What Does Freedom Of Religion Really Mean: Our Constitution is still alive and applicable today! As citizens, we all have a duty to study the Constitution, to understand where our rights and our freedoms are laid out in that document, and how our government structure should work. The reason our government continues to overstep its boundaries is that “we the people” don’t know what those boundaries are! Tune in now for the second part of our three-part series! 

Air Date: 07/11/2019

On-air Personalities: David Barton, Rick Green, and Tim Barton


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Transcription note:  As a courtesy for our listeners’ enjoyment, we are providing a transcription of this podcast. Transcription will be released shortly. However, as this is transcribed from a live talk show, words and sentence structure were not altered to fit grammatical, written norms in order to preserve the integrity of the actual dialogue between the speakers. Additionally, names may be misspelled or we might use an asterisk to indicate a missing word because of the difficulty in understanding the speaker at times. We apologize in advance.

Faith and the Culture

RICK:

Welcome to the intersection of faith and the culture. This is WallBuilders Live! Appreciate you joining us today; I’m Rick Greene.

David Barton is going to be with us by recording because we’re actually going be sharing with you Constitution Alive! or a portion of it. And, today actually picks up where we left off yesterday. If you’re on our website today, WallBuildersLive.com, click on that archive button and you’ll be able to grab yesterday’s program.

This is a three-part series. Yesterday, today, and tomorrow it covers the First Amendment. So, we’re sharing with you Section 8 out of Constitution Alive!, where we walk through the entire Constitution, every article and amendment. And, Section 8 specifically deals with that first freedom in the First Amendment, the freedom of religion and conscience.

So, we’re gonna pick up right where we left off yesterday and talk about what this freedom truly means, how we can defend it, and how to protect it in a culture right now that is attacking it.

Let’s pick up right where we left off yesterday with Constitution Alive!

“…A Wall of Separation of Church and State”

DAVID:

Thomas Jefferson said to the Danbury Baptist Association who had written to him saying, “Hey we’re concerned about the First Amendment, that by codifying the freedom of religion in the Constitution, someday someone will say Congress gave us this freedom of religion. And, Congress can take it away.” He said, “Do not  worry; it’s never going to happen.

“There’s a wall of “separation of Church and State”. It’s not going to happen. They’re not going to infringe upon your freedom of religion.”

And, he was, of course, talking about the Free Exercise Clause, not the Establishment Clause.

So, his letter was virtually ignored for 150 years. It’s quoted in seven federal cases in 150 years. And, every time they quote the entire letter and actually use it as evidence of the fact that he believed we’re a nation of religions, a nation where you should be able to live out your faith and live out your religion in the public square.

In 1947….

Then, in 1947, Everson case comes along. Justice Hugo Black, a KKK member, decides that he’s gonna twist this whole thing around. So,he takes Jefferson’s words his eight words, lifts them from the letter, and applies them to the Establishment Clause instead of the Free Exercise clause. And, he says, “it’s a high and impregnable wall.”

And, since 1947, until right now, Jefferson’s words “wall of separation of Church and State” have been quoted over 3,500 times by the federal courts to say what the First Amendment actually says. So, we quote Jefferson’s words, “wall of separation of Church and State,” for the meaning of the First Amendment more than we actually quote the First Amendment. The First Amendment itself has only been quoted, the actual words in the First Amendment, about 3000 times.

So, we’re using the words of this one Founding Father more than we’re using the words of the actual Constitution, which would probably be OK if we’re cracking open the right head and getting inside the minds of the guys that actually gave us the First Amendment. And, if that’s what they said, then that would be OK. Here’s the problem.

You’re exactly right; Thomas Jefferson had nothing to do with the First Amendment. He was not one of the guys that was in these debates. He wasn’t there in that first Congress.

And, by the way he wasn’t here either.

Thomas Jefferson Wasn’t There

He didn’t have anything to do with giving us the Constitution or the Bill of Rights. Yes, he gave us the Declaration of Independence and did a phenomenal job on it. But, he did not give us the Constitution.

And, early on in our nation’s history, people were confused by that. They thought this was the great author of the Constitution. And so, a biographer wrote to Jefferson caying, “I want you to proofread my biography of you to make sure everything’s accurate.”

