Sunday, May 25, 2014

"Separation of Church & State" - What Does it Actually Mean? Part 2

The Separation Clause - Its Original Intent
an excerpt from The Separation of Church and State by Signature Historian David Barton

The phrase “Separation of Church and State” has been invoked in over four thousand legal cases in recent decades. It is cited as the reason for the removal of Nativity scenes from public parks, Ten Commandment displays from courtrooms, public prayer from school events, religious symbols from city seals, as well as the prohibition of several types of popular religious expressions. The Founding Father most associated with the separation phrase is Thomas Jefferson; and while the phrase is definitely familiar to most folks today, its history is largely unknown.

Significantly, Jefferson was actually a latecomer to this famous metaphor; for it had long since been introduced in the 1500s by prominent ministers in England. Throughout the 1600s, it was carried to America by Bible-oriented colonists who planted it deeply in the thinking of Americans - all long before Jefferson ever repeated it. So what is the original and historic origin of this now popular phrase?

Historian David Barton summarizes the story behind and our problem with the separation clauses today.

When God established civil government for His people Israel, He placed Moses over the civil affairs and Aaron over the spiritual ones - the nation was one, but the jurisdictions were two, with separate leaders over each. The account of King Uzziah of Judah in second 2 Chronicles 26 provides a lucid illustration of how God insisted that the two jurisdictions be kept separate.

Uzziah’s reign lasted 52 years (a remarkable span of time for that era in world history). Prosperity and stability characterized his civil rule; under his leadership the nation of Israel experienced unrivaled innovation, new technologies and prosperity for its people that was famous across the civilized world. His personal piety toward God was also very well-known, and he openly and boldly honored God throughout his kingdom.

Then a dramatic change occurred. The turning point is recorded in verse 16, with the revealing statement that Uzziah “entered the temple of the Lord to burn incense on the altar of incense.” As a civil ruler over the kingdom, he decided that he would also take upon himself the function of a priest by burning incense on the altar; but that duty had been strictly reserved by God for his priests. Uzziah, by trying to perform the responsibilities of both Church and State and become the head of each, had thus cross the line drawn by God himself.

Under this violation, the priests courageously and forcefully withstood him (V. 18), but Uzziah refused to listen and became enraged at them. He sees their sacred utensils and prepared to make use of them when God weighed in: he instantly struck Uzziah with leprosy, who fled the temple in horror and humiliation.

Significantly, it had been acceptable for Uzziah to honor God in his kingdom, and had been acceptable for Uzziah to enter the temple to worship God. But when Uzziah attempted to violate the jurisdictional separation between State and Church - when he sought to be in charge of both the civil and religious arenas at the same time - God provided a dramatic precedent as a message of warning to all future generations.

Please understand, I do not share this story from Scripture for the purpose of a Bible study. Rather, I share this story from the Bible as a specific example of why members of the Christian community for centuries have held out for a “Separation of Church and State”, and much of the history of Europe between the 1600s and 1700s confirms this early Christian understanding of civil government and religious affairs.

In the first three centuries of Christianity, there had been no attempt to merge the two separate and distinct God ordained institutions of State and Church, but that changed when Roman Emperor Theodosius I unilaterally assumed control of the church and assimilated into the state, decreeing Christianity is the official religion of his massive empire and declaring all other religions illegal.[1] With that edict, the state crossed the boundary God established, and Christianity became coercive, thus repudiating the voluntariness infused into it by Christ Himself.

Thereafter, emperors of the State regularly made themselves officers of the Church. It became a time of “the secularization of the Church and the deprivation of Christianity”[2] - a time when State leaders wrongly “believed that one of the chief duties of an imperial ruler was to place his sword at the service of the Church and orthodoxy”. Because State and Church became one, a Church leader therefore became a State Official and answered to State authorities, being required to enforce any religious doctrines the State decreed.

Understandably, widespread atrocities marked this period of history, and civil and religious rulers (often one and the same) were frequently ruthless, ever inventing new sadistic tortures and inflicting death with the same lack of compunction they manifested when squishing a roach in the putrefied vermin infested dungeons they frequently maintained. A review of Fox’s Book of Martyrs (published in 1563 and some 2,300 pages in length) enumerates the slaughters of countless thousands of Christians by the so-called Christian leaders.

Because the Church had been taken over by the State, it was Bible-based ministers who finally stood up and demanded the State separate from the Church. In fact, English Clergymen Richard Hooker was the first to use the phrase. King Henry VIII (1491 – 1547) had wanted a divorce, but the church properly refused to give him one, so he started his own National Church (the Anglican church), and after decreeing new state established doctrines, he gave himself a divorce.[3] The English Parliament also passed laws stipulating who could take communion and who could be a minister of the Gospel, thus forcefully controlling by Government and directing what should have been purely ecclesiastical matters.[4] The Rev. Hooker knew that it was wrong for the State to establish religious doctrines and dictate beliefs and practices for the Church, so he called for a “Separation of Church and Commonwealth.”[5]

Other Bible-centered ministers also spoke out against the intrusion of the State into the jurisdiction of the Church, including the Rev. John Greenwood (1556 – 1593), who started the congregation attended by many of the Pilgrims when they still lived in England. At that time, Queen Elizabeth I was head over both the State and the Church, but Greenwood asserted “That there could be but one headed to the Church and that was not to be the Queen, but Christ!”[6] He was eventually executed for “denying her Majesty’s ecclesiastical supremacy and attacking the existing ecclesiastical order”. Then when Parliament passed a law requiring that if “any of her Majesty’s subjects deny the Queen’s ecclesiastical supremacy… they shall be committed to prison without bail,”[7] most of the Pilgrims fled England to Holland. They subsequently moved from Holland to America, where they boldly advocated Separation of Church and State, asserting that government had no right to “compel religion, to plant churches by power, and force a submission to ecclesiastical government by laws and penalties.”[8]

