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The Distortions and Inaccuracies of the Christian Coalition

By Jeff Wehr

THE Christian Coalition is one of the strongest political forces in America. It is part of their agenda to bring "Christian" values to bear on our society. They have made major political gains through grassroots politics in taking over local elections. However, the gains they have made can be greatly attributed to their many unfortunate distortions and inaccuracies concerning American history and constitutional law. They have been able to capitalize on the general public's lack of knowledge on such matters. We will now consider several of these distortions and inaccuracies.

Church and State--Separate?

The Christian Coalition declares that the phrase "separation of church and state" does not appear in the Constitution and therefore the principle is not part of our American heritage. In response to this distortion, scholar Leo Pfeffer stated, "It is true, of course, that the phrase 'separation of church and state' does not appear in the Constitution. But it was inevitable that some convenient term should come into existence to verbalize a principle so clearly and widely held by the American people. . . . [T]he right to a fair trial is generally accepted to be a constitutional principle; yet the term 'fair trial' is not found in the Constitution. To bring the point even closer home, who would deny that 'religious liberty' is a constitutional principle? Yet that phrase too is not in the Constitution. The universal acceptance which all these terms, including 'separation of church and state,' have been received in America would seem to confirm rather than disparage their reality as basic American democratic principles." Leo Pfeffer, Church, State, and Freedom.

President Thomas Jefferson wrote that the First Amendment had erected a "wall of separation between church and state," in an 1802 letter to the Danbury Baptist Association of Connecticut. Furthermore, in the 1879 Reynolds v. U.S. decision, the Supreme Court cited Jefferson's principle of separation of church and state to be observed "as an authoritative declaration of the scope and effect of the [First] Amendment."

James Madison wrote, "Strongly guarded . . . is the separation between the church and the state." Later he said in an 1819 letter, "[T]he number, the industry and the morality of the priesthood, and the devotion of the people have been manifestly increased by the total separation of the church from the state." Rob Boston, Why the Religious Right is Wrong, 220. All emphasis supplied unless otherwise noted.

The Christian Coalition has even called the principle of "separation of church and state" a communistic principle. They cite Article 53 of the Constitution of the Soviet Union in support of their unfortunate distortion. It can hardly be said that Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and our other founding fathers borrowed this concept from the Soviet Union. Our founding fathers embraced this principle long before the Russian Revolution of 1917, which led to the formation of the Soviet Union and the Soviet Constitution.

The truth of the matter is that the Soviet Union borrowed these concepts of freedom of religion, press, speech, and assembly from the United States, but for the most part never granted these privileges to its people. These principles were simply on paper in the Soviet Union, while these principles became reality in the United States. Because the Soviet Constitution provides for freedom of speech, do we say that this freedom originated in Communist Russia? Do we say that freedom of the press originated in the Soviet Union and is a communistic principle? Do we say that the right to free assembly originated in Red Square? The absurdity of the idea shows the weakness of the Christian Coalition's argument.

They also claim that Jefferson's "separation of church and state" is "one-directional." In other words, the First Amendment was only designed to keep government out of religion, not religion out of government. However, Jefferson never used the phrase "one-directional" and never supported that concept. This leads us into the next great distortion of the Christian Coalition, namely, that the United States is a "Christian" nation.

America: A "Christian" Nation

The Christian Coalition has referred to the United States as a "Christian nation." Unfortunately, the Christian Coalition, the so-called "evangelical Christians," will pressure the state to enforce religious observance. 

The separation of church and state is a Christian and/or Protestant principle. The union of church and state is not. "The union of the church with the state, be the degree never so slight, while it may appear to bring the world nearer to the church, does in reality but bring the church nearer to the world. . . . The regulation adopted by the early colonists, of permitting only members of the church to vote and to hold office in civil government, led to most pernicious results. This measure had been accepted as a means of preserving the purity of the state, but it resulted in the corruption of the church." The Great Controversy, 297.

The Pilgrims and the Puritans who settled in America in the 1600s were anything but tolerant. Most people reading this article would not have been welcomed in the Plymouth or Massachusetts Bay Colonies. The colonies taxed the people in the support of the church and the clergy. If you refused to pay, you went to jail. Quakers were hung in Massachusetts, and Catholics founded Maryland to escape persecution. In Virginia, blasphemy was punishable by death. If you spoke disrespectfully to the minister, you were flogged. If you did not attend church, you were fined. If you continued not to go to church, you were whipped. If you denied the doctrine of the Trinity you faced a three-year jail sentence. Are these the characteristics of a Christian nation?