Jefferson writes him back and says, “One passage in the paper you enclose me must be corrected; it’s the following: ‘All say it was yourself more than any other individual that planned and established the Constitution.’” Jefferson said, “Whoa,whoa; time out; hang on.

“Got that one wrong.” He said, “I was in Europe when the Constitution was planned and never even saw it until after it was established. You say, “Well, okay, maybe he wasn’t here for the Constitution; but, surely he was there in Congress helping to give us the First Amendment.

“I mean, if his phrase, his mind and intent of the First Amendment is what the courts are quoting all the time, he had to be one of those guys who gave us the concept and gave us the Bill of Rights.” No, he wasn’t.

As I mentioned, he’s not one of those first congressmen that gave it to us. We should be quoting them. We should be going into the actual annals of Congress and say, “What did they intend?”

What Did the Actual Writers Intend?

James Madison told us when he said, “All they were trying to do was to prevent a single national denomination.” What is he talking about? A state Church.

What was the one they were afraid of, didn’t want? The Church of England. That’s exactly right.

They didn’t want the Church–I don’t want the Church of England either. I want an institutional separation of Church and State. We should want that.

Who wants the head of the State running the Church? We don’t want the head of the Church running the State. No question about it.

But, what he–what Jefferson meant by that phrase is very different than what today we think that he meant. But, his is the wrong head to be cracking open in the first place. We’re getting our concept of the First Amendment for the wrong people.

Must Not “Prohibit the Free Exercise Thereof” 

We ought to get it from the ones that were actually there. The biggest problem I have is that no longer is there talk about how “Congress shall not make any law establishing a religion;” but, we forget that second part. We forget they’re also not to “prohibit the free exercise thereof.”

And, I don’t care if you’re Christian, Muslim, Jewish, atheist, whatever you choose. Whatever your faith is, I want to constitutionally protect your right to live out your faith. And, I don’t think government should be able to stop you from living your faith both in private and in public.

Yet, that’s what we do too much of, because we’ve distorted what these guys intended with the Constitution, what that first Congress intended with the First Amendment, and even what Jefferson intended by “separation of Church and State.” His application, his words, being applied to the First Amendment is terrible jurisprudence. But, if we applied what he really meant, then we would get a totally different outcome than what the court has been getting for the last 60 years.

The President Attends Church at the Capitol

In fact, when Jefferson wrote that letter, he was President of the United States. And, when he writes that letter on January 1, 1802, two days later, Thomas Jefferson attended church. Guess where he went to church.

The United States Capitol. That’s exactly right, on federal property. Boy, if this is the guy that authors “separation of Church and State,” doesn’t he know that means you can’t go to church on federal property? You would think he would have understood that, right?

Jefferson went to church on federal property throughout his presidency. In fact, that Sunday, two days after he wrote the letter that included “separation of Church and State,” he went to see his friend John Leland, a Baptist preacher that preached that day. Now, why would Thomas Jefferson attend church throughout his presidency?

Here’s what he said, “No nation has ever existed or has been governed without religion, nor can be. The Christian religion is the best religion that has been given a man. And, I as chief magistrate of this nation, am bound to give it the sanction of my example.”

Now, I’m not arguing that he was a robust Christian; but, he definitely understood that by giving the religion the sanction of his example, the more people in the nation that followed the ideas of benevolence, serving your fellow man, and treating others the way that you want to be treated, he knew that would make for a good nation.

American History

This is David Barton with another moment from America’s history. Today, we hear that our Founding Fathers were largely atheist, agnostic, or deist. The writings of Founding Father Richard Henry Lee strongly refute that assertion.

Richard Henry Lee was a signer of the Declaration of Independence and he is specifically the man who made the motion in Congress that America separate from Great Britain. Following his death, his papers and correspondents, including numerous original handwritten letters from other prominent Founding Fathers, were passed on to his grandson. After having studied those letters this was how the grandson described our Founding Fathers.

He declared, “The wise and great men of those days were not ashamed publicly to confess the name of our blessed Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. On behalf of the people, as their representatives and rulers, they acknowledged the sublime doctrine of his mediation.” For more information on God’s hand in American history contact  WallBuilders at 1 800 8 REBUILD.

