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Our Christian Heritage Constitutionality of the National Day of Prayer

Posted: April 19, 2010 - 19:04 CT

This article is written in response to a recent ruling (April 2010) by a federal judge in Wisconsin, Judge Barbara B. Crabb, that the National Day of Prayer is in violation of the US Constitution, in particular, the first amendment’s “establishment clause”.  Incredibly, the judge stated that her decision was part of the effort “to carry out the Founders’ plan of preserving religious liberty to the fullest extent possibly in a pluralistic society”.

So, this activist judge says that she’s attempting to preserve religious liberty by banning the National Day of Prayer.  Judge Crabbe is either grossly ignorant of the Founders’ original intent for the Constitution, or is deliberately attempting to continue the eradication of God from our society.  Giving her the benefit of the doubt, that she’s merely misguided, let’s briefly examine the “separation of church and state” issue, on which these decisions are based.

It’s amazing the number of people who actually believe that the phrase “wall of separation of church and state” is part of the US Constitution.  This hoax has been perpetrated by those with an anti-Christian agenda, but I’m convinced that most people just blindly accept this without checking it out for themselves.  After all, we’re told that Thomas Jefferson personally put the phrase into the Constitution.  Actually, Jefferson was out of the country when both the Constitution (1787) and the Bill of Rights (1789) were written.  Here’s what the First Amendment actually says:

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.

The “separation” phrase is not only absent from the first amendment, but it is not found anywhere in the constitution.  It first appeared in a letter from Jefferson to the Danbury Baptists of Connecticut on January 1, 1802 to squelch a rumor that a specific domination was about to be established as the official national denomination.  Jefferson got the phrase, not from the constitution, but from the words of Baptist preacher Roger Williams, the founder of Rhode Island.  The “wall” was to protect the church from undue government regulation such as establishing an official denomination (as was done in England), rather than to protect the people from the church, as its purpose is interpreted today.  The "establishment clause" of the first amendment was added to prevent a state-sponsored denomination.

When the anti-Christian groups are forced to admit that the phrase doesn’t exist in any founding document, they fall back on the claim that “separation of God from the state” was Jefferson’s actual intent.  Most of us have heard the old saying that “actions speak louder than words”, so let’s take a look.

On January 3, 1802, two days after sending the letter to the Danbury Baptists, Thomas Jefferson went to church.  Now, I can imagine that many are thinking that Jefferson going to church on his own time doesn’t show any connection between church and government.  I agree, but this wasn’t just any church.  This was the largest church in the nation at the time.  Christian worship services were held each week in the chambers of the House of Representatives.  Jefferson wasn’t overly fond of the music, so he ordered the marine band to play each Sunday.  A Presbyterian church held services in the Treasury Department, and another in the War Department.  In addition, John Marshall, the chief justice of the Supreme Court turned over the court's facilities to yet another church each Sunday.

So, how did we go from government support of religion to the prohibition of religious activities in public buildings?  The “wall” that is attributed to Thomas Jefferson was actually built in 1947 by US Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black.  Justice Black, a former Ku Klux Klan member, used his strong anti-Catholic bias, to deny public funds for religious education in New Jersey, citing Jefferson’s non-existent “wall of separation” in his written opinion.  This ruling was made without any precedent from the over 150 years of court cases since the ratification of the Constitution.  Since this Everson vs Board of Education case in 1947, we’ve seen liberal activist judges continue to make the wall higher and thicker, even removing prayer and the Bible from our schools.

We’ll have much more to say on the “Church and State” issues in our America’s Christian Heritage section, but it’s clear that our Founding Fathers were very supportive of Christianity, contrary to the view of the historical revisionists.  Evaluating the recent Nation Day of Prayer ruling against the First Amendment’s original intent, it is perfectly legal for the government to support the statute recognizing the day.  Now, if the statute stated the prayer must conform to the Jewish prayer book, Roman Catholic liturgy, or specific Baptist beliefs for example, then the statute would be in violation of the establishment clause; but declaring a day of voluntary prayer does not.

Therefore we urge our readers to pray for our nation and its leaders.  Pray that they would recognize the Christian principle on which our nation was founded, and that we would return to them (2Chr 7:14, Ps 33:12) and give God the rightful place in our lives… and while were at it, pray also for Judge Crabbe (Mt 5:44).

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