As entrepreneurs, artisans with special skills, and families looking for a new start began to pour onto the shores of America, the face of America began to change. People with different religious practices and beliefs began to take their stand for religious liberty. And in the spirit of liberty that characterized the American Revolution of 1776, those liberties were more and more becoming a reality. According to scholars, only seventeen percent of Americans had church membership prior to the Revolution. That does not say much for churches controlling the government in creating a "Christian" nation.

Today, church membership is nearly fifty percent, with the principle of "separation of church and state" still reigning in America. According to a recent polling, ninety percent of Americans do not question the existence of God, seventy-seven percent say that prayer is an important part of their daily life, while only two percent describe themselves as being atheists. See "Religion Here and Abroad," The American Enterprise Public Opinion and Demographic Report 3, November-December 1992, 93-97.

Church attendance is on the increase today, while it was decreasing prior to the formation of the Constitution.

It was after the American Revolution that our founding fathers began to create a new government. The Pilgrims and the Puritans are not our founding fathers, let alone Christopher Columbus. If our founding fathers desired to create a Christian nation, then it would have become very evident in the American Constitution. As it is, the Constitution does not even mention God or Jesus Christ. The omission of God in the Constitution was not an expression of hostility toward Christianity or any other religion. The U.S. Constitution is a civil document, not a religious document. As Charles Pinckney, a delegate from South Carolina said, "The Legislature of the United States shall pass no law on the subject of religion." William Lee Miller, The First Liberty: Religion and the American Republic (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1971), 110.

In 1797 the United States signed the Treaty of Tripoli with the Muslims of North Africa. Article 11 states, "As the Government of the United States is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion; as it has in itself no character of enmity against the law, religion or tranquillity of Musselman [Muslims]; . . ." Negotiations for this treaty were conducted by George Washington. The treaty was endorsed by Timothy Pickering, the secretary of state, and President John Adams. The Senate approved the treaty without any objections to its content. Article 11 never became a point of controversy, because our laws are civil laws, not religious laws. The Constitution never gave the government any power to pass religious legislation or to prohibit the free exercise of religion.

Often the Christian Coalition points to the Northwest Ordinance as proof of the "Christian" nation concept. The first problem that these advocates face is the fact that Thomas Jefferson wrote the Northwest Ordinance. Thomas Jefferson was clearly for "separation of church and state." The Northwest Ordinance, which set down the rules for governing the territory of the Northwest was approved by Congress on July 13, 1787. These rules included protection of civil liberties and how a territory could become a state.

The first draft written by Jefferson was completely secular and had no references to religion. Then a congressional committee revised it and mandated that a certain section of each township be reserved for education. Next, a proposal was made that a section of each township north of the area reserved for educational purposes be earmarked for religion. Then, a recommendation was made that the land would be used for the "support of religion and charitable uses." Later, it was proposed that they leave out the word "religion" and reserve the land simply for "charitable uses." The final draft of article 3 read, "Religion, morality and knowledge being necessary to good government and the happiness of mankind, schools and the means of education shall be forever encouraged." Rob Boston, Why the Religious Right is Wrong, 80.

Notice that it did not say that "schools and churches shall forever be encouraged." If this were a "Christian" nation, then certainly churches would be encouraged. What was being encouraged? Education was being encouraged.

For this American experiment to work, it would be advantageous for its people to be religious, moral, knowledgeable, skilled, educated, hard working, patriotic, honest, and the list goes on. But churches do not need to control the government for people to be religious, moral, and knowledgeable. It is significant to note that Congress did not in 1789 reenact the provision of 1787 for a lot in each township to be set aside "perpetually for the purposes of religion." Journals of the Continental Congress, ed. Worthington C. Ford et al. (Washington, D.C., 1904-1937), XXXIII, 399-400.

