Article 3.1 – Summary of David Barton’s Video, “Church, State and the Real First Amendment”
The First Amendment was never intended to separate Christian principles from government. Yet, today, we often hear “First Amendment” coupled with the phrase, “separation of church and state.” Here is a summary and timetable of the history of this phrase, and how it has changed America, from David Barton’s video, “Church, State and the Real First Amendment, Part-2”:
1500’s – This was the first time in human history that the phrase “Separation of Church & State” was used. Richard Hooker, a British clergyman, and his followers used the phrase because he was advocating institutional separation, that is, the government stays out of church affairs and vice versa.
1802 – President Thomas Jefferson, in a letter responding to the concern of Connecticut Baptists that the guarantee of “free exercise of religion” appeared in the First Amendment, assured them that the free exercise of religion was, indeed, an unalienable right and would not be meddled with by the government. Jefferson’s letter pointed out that there was “a wall of separation between church and state.” From that point on, this eight-word phrase would directly support the “free exercise of religion” clause… until 1947!
1947 – The Supreme Court, in the case of Everson v. Board of Education, changed the interpretation of the first Amendment. Taking that eight-word phrase from Jefferson’s 1802 letter completely out of context, the Court now pronounced that: The First Amendment has erected “a wall of separation between church and state.” That wall must be kept high and impregnable. By making this interpretation, the Court decided that the “Separation of Church and State” phrase went better with the “Establishment Clause” of the First Amendment. This meant that a person could no longer have free exercise of religion in public places. This 1947 interpretation actually caused the First Amendment to conflict with itself!
1962 – The Court, in the case Engel v. Vitale, delivered its first ever ruling which completely separated Christian principles from public education. The case was brought by the families of public school students in New Hyde Park, New York, who complained that the voluntary prayer written by the State Board of Regents to “Almighty God” contradicted their religious beliefs. The prayer in question was: “Almighty God, we acknowledge our dependence upon Thee, and we beg Thy blessings upon us, our parents, our teachers and our country. Amen.”
The Court struck down school prayer by re-defining a single word “church” in the phrase “separation of church and state.” The Court now defined the word “church” to mean any religious activity performed in public. This was a turning point in the interpretation of the First Amendment, as it would now prohibit religious activities in public settings. The Court decision created a brand new direction to be taken in America!
It was not from the Founding Fathers or from any of America’s founding documents! It was also the first case in Supreme Court history to use zero precedents. The Court quoted zero previous legal cases; and without any historical or legal base, the Court essentially announced that there would be no prayers in school anymore, because that violated the Constitution!
1963 – The Court, in the case of Abington v. Schempp, and Murray v. Curlet, banned Bible reading in public schools. The decisions were based on the testimony of a psychologist who explained the “dangers” of reading the Bible in school, i.e. that “if portions of the New Testament were read without explanation, they could be…had been psychologically harmful to the child.”
1967 – The Court, in the case of DeKalb v. DeSpain, decided that a 4-line nursery rhyme from a kindergarten class was unconstitutional. The reason: although the word “God” was not mentioned, if someone would hear this rhyme, he might think that it was talking with God, and that would be unconstitutional! Here is that awful, “unconstitutional” nursery rhyme!
We thank you for the flowers so sweet;
We thank you for the food we eat;
We thank you for the birds that sing;
We thank you for everything.