Worship Notes

Thoughts From A Christian Patriot:
Part 2- Separation of Church and State

If you haven't read my first article on Separation of Church and State, I would suggest you read that one before you read this. After publishing that article, I realized that one of the things I didn't address in that article was the phrase "In God We Trust" on our money and "Under God" in our Pledge of Allegiance. As you probably know, these are both hotly debated issues in the ongoing debate over Separation of Church and State.

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof"

Those are the famous words of the First Amendment which address the "Separation of Church and State". You will remember from my first article that the phrase "Separation of Church and State" is not in any government documents, but is actually from a personal letter from Thomas Jefferson to the Baptist Association of Danbury, Connecticut in 1802. So "Separation of Church and State" per se, has no legal weight, only the wording of the First Amendment does.

So if the Congress can't respect any establishment of religion, how can they print "In God We Trust" on our money? Isn't that a respect of religious establishment? The answer is no. Why? The answer is easy. Tell me which religious establishment the phrase "In God We Trust" favors. Does it favor the Baptists? The Catholics? Methodists? Mormons? Episcopals? Jehovah's Witnesses? Hindus? Jews? Muslims? The answer is that it favors all of those. The First Amendment says that Congress can't pass a law respecting "an" establishment of religion. "In God We Trust" doesn't respect "an" establishment of religion, it respects almost all of them.

One exception, one might argue, is that "In God We Trust" dis-respects another establishment of religion - atheism. My response to that is that atheism is not an establishment of religion, it's actually absence of religion. Webster's defines religion as a "ritual observance of faith". Since atheism is absence of faith, it is also absence of religion. Religion requires a being to worship, atheism worships no one. You might be interested to know that almost all Communist societies are atheistic societies, which further establishes the fact that atheism is absence of religion.

The phrase "In God We Trust" went through several drafts and modifications before it ever went to print in 1864. I won't bore you with all the history, but I did find a very interesting quote from Salmon P. Chase, United States Secretary of the Treasury, in 1861. This is what he instructed to James Pollock, Director of the Philadelphia Mint:

"Dear Sir: No nation can be strong except in the strength of God, or safe except in His defense. The trust of our people in God should be declared on our national coins.

You will cause a device to be prepared without unnecessary delay with a motto expressing in the fewest and tersest words possible this national recognition."

Wow! What an awesome sentiment. Chase realized, as did many of the founding fathers almost a century before him, that our safety and strength as a nation are in God. As Psalm 33:12 says, "Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord."

In 1956, President Eisenhower decided to adopt the phrase "In God We Trust" as our National Motto. It was under this same President that the words "Under God" were added to the Pledge of Allegiance. Again, do either of these respect an establishment of religion? Not unless you can tell me which one establishment they respect.

As I said in my previous article, the "Wall of Separation" between Church and State that Jefferson mentioned in his letter to the Danbury Baptists doesn't protect the State from Church intervention. It prevents the Church from State intervention. Perhaps one of you out there in internet-land can tell me how an acknowledgment of God in our Pledge, our National Motto, and our money is harmful to decent society - especially when over 90% of society believes in a higher Being of some sort. The answer is that it's not harmful.

I think it's also important to realize that one of the reasons that Eisenhower was prompted to adopt "In God We Trust" as a National Motto and add "Under God" to the Pledge of Allegiance was partially to set us apart from our atheistic Communist opponents. He had heard a sermon in which a preacher compared our previous pledge to that of the Soviet pledge. During the Cold War, that was a harsh comparison. Eisenhower understood the same thing that Thomas Jefferson once stated, "Among the most inestimable of our blessings is that...of liberty to worship our Creator in the way we think most agreeable to His will; a liberty deemed in other countries incompatible with good government and yet proved by our experience to be its best support."

There is also evidence that Eisenhower had some sort of encounter with God during this time in his life. Twelve days after his inauguration, he was baptized, confirmed, and took part in communion in the Presbyterian Church. He was the only President who was baptized and confirmed while in office. The fact that he had grown up in a family of Jehovah's Witnesses, yet became and remained a member of the Presbyterian Church in his later years points to some change in his life. He likely came to an understanding of the importance of acknowledging God in our country. In both of his inaugurations, he swore his oath on an open Bible, not a closed one. During his first inauguration, it was open to Psalm 33:12. In the second inauguration, it was open to 2 Chronicles 7:14. And of course, this too is not an infringement of the First Amendment, either.

Finally, perhaps you feel that government sanction of the mention of God is wrong and illegal in any way, shape, or form. If that's so, then we are not a nation. Because our Declaration of Independence mentions how "the laws of Nature, and Nature's God" entitle us to freedom from tyranny; how our "Creator" has endued us with unalienable rights such as life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; and how they appealed to the "Supreme Judge of the world" for their right to be free and independent. If mention of God is illegal, then the Declaration of Independence is null and void, and we are not, nor have we ever been, an independent nation.