The Christian Coalition will often cite the 1892 Holy Trinity Church v. United States decision to prove that this is a "Christian" nation. In this ruling, Justice David Brewer declared, "This is a Christian nation." However, in 1905, he published a book entitled The United States: A Christian Nation. The following is from his book:

"But in what sense can [the United States] be called a Christian nation? Not in the sense that Christianity is the established religion or the people are compelled in any manner to support it. On the contrary, the Constitution specifically provides that 'Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.' Neither is it Christian in the sense that all its citizens are, either in fact or in name, Christians. On the contrary, all religions have free scope within its borders. Numbers of our people profess other religions, and many reject all. Nor is it Christian in the sense that a profession of Christianity is a condition of holding office, or otherwise engaging in public service, or essential to recognition either politically or socially. In fact, the government as a legal organization is independent of all religions." Page 12.

Prayer in School

Another favorite distortion of the Christian Coalition is the argument that secular humanists have "kicked" God and prayer out of the school. It should be clearly understood that there is nothing in the Constitution that keeps a student from praying in school. In fact, the Constitution as it is now, protects the student's right to pray in school. It is true that in 1962 and 1963 court cases, the government decided not to assume the responsibility to write school prayers and select Bible readings. However, the courts did not decide that students could not pray and study their Bibles in school. In fact, Justice Tom Clark observed, "It might well be said that one's education is not complete without a study of comparative religion or the history of religion and its relationship to the advancement of civilization. It may certainly be said that the Bible is worthy of study for its literary and historic qualities. Nothing we have said here indicates that such study of the Bible or of religion, when presented objectively as part of a secular program of education, may not be effected consistently with the First Amendment." Abington Township School District v. Schempp, 374 U.S. 203 (1963).

The Christian Coalition asserts that prayer and Bible reading in school was done away with in 1962, and ever since then morals and test scores in America have declined because of these court rulings. However, as of 1962, only five states had current laws requiring Bible reading. This does not mean that Bible reading in those states was being carried out. It only means that the law was on the books. Nine states had no such laws on the books. Eleven states declared the practice unconstitutional. And in twenty-five states the laws allow the practice to be optional. In fact, only the State of Massachusetts had prayer and Bible readings on the books prior to 1900. It was soon after the turn of the century that the conservative National Reform Movement originally campaigned hard to get these laws on the books. Thus, laws regarding prayer and Bible study in the public schools are relatively new and were not the work of our founding fathers.

There are many factors that have led to the decline of morals in America. Violence, immorality, and crude jesting on television and in the theaters are major culprits. Crowded urban centers, suggestive advertising, the break up of the family, declining morals and values in the local church, hypocrisy in the church, the materialism of the age, the increase of junk food, the influx of trashy novels and other printed matter, the preoccupation with entertainment, and the declining work ethic, have all contributed to the decline of morals in America. Yet a recent 1993 poll was taken by Gallop and Bezilla. They found that ninety-five percent of teenagers believe in God; eighty-six percent believe in the divinity of Jesus Christ; ninety-one percent believe in heaven; ninety-three percent believe God loves them. George H. Gallop, Jr. and Robert Bezila, "Poll: U.S. Teens Believe That God Loves Them," Religious News Service, April 21, 1993. Consequently, it cannot be said that spiritual beliefs have declined because the government chose to allow individuals to be responsible for their own religious practices.

The greatest witness for the Christian religion is not uniform prayers, but the life of a genuine Christian living out the principles of his Saviour in the life. A survey conducted in 1989 by Parents magazine, found that sixty-eight percent agreed with the statement, "Although no prayer should be said aloud, there should be a minute of silence each day so that students could pray silently, meditate, or do nothing if they prefer." However, only seventeen percent agreed with the statement, "A prayer should be said aloud once a day in public schools, and students should be required to participate." Rob Boston, Why the Religious Right is Wrong, 112.

As far as test scores dropping since 1962, the Christian Coalition again fails to tell the whole story. In the early 1960s, college entrance exams like the SAT were almost exclusively taken by wealthy, well-educated students headed for prestigious schools. Today, everyone who wants to go to college takes these exams. Obviously, the test scores will drop when you have more young people from a variety of backgrounds of educational opportunities taking these tests. In reality, there has been no properly documented drop in religious interests or test scores since 1962.

