By Dr. Jerry Newcombe
Special to Inside The Pew
There has been a massive shift in the understanding of “the separation of church and state” in America. As a nation, we were founded for religious liberty, but now that freedom seems under attack by the forces of a militant secularism.
Just as an example. Recently, in Houston, city officials have sent out subpoenas, demanding certain ministers who have spoken out against homosexuality to hand over their sermons and emails. In Idaho, a husband and wife team who run a wedding chapel might have to go to jail and be fined because they refuse for conscience sake to conduct same-sex weddings. City officials upholding traditional stances on marriage or other issues have lately come under fire.
To paraphrase one professor of law, the First Amendment has been put on a search and destroy mission for any sneaky vestiges of religion left in public places.
Yet our founders, the same men who gave us the First Amendment, hired chaplains who say Christian prayers for the military and the legislatures at taxpayer expense. They proclaimed state and national days of prayer and thanksgiving. Thanksgiving itself is an annual reminder of our nation’s Christian heritage.
What’s happening today is in part because of a misreading of Jefferson, and it is our goal in this book to set the record straight. Suffice it to say that the Thomas Jefferson of history is not the Thomas Jefferson of the ACLU, People for the American Way, the Freedom from Religion Foundation, etc.
The separation of the institution of the church from the institution of the state, properly understood, is a biblical concept and was promoted by some of our founding fathers, including Jefferson and Madison. However, today’s “separation of church and state” is often defined in such ways as to essentially mean “state-sanctioned atheism”—something different than what the founders advocated. Groups like the ACLU actively promote the “state-sanctioned atheism” version of the separation of church and state. Many courts and public officials have bought into this vision, and we read about the results virtually every day in the news.
But is this even what Jefferson wanted? The real answer is no, even in his most liberal, skeptical phase of life. For instance, when he was president, Jefferson attended church on a regular basis at the Christian worship services held in the U.S. Capitol building. You might ask, “But what about the ‘separation of church and state’?” He certainly didn’t understand it in the strict way it is often imposed today. Like the other founders, he understood it to mean that no one national denomination would lord if over the others. No one denomination would become the national church “by law established.”
Dr. Jerry Newcombe is the author/co-author of 24 books including bestsellers George Washington’s Sacred Fire (with Dr. Peter Lillback) and What If Jesus Had Never Been Born? (with Dr. Kennedy). Newcombe serves as a co-host, columnist and spokesperson for D. James Kennedy Ministries, where he produces/co-produces more than 60 one hour television specials that have aired nationwide. He has appeared on numerous talk shows as a guest, including “Politically Incorrect with Bill Maher” (4x), Fox News Channel, Fox Business Channel, C-Span2’s “Book Notes,” Janet Parshall’s America, Point of View, Moody Radio Network and more! Newcombe also hosts a weekly talk radio program on “GraceFM.” He is happily married with two children and a grandchild, and resides in South Florida.