former military prosecutor, and a former Special Assistant United States Attorney.  He can be reached at donbrownbooks@gmail.com and on Twitter @donbrownbooks.