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Tuesday, July 26, 2022

OPINION:

The secular left has been beside itself after a rash of Supreme Court decisions upheld and heralded conservative ideals, most notably upending Roe v. Wade and bolstering religious liberties.

Justice Sonia Sotomayor notably issued some curious proclamations after two cases in particular — one finding religious schools can’t be kept out of a state tuition aid program and another defending a prayerful high school football coach — yielded victories for people of faith. 


Justice Sotomayor’s dissent in the first case accused her fellow justices of bulldozing the so-called separation of church and state, a term over which leftists have obsessed for decades.

“This court continues to dismantle the wall of separation between church and state that the Framers fought to build,” shewrote. “In just a few years, the court has upended constitutional doctrine, shifting from a rule that permits states to decline to fund religious organizations to one that requires states in many circumstances to subsidize religious indoctrination with taxpayer dollars.”

In the second religious liberty victory, Justice Sotomayor said the ruling in favor of high school football coach Joe Kennedy, who was fired for praying on the 50-yard line after football games, further corroded constitutional norms and endangered liberty for all Americans.

“It elevates one individual’s interest in personal religious exercise, in the exact time and place of that individual’s choosing, over society’s interest in protecting the separation between church and state, eroding the protections for religious liberty for all,” she wrote.

While many progressive activists joined her laments, one of the most painful and bizarre realities is the secular left’s obsession with the notion that the “separation of church and state” — language mentioned nowhere in the Bill of Rights — is somehow sacrosanct and should be revered as an essential rhetorical device whenever faith comes anywhere near government.

The “separation of church and state” term originated in a letter Thomas Jefferson wrote on Jan. 1, 1802, to the Danbury Baptist Association in Connecticut. In the brief note, Jefferson wrote that the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause builds “a wall of separation between church and state.”

Progressives have taken this to mean no religion can permeate the state, but such an argument fails to take history and reality into account. Faith has always had a place within elements of the state and was, in fact, pointed to by some Founders as essential.

Just consider that “within a year of his inauguration, Jefferson began attending church services in the House of Representatives,” according to the Library of Congress. The practice of church attendance in the House went on until the Civil War.

The Senate has employed a Senate chaplain since 1789, the same year the Bill of Rights was circulating. 

“Throughout the years, the United States Senate has honored the historic separation of Church and State, but not the separation of God and State,” explains the U.S. Senate website. “The first Senate, meeting in New York City on April 25, 1789, elected the Right Reverend Samuel Provost, the Episcopal Bishop of New York, as its first chaplain. Since then, all sessions of the Senate have been opened with prayer, strongly affirming the Senate’s faith in God as Sovereign Lord of our Nation.” 

And the connections between faith and government don’t end there, as biblical references are inscribed throughout Washington — so visible and evident that the Museum of the Bible created a ride taking visitors through at least 13 of these locations.

Two quick examples include the line “The truth will set you free” — a verse reference from John 8:33 — that is present above the door at Union Station, which opened in 1907. Perhaps the more prevalent example is the image of Old Testament patriarch Moses on the back of the U.S. Supreme Court building.

I could provide other biblical references, but the presiding point is this: Faith and religion can and have interacted throughout America’s history, and, in many ways, their confluence formed the basis of our foundation as well as our success and sustenance. 

Progressive inclinations to erase these histories or pretend Jefferson’s terminology in a letter — not in the Constitution itself — was somehow dogmatic and meant to do everything from preventing a football coach from praying after a game to sanitizing every mention of God are deeply problematic and historically inaccurate.

If Justice Sotomayor and others disagree, they can simply take their grievances up with America’s first president, George Washington, who wrote about these very topics in his 1796 farewell address.

“Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports,” Washington wrote. “In vain would that man claim the tribute of patriotism who should labor to subvert these great pillars of human happiness, these firmest props of the duties of men and citizens.”

• Billy Hallowell is a journalist, commentator and digital TV host who has covered thousands of faith and culture stories. He is the director of content and communications at Pure Flix, and previously served as the senior editor at Faithwire and the former faith and culture editor at TheBlaze.


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