The Victory That Leads to Ruin

It is unfortunate that so many Christians have accepted the distortions and inaccuracies promoted by the leaders of the Christian Coalition. In this battle over freedom of religion versus the legislation of religion, the Christian Coalition will both win and lose. Prophecy tells us that they will eventually win in bringing in religious legislation. But they will also lose by bringing in that religious legislation. Instead of blessing America, they will lead us into national ruin. It is bad enough to have declining morals in America; however, it is even worse to trample upon the inalienable rights of others.

Inspiration predicted that the two great principles of civil and religious liberty would be trampled upon in America when the second beast of Revelation 13 speaks as a dragon. The repudiation of these principles would not be the work of a singular power. The people would pressure the lawmakers of our land to pass religious legislation. This religious legislation would bring religious persecution, and this religious persecution would be over worship.

The Bible says, "And he [the second beast] exerciseth all the power of the first beast before him, and causeth the earth and them which dwell therein to worship the first beast. . . . and cause that as many as would not worship the image of beast should be killed. . . . And that no man might buy or sell, save he that had the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name." Revelation 13:12, 15, 17. What type of legislation concerning worship will the Vatican and certain Protestants force upon society?

The Vatican

Currently, the pope is pushing for Sunday laws in Europe. "The blue law issue is expected to be contentious throughout Europe as the European Economic Community (EEC) struggles to determine policy for member nations. Pope John Paul II continues to press for mandatory Sunday-closing laws in all EEC nations." Church & State, May, 1992.

"God said everyone should have a day off a week. Muslims chose Fridays, Jews Saturdays, Christians Sundays. Now the European Community is pretending to be God. It is about to decree that EC citizens must take Sundays off." Economist, October 19, 1991, 16.

"In respecting religious liberty and the common good of all, Christians should seek recognition of Sundays and the Church's holy days as legal holidays." Catechism of the Catholic Church. New Hope, KY: Urbiet Orbi, 1994, 528.

John Paul II "insists that men have no reliable hope of creating a viable geopolitical system unless it is on the basis of Roman Catholic Christianity." Malachi Martin, The Keys of This Blood, 492.

"Sunday is our mark of authority. . . . The church is above the Bible, and this transference of sabbath observance is proof of that fact." The Catholic Record, London, Ontario, September 1, 1923.

Protestants in America

Religious Right activist David Barton said, "The court, in addressing the seventh-day sabbath of the Jewish religion vs. the first-day sabbath of the Christian religion, returned to the Scriptures to show that it could not be argued that Saturday, or any other day, was the day commanded by the Scripture--the sabbath could be any day, so long as it occurred every seventh. However, the court emphasized the importance of a uniform national sabbath; in this, a Christian nation, Sunday was to be that day." David Barton, The Myth of Separation, 76.

Pat Robertson said, "There will never be world peace until God's house and God's people are given their rightful place of leadership at the top of the world. . . . Laws in America that mandated a day of rest [Sunday] from incessant commerce have been nullified as a violation of the separation of church and state." Pat Robertson, The New World Order, 246, 227, 233, 236. Robertson laments that the separation of church and state prevents the nation from legislating a national Sunday law.

The United Nations

The following article is a quote from a Nazarene magazine called Newswatch. In its 1994 November/December issue, 4-5, it read, "The French magazine, Foy et Rai, reported from the United Nations Organization in Geneva, Switzerland, that plans are worked out to dissolve the UNO to make way for a World Tribunal. . . . This project and this plan provides for a total unification of church and state, and also provides for a single form of worship. The appointed day for all people will be Sunday. The number received by the people will promise the right to buy or sell.

"At the end of this statement, a Christian rose and asked the speaker, 'What happens to the minorities who will not accept this plan?' The Christian was told, 'Their number will be canceled with a black line and they will be deprived of the right to buy or sell and will thus be forced to destruction.' "

The players that will usher in this New World Order of Church and State are here. While the Christian Coalition increases its influence over America, the Vatican is increasing its influence over the world. The United Nations, the world's international vehicle, is even speaking about Sunday laws. Beyond the shadow of a doubt, we are the last generation. We are watching the last verses of prophecy being fulfilled. Considering all this, what kind of people ought we to be? The time has come to capture the vision of a finished work. We have no time to hesitate in preaching the three angels' messages. This is our time of peace. What we fail to do now, we will have to do in difficult times. Be of good courage, this work will be finished and we will soon be going home. Even so, come, Lord Jesus.

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