Many of the other Christian colonists who came to America had also been the subjects of Christian persecution at the hands of State leaders who had taken over the Church. For example, a decade after the Pilgrims settled in Plymouth, 20,000 Puritans also fled England after many received life sentences (or had their noses slit, ears cut off, or a brand placed on their foreheads) for not adhering to state-mandated Anglican teachings. Others coming to America for similar reasons included Jews facing the Inquisition in Portugal (1654); Quakers fleeing England after some 10,000 had been imprisoned or tortured (1680); Anabaptists (Mennonites, Moravians, Dunkers, etc.) All persecuted in Germany (1683); 400,000 Bible believing Huguenots persecuted in France (1685): 20,000 Lutherans expelled from Austria (1731); etc.

And just as the Pilgrims had come to America advocating the separation of the State from the Church, other Bible-centered ministers and colonists traveling from Europe did the same, such as the Rev. Roger Williams (1603 – 1683), the Rev. John Wise (1652 – 1725), Rev. William Penn (1614 – 1718), and many more. Early American Methodist Bishop Charles Galloway summarized not only what Bible-believing ministers had concluded, but especially what God himself had establish as the standard, declaring:

The miter and the crown should never encircle the same brow. The crozier and the scepter should never be wielded by the same hand.[9]

Of the four items specifically mentioned (the miter, crown, crozier, and scepter), to reference the Church, and to the State. Concerning the Church, the miter was the headgear worn by the high priest in Jewish times (Exodus 28:3 – four, 35 – 37), and later by popes, cardinals and bishops; and the crozier was the shepherds crook carried by church officials during special ceremonies. Pertaining to the State, the crown was the symbol of authority placed upon the heads of Kings, and the scepter was held in their hand as an emblem of their extensive power (Esther 4:11). Therefore, the metaphor that “the miter and the crown should never encircle the same brow” meant that the same person should not be the head of the State and the head of the Church. Galloway’s phrase only provided a clear and easily understandable visual picture, but it also referred to specific historical incidents – as when Roman Emperor Otto II (980 – 1002) constructed his Kings Crown to fit atop the miter worn by the church officials,[10] thus wearing the crowns of both State and Church at the same time.

Based on these well-documented facts, the entire history of the Separation Doctrine had been to prevent the State from meddling with, interfering against, or controlling the Church’s beliefs and religious expressions. Consequently, the Separation Doctrine was never used to secularize the public square and quite the contrary: it existed to protect rather than remove voluntary public religious practices. As affirmed by early Quaker leader Will Wood:

The Separation of Church and State does not mean the exclusion of God, righteousness, morality, from the state.[11]

The first part of the amendment is now called the “Establishment Clause,” and the latter part, the “Free Exercise Clause.” The language of both is clear; and both clauses were pointed solely and specifically at the State, not at the Church. Notice that the Establishment Clause prohibited the State from enforcing religious conformity, and the Free Exercise Clause ensured that the State would protect (rather than suppress, as it currently does) citizen’s rights of conscious and religious expression. They are prohibitions only on the power of Congress (the Government or State), not on religious individuals or organizations. This was the original meaning and intent of “Separation of Church and State” with which Thomas Jefferson was intimately familiar, and it was this interpretation that he repeatedly reaffirmed in much of his writings and practices, not the modern perversion of it.

Also see:  "Separation of Church & State" - What Does it Actually Mean? Part 1

[1] The entire history of the separation doctrine was to prevent the state from taking control of religioun and regulating public religious beliefs and expressions; it was not to secularize remove religious beliefs or expression from public life. Fordham University, “Medieval Sourcebook: Banning of Other Religions, Theodosian Code XVI.1.2” (

[2] Samuel Smith Harris, The Relation of Christianity to Civil Society (New York: Thomas Whitaker, 1883), pp. 61-62

[3] Joseph Blötzer, transcribed by Matt Dean, “Inquisition,” the Catholic Encyclopedia, October 1, 1910 (at

[4] “Anglicanism,” Catholic Encyclopedia ( Also, see, for example, An Ordinance of the Lords and Commons Assembled in Parliament Together with Rules and Directions concerning Suspension from the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper in Cases of Ignorance and Scandal (London: John Wright, October 21, 1645).

[5] Richard Hooker, the Works of the Learned Injudicious Divine, Mr. Richard Hooker, (Oxford: Clarendon press, 1820), Vol. III p. 286

[6] Frederick Greenwood, Greenwood Genealogies, 1154 – 1914 (New York: The Lions Genealogical Company, 1914), p. 31 “The Execution of John Greenwood.”

[7] Greenwood, Greenwood Genealogies, 1154 – 1914, page 35, “The Execution of John Greenwood.”

[8] Claude H, Van Tyne, The Causes of the War of Independence (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1922): page 3

[9] Charles B Galloway, Christianity in the American Commonwealth (Nashville: publishing house Methodist Episcopal Church, 1898), page 144.

[10] “The Legitimization of Authority”, Shelton Hall University (

[11] Will C. Wood, Five Problems of State and Religion (Boston: Henry Hoyt, 1877), p. 92.

Also see - "The Founders Bible, the Origin of the Dream of Freedom", (Shilo Road Publishing, Copyright 2012) pgs. 683-688

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