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Church-State Relations: Historical Truth vs Secularist Spin

In law school prospective lawyers are taught to represent their clients zealously and effectively.

If the facts are on your side, pound the facts.

If the law is on your side, pound the law.

In neither is on your side, pound the table.

Secular extremists slyly but successfully turned government away from supporting religion generally, by misrepresenting the law, distorting the facts, posing as victims rather than victimizers, and pounding the table.

In 1947, the United States Supreme Court ruled that neither the federal government nor any state government can pass laws which aid one religion, aid all religions, or prefer one religion over another."

In so ruling as to aiding all religions, the Court substituted its extreme secularist view for the views of those who founded the United States, wrote and ratified the Articles of Confederation and the Constitution, and adopted the First Amendment.

And, in so ruling, the Court misused a much-quoted letter in which Thomas Jefferson described the First Amendment as "building a wall of separation between church and state."

The Declaration of Independence, the Articles of Confederation, and the Constitution all recognize God.

The Articles and the Constitution were dated "in the year of our Lord."

Meaning Jesus Christ.

The First Amendment was not intended to prohibit government from acknowledging God or supporting religion generally.

Its proscription forbids Congress from making a law "respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof."

Its protection extends to "the free exercise of religion."

Only coercive or sectarian governmental acts that establish a particular faith or prohibit the free exercise of any faith or force people to violate their consciences are unconstitutional.

And Jefferson's wall is supposed to keep government from interfering with that religious expression, not to ban religious expression from the public square.

But the United States Supreme Court, while professing neutrality as to religion, actually opted for secularism, to its own benefit.

The United States is supposed to be "one Nation, under God," as The Pledge of Allegiance states, but the United States Supreme Court declined to rule so on the merits and instead rejected professed atheist Michael Newdow's argument on a procedural ground, lack of standing.

St. Paul, Minnesota's Archishop, John Ireland, at a convention of the National education Association held in St. Paul in 1890, foreshadowed the triumph of secular extremism while asserting that "the state should, for the sake of its people and its own sake, permit and facilitate the teaching of religion by the church."

Archbishop Ireland warned Protestants and Catholics to work together against irreligion:

"Believe me, my Protestant fellow citizens, I am absolutely sincere when I declare that I speak for the weal of Protestantism as well as that of Catholicism. I am a Catholic, of course, to the tiniest fiber of my heart, unflinching and uncompromising in my faith. But God forbid that I should desire to see in America the ground which Protestantism now occupies swept by the devastating blast of unbelief. Let me be your ally in warding off from the country irreligion, the destroyer of Christian life and of Christian civilization."

But, irreligion was not to be denied by the United States Supreme Court in 1947.

And, in proclaiming official governmental neutrality between religion and irreligion, the Court empowered irreligion to end governmental support of religion generally, which never had been intended when the Constitution was written, ratified or amended.

Neither the Articles of Confederation nor the Constitution gave the national government the express power to act in the field of religion, but both the Continental-Confederation Congress and the Congress under the Constitution supported general, nonsectarian religion.

But Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution empowered Congress to tax to "provide for...general Welfare of the United States" and "[t]o make all Laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into Execution" that and other powers, and suppport for religion generally was thought to be essential to, in the words of the Constitution's preamble, to "promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity...."

Nevertheless, the United States Supreme Court subsequently banned voluntary school prayer, even though nondenominational, whether at school each morning or at a school football game.

Supposedly because Thomas Jefferson had written of a "wall of separation between church and state" and governmental property was not to be used for religious purposes.

Secular extremists cite Jefferson and Madison as rigid proponents of separation between church and state.


In fact, two days after writing that letter referring to a wall, Jefferson began attending nondenominational church services in the House of Representatives on Sundays.

Public property!

Madison did the same.

There WAS a difference,

Jefferson traveled their by horseback.

Madison took a coach pulled by four horses.

Those church services in the House of Representatives were voluntary as well as nondenominational and continued after the Civil War.

The podium of the Speaker of the House was used as the preacher's pulpit.

In a letter dated January 3, 1803, Manasseh Cutler told Joseph Torrey that Jefferson "and his family have constantly attended public worship in the Hall" of the House of Representatives.

In fact, the seats that Jefferson and his private secretary occupied the first time that they attended services in the Hall of the House of Representatives "were ever afterwards by the courtesy of the congregation, left for him."

