“Separation of church and state” is a phrase not found in the U.S. constitution. What is found there is the First Amendment with its non-establishment and pro free exercise clauses:
[The United States] Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion [non-establishment clause], or prohibiting the free exercise thereof [pro free exercise clause]; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
The non-establishment clause was intended to prevent the state backed hegemony of any denominational body. Neither the Presbyterians, Baptists, Methodists, or any other denomination would be endorsed by the constitution. The same would obtain for non-Christian religious organizations not known as churches, even though adherents to non Christian religions were a tiny minority in colonial America. For example the first Jewish synagogue in North America was dedicated in Rhode Island, A.D. 1763. Churches have existed here since the early 17th century.
Remember, the tyranny from which our founding founders were rebelling was aided and abetted by an arrangement wherein the state backed a religious body. In keeping with Parliament’s “Acts of Supremacy” in the 16th century, the British monarch was established as the supreme head of the Church of England. King George held this position at the time of the American Revolution (which the king and his court called “the Presbyterian war.”) Our founders wanted no such state-church fusion in the new nation. So separation of church and state is a good precept, understood in that sense.
On the other hand, as the character Tevye from Fiddler on the Roof might say, the First Amendment goes on with its non-hindrance clause. That part of the amendment is commonly ignored by various theophobes, revisionists, and social engineers. It shows that there was never any intent to keep the Bible and the God about Whom it teaches out of public life, especially in the realm of the administration of justice. This idea would have been abhorrent to the founders, whose faith was made manifest and declared along with their independence. And the Declaration of Independence is foundational to the U.S. Constitution (more on that below).
The Christian denominations had their ecclesiastical distinctives, to be sure. Yet they revered the same holy Book and worshiped the same triune God. One fruit of their common faith was the genuine and peaceful tolerance of non-Christian religionists. In keeping with the truth claims of that common faith, the hope of peacefully winning such persons for the Kingdom of Christ was the dynamo of that tolerance.
So separation of church and state is a far cry from the folly of trying to separate GOD from state or from any other realm of the human experience. As used today the phrase is an even “further cry” from constitutional intent. The founders would be enraged by the vehement appeals to a phrase not found in the constitution made by those seeking to prevent religious expression in the U.S. Congress, or anywhere else in the public square. In 2017, a federal court ruled that the U.S. Congress could continue its practice of opening its daily sessions with prayer, a tradition that apparently began with a suggestion from alleged deist Benjamin Franklin.
Establish a state backed religious body, Congress? NO! Be free as a body of elected government officials to pray? YES! Individual members of Congress be informed by religious consciences, and carry out duties in accordance with them? YES!
Since America existed, American elected officials have sworn on the BIBLE to uphold our noble Constitution. Likewise regarding people testifying in American courts. In A.D. 1894, the tax-exempt status churches had enjoyed unofficially since the founding era was enacted into law. Many of America’s oldest and most venerable universities were founded as theological seminaries for the training of Christian ministers. Before state education existed, the Church and private academies were the primary aid to parents who have the responsibility for educating their children, not the government.
The fact that some are striving to tear down crosses, nativity scenes on town hall lawns, Ten Commandments (recorded in the two BIBLE books of Exodus and Deuteronomy) monuments and displays, etc. makes clear that those publicly visible expressions of America’s Biblical foundations were already there; in other words hateful theophobic bigots are not trying to prevent the placement of something new, only to destroy what already is.
(Those bathroom signs showing a human figure with one half wearing a skirt and the other half wearing pants is an example of trying to add something to public life that never was there before.)
The U.S. Constitution was begotten by men who held the worldview expressed in their Declaration of Independence, the document which reveals the matrix of the new nation they wanted to bring forth. Six of the men who signed the constitution had also signed the declaration. Declaration signatories Jefferson and John Adams were overseas when the new constitution was created; there is no reason to believe they would not have signed the latter. Let’s check some of the Declaration’s most salient phrases which honor the Bible:
1. Nature and Natures’ God (No animism or pantheism here!)
2. CREATED equal, endowed by their CREATOR with certain inalienable rights. (No foolish “random chance” theories of origin here!)
3. Appealing to the supreme Judge of the world (hmm…can we imagine Who these people, steeped in Bible knowledge, had in mind? Whom did they believe that supreme Judge to be?)
4. Firm reliance on the protection of divine providence. (Providence is a thoroughly Biblical concept and a major American city bears its name. No fortune or capricious forces here!)
In light of all this, let’s ask those who call themselves progressive exactly toward what it is they want our nation to progress? Let’s ask them why they glibly expect everyone to join them as they move toward whatever that destination is? And let’s ask those who want to jettison the Bible what transcendent ethical standard they will put in its place? Let’s ask them to defend the chaos of moral relativism into which they want us to descend!