The political and pundit class is in a tizzy because Delaware Senate candidate Christine O’Donnell had the effrontery to question Supreme Court jurisprudence that has established a “wall of separation between Church and State.”
But while O’Donnell may not have been as articulate as she should have been, she’s nonetheless right: The phrase “separation of church and state” appears nowhere in the Constitution. It was penned, instead, by President Thomas Jefferson in a letter that Jefferson sent to the Baptist Association of Danbury, Connecticut.
And, as the Heritage Foundation has observed, far from being a “principled statement on the prudential and constitutional relationship between church and state,” Jefferson’s missive, in fact, was “a political statement written to reassure pious Baptist constituents that Jefferson was, indeed, a friend of religion.”
James H. Hutson of the Library of Congress has concluded that the President “regarded his reply to the Danbury Baptists as a political letter, not as a dispassionate theoretical pronouncement on the relations between government and religion.”
Jefferson, Heritage notes, also was eager to “strike back at the Federalist-Congregationalist establishment in Connecticut for shamelessly vilifying him as an infidel and atheist in the recent [presidential] campaign.”
Indeed, as president, Jefferson was a friend of religion. “For example, he endorsed the use of federal funds to build churches and to support Christian missionaries working among the Indians.”
By today’s secular media standards, of course, this would make Jefferson a rabid and dangerous “Christian fundamentalist.” That’s because, in recent decades the ACLU and other far-left groups have waged a secular judicial jihad to pervert the plain meaning of the First Amendment.
The First Amendment was designed to protect religion from governmental interference and obstruction. Today, by contrast, the courts seem intent on protecting the people from religion.
Thus the ACLU and other far-left groups use the courts to banish religion from the public square. Christian conservatives like O’Donnell naturally find this disconcerting. The First Amendment, after all, protects the free exercise of religion. Yet the courts increasingly have been infringing upon this basic Constitutional liberty.
So while the elites cluck in disapproval at what they believe is O’Donnell’s faux pas, the reality is she knows and understands the Constitution better than they do.