Jefferson's conception of a "wall" did not stop him from permitting church services in the Treasury building either.

And the Gospel was preached in the Supreme Court chambers.

So much for separation of church and state!

Archbishop Ireland lamented that "the state...hinders and prevents the work of the church."

With tragic consequences:

"The children of the masses are learning no religion. The religion of thousands who profess some form of religion is the merest veneering of mind and heart. Its doctrines are vague and chaotic notions as to what God is and what our relations to Him are. Very often it is mere sentimentality, and its precepts are the decorous rulings of natural culture and natural prudence. This is not the religion that built up our Christian civilization in the past and that will maintain it in the future. This is not the religion that will guard the family and save society."

Archbishop Ireland implored his audience to face an urgent problem:

"I am not questioning how far we may lay at the door of the nonreligious school the breaking up of Christian creeds, the growth of agnosticism and unbelief, the weakening of public and private morals, and the almost complete estrangment from church organizations of the poor and working classes. But I do submit that these dreaded evils of our day should awaken us from our lethargy and stimulate us to bestow more than ordinary care upon the religious instruction of the children of the land, that they may have the strength to withstand the fierce temptations which await them."

Archbishop Ireland explained:

"From the principles of religion, morals derive power and vitality. Separated from a belief in God and the existence of the soul beyond the present life, morals are vague and weak commands which passion is not slow to scorn. What seems to be morals without religion are often but the blossomings of fortunate and kindly natures, or habits, which, fashioned upon Christian traditions, grow weak as the traditions become remote."

The first two presidents of the United States under the Constitution--George Washington and John Adams--agreed.

Washington, the President of the Constitutional Convention, in his Farewell Address, described religion not only as the source of morality, but "a necessary spring of popular government."

Adams, a delegate to the Constitutional Convention, asserted that "Religion and Morality alone...can establish the Principles upon which Freedom can securely stand."

Archbishop Ireland explained why government should support religion generally without establishing a particular religion:

""Ought we not to have religious instruction in connection with the school? There are, I confess, serious difficulties in the way. But are we to be stopped by difficulties when it is incumbent upon us to reach the goal? Secularists and unbelievers will demand their rights. I concede their rights. I will not impose upon them my religion, which is Christianity. But let them not impose upon me and my fellow Christians their religion, which is secularism. Secularism is a religion of its kind, and usually a very loud-spoken and intolerant religion. Nonsectarianism is not secularism, and when nonsectarianism is intended, the secularist sect must not claim for itself the field which it refuses to others."

Under the guise of maintaining neutrality, the United States Supreme Court effectively made secularism the chosen religion of the United States.

Chosen by the Court.

NOT by the Congress, or the state legislatures, or the people.

Archbishop Ireland proposed a practical compromise: "American Catholics will not, of course, impose Catholicism upon Protestant children, and, with similar fair-mindedness, American Protestants will not impose Protestantism upon Catholic children."

And Archbishop Ireland sagely asked: "Is it not a thousand times better to make a compromise than to allow secularism to triumph and own the country?"

Archbishop Ireland was right, of course.

But, secularism triumphed and owns the country, thanks to the United States Supreme Court and the people's deference to it.

And the minority blocking a constitutional amendment to rectify the Court's wrong.

Perhaps President Bush should issue a fast day proclamation urging citizens to "acknowledge before God the manifold sins and transggressions with which we are justly charged as individuals and as a nation; beseeching him at the same time, of His infinite grace, through the Redeemer of the World, freely to remit all our offences, and to incline us, by His Holy Spirit, to that sincere repentance and reformation which may afford us reason to hope for his inestimable favor and heavenly benediction."

After all, President John Adams did precisely that on March 23, 1798.

Long after the First Amendment had been adopted.

Lest Jews and Moslems be offended, President Bush could refer simply to God rather than each person of the Trinity.

Religion must triumph over irreligion.

And what unites the religious is much more important than what divides them.


Michael J. Gaynor
95 Darrow Lane
Greenlawn, New York 11740-2803
(631) 757-9452 (tel)
(631) 754-3437 (fax)


Michael J. Gaynor
Michael J. Gaynor - attorney, 631 757-9452



George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, First Amendment, church-state relations, Archbishop John Ireland

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