I’m sure you’ve heard the term “separation of church and state.” It usually gets tossed about by those on the political left when Christians engage in social issues in a public forum. We’re told that the “separation of church and state” requires that we keep our religious views to ourselves.
The late Supreme Court Justice William Rehnquist had a different opinion. He said that “separation of church and state” as it’s currently used is a “misleading metaphor” that has proved useless as a guide to judging. It’s a concept that is widely misinterpreted and misapplied.
In a public school setting, for example, teachers, students, and parents are often led to believe that they have few, if any, rights when it comes to issues of faith.
That’s what administrators of the Cupertino, California school district told public school teacher Stephen Williams. Even though he taught American history using original source material, the school board systematically censored his curriculum.
They told Stephen not to use documents that contained religious references. They refused to allow him to hand out primary source documents like William Penn’s “Frame of Government,” Samuel Adams’ the “Rights of the Colonists as Christians,” or even the religious sections of the Declaration of Independence.
That’s right – the Declaration of Independence itself was deemed too religious and, therefore, violated the separation of church and state.
Stephen and his wife, Sarah, were forced to defend their religious freedom through the federal court system. They’re with us on our Focus on the Family Broadcast “Protecting Your Child’s Faith in Public School” to share the hardships they endured and to clarify what the First Amendment truly means when it says, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise of religion.”
Thomas Jefferson is the author of the phrase “separation of church and state,” but he never intended for it to communicate that religion has no place in the public square. He used that phrase in an obscure letter to the Danbury Baptists, who were concerned that government would interfere with people’s expression of religion. Jefferson reassured the group that the establishment clause of the First Amendment built “a wall of separation.”
All the Founders agreed that the wall of separation was one-way – it limited Congress, not the Church, not individual Christians. Unfortunately, the meaning of “separation of church and state” has been flipped on its head and distorted for political and ideological purposes.
You can hear our conversation on your local radio station, online, on iTunes, via Podcast, or on our free phone app. A former atheist, Stephen Williams was a public school teacher and is the founder of Prepare the Way Ministries. His wife Sarah has a Ph.D. in environmental engineering. Together they’ve written a book called, Navigating Public Schools: Charting a Course to Protect Your Child’s Christian Faith and Worldview. For a gift of any amount, we will send you a copy as our way of saying thank you. (Check our website for details.)
We’ll talk about the rights of students, teachers, and parents. That’s part of our service to others – helping parents to train their kids to stand firm in their Christian worldview. That’s only made possible because of your generous and sacrificial gifts to this ministry.
I know you’re probably not aware that tomorrow is the last day of our fiscal year, but it is, and your gift today can have a big impact on our outreach next year. So I ask you to pray about how God may want to use you through Focus on the Family. Your support is vital to helping families.
One last thing, this year’s Bring Your Bible to School Day is happening Thursday, October 4, 2018. Bring Your Bible to School Day gives young people an opportunity to celebrate religious freedom and to share God’s love with their peers. Last year, 500,000 students participated, and we hope to see a million kids or more participate in the coming years. Find out more at BringYourBible.org.