Saturday, April 11, 2015

The Myth of the Myth of Separation Between Church and State

It has been fashionable among Christians lately to promote the idea that Jefferson's concept of separation between church and state is really just a myth - that the constitutional prohibition exists only to keep government from interfering with the church, but not to keep churches from being involved in the affairs of government.

That view is espoused in this paper from Tim Greenwood of Tim Greenwood Ministries, from which I have taken a few quotations:

The "wall" was understood as one-directional; its purpose was to protect the church from the state. - TG
I will attempt to show that this statement is both untrue and absurd.
I know all about the separation of church and state. - TG
This statement is based merely on the claim that the Puritan John Greenwood of England was a distant relative who shares his family name (but is not his ancestor).  But Tim Greenwood apparently knows nothing about the intentions of the founding fathers.
Rev. John Greenwood ... was taken from jail in England and hanged for his belief and teaching of - the separation of church and state. - TG
Yes, Greenwood preached separation of church and state because the state religion of England was not his religion.  He believed that the Anglican Church did not represent the true faith of Christianity, which was Puritanism.  Read on.
That little band of Pilgrims that landed at Plymouth, Mass., in 1620, were his followers -- they had worshipped (sic) at the church he founded -- that band of Puritans that landed in America and founded Boston were believers in the doctrine that John Greenwood was the first to publish and teach - the separation of church and state. - TG
Actually the Puritans only paid little more than lip service to the concept of separation of church and state.  Once they had the opportunity to break free from the state religion of England and establish their own government, they made Puritanism their state religion.  In Massachusetts Bay, they used the power of the state to compel membership and enforce the dictates of Puritanism.  Taxes were assessed to support the church, attendance was mandatory, and any new churches required approval of the government.  See here.
Both the phrase and concept of the separation of chuch (sic) and state used by Thomas Jefferson and Roger Williams came directly from the teachings of Rev. John Greenwood. - TG
The reality is that Thomas Jefferson advocated a true separation between church and state, unlike the Puritans.  The Library of Congress gives us a more balanced and historically accurate perspective on the intention of Jefferson in speaking of the "wall of separation" between church and state.
It is absolutely necessary for the church to influence the state in virtue because without virtue our government will crumble -- the representatives will look after their own good instead of the country's. - TG
As soon as the church begins to influence the workings of the state, freedom of religion is lost.  Just as the Puritans rejected the teachings of the Anglican Church, the majority of Americans today would reject at least some of the teachings of any church that controlled the reins of government.  The freedom of religion granted by our constitution guarantees that no church can use the power of government to enforce its own beliefs and teachings.  And that's what we all want.  That's what is necessary to have freedom of religion.
Our U.S. Constitution was founded on Biblical principles and it was the intention of the authors for this to be a Christian nation. The Constitution had 55 people work upon it, of which 52 were evangelical Christians. - TG
The US constitution is unmistakably secular, and that was the clear intention of the founding fathers.  Although many of them were Christian, and their religious worldviews are reflected in the establishment of the United States, their highest allegiance in writing the constitution was to liberty.  This essay from New York Times Magazine gives a more honest perspective.
The American Humanist Association certifies counselors who enjoy the same legal status as ordained ministers. Since the Supreme Court has said that Secular Humanism is a religion, why is it being allowed to be taught in schools? The removal of public prayer of those who wish to participate is, in effect, establishing the religion of Humanism over Christianity. - TG
Greenwood's hypocrisy is now on full display.  He wants religion to have sway in government, but he thinks the wrong religion is in control.  In other words, he wants only his own religion to influence government.  If he had his way, for anybody who doesn't subscribe to his religion, not only would separation of church and state be a myth, but so would freedom of religion.  The fact of the matter is that there is no church of Secular Humanism, nor is there any teaching of Secular Humanism as a faith in the public schools.  Just secular education that doesn't favor any particular faith.  Exactly as the constitution prescribes.  And that's the only way that makes sense for all of us.

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