“In the Year of Our Lord.” 

RICK:

I think we’ve got a warped view, not only of what the Constitution itself says and what these guys intended, but even what Jefferson himself intended by that phrase “separation of Church and State”.

Just a couple other small things about Jefferson. If you look at the way these guys finished out the Constitution, when they got done here, they closed out the document signing, “In the Year of Our Lord.” That meant something; it was invoking the Gregorian calendar.

That was very much the opposite of the French Revolution. In the French Revolution, which we talked about, it was liberty without God, “Liberty on our own; kill all the priests.” They created their own calendar because they did not want to invoke the Gregorian calendar.

The Americans, in their Revolution, Declaration, and with the Constitution said, “In the Year of Our Lord.” Why? Because they recognized that.

Now, you would think that an atheist, agnostic, or diest would not want to sign that way. But, Washington would sign things, “In the Year of Our Lord.” Adams would sign things “In the Year of Our Lord.”

“In the Year of Our Lord Christ” 

Surely this great secularist, Thomas Jefferson, would refuse to put his name–we call him “the great secularist;” he’s not, but, that’s what we call him–refuse to put his name on a document signing “In the Year of Our Lord.”  Maybe so, because the documents that we have that he signed he actually signed “In the Year of Our Lord Christ.” So, he didn’t just sign“In the Year of Our Lord;” he signed “In the Year of Our Lord Christ.”

In fact, here’s one of them right here. It’s Jefferson’s signature. He’s signing; he’s the one filling it in and putting the dates.

And, yes, we’ve even had some people say, “But, that’s a preprinted ‘In the Year of Our Lord Christ.’” Yeah, okay. Now, Jefferson is not the kind of guy that will do something he doesn’t want to do.

Jefferson has no problem–look at his history–saying, “I want that.” He’s president and can have the Government Printing Office redo these forms because he would refuse to sign“In the Year of Our Lord Christ,” if he didn’t want to sign “In the Year of Our Lord Christ.” We have multiple documents of him signing “In the Year of Our Lord Christ,” and there’s one of them right there for you.

An Important Question

So, we’ve got a warped view of Jefferson. Let me just open that up to a bigger question of all of the Founding Fathers, because this question is important. The reason it’s important is because you need to understand what these guys were thinking.

We need to understand what the influences were on them because it impacts our society today. It determines whether or not we’re gonna have a robust freedom of religion in our country, whether or not we’re going to let people–regardless of their faith–exercise and express that faith. And so, people that want to view these guys as all secularists, tend to want to shut down that expression of faith, whether it’s Christian or whatever it might be.

So, you’ll always hear people say today, “Oh, the Founding Fathers weren’t Christians but were atheists, agnostics, and Deists. These guys were ‘enemies of Christ,’” we see in that newspaper article you’re looking at. “We had an unchristian beginning in America.”

So, just since we’re in the room, I just thought it might be interesting to take a look at some of these guys that sat here. One of the books that you hear about these guys is called The Godless Constitution, that somehow what made us great in America is our godlessness, that these guys kept God and religion completely away from our governments.

What Kind of Guys Were in the Room?

Let’s just start with the guy that took that chair right up there, George Washington. By the way, with any of these guys, do you know what’s neat? I would love to be–and, I told you last night, when I’m in here, I feel it’s like shaking the hands of the Founding Fathers.

How many of you would like to interview a Founding Father? Wouldn’t you love to sit down with a Founding Father of America and ask them what their position would be on some of the issues of the day? Or, just ask them what they think about how America’s turned out or what it was like to be in this room and be a part of that?

Here’s the cool thing: we get to interview the Founding Fathers any time we want, because they left us so much evidence of what was going on in their minds. They wrote volumes and volumes of letters. Let me just give you a couple of examples here.

This here is just one volume; it’s actually Volume 28 of the writings of Washington. So, this is just writings from December 1784 to August 1786. Less than two years are right there in that one volume.

That’s just those two years. Thousands and thousands of letters we can read of these guys. Here’s Jefferson: the papers that Jefferson, just from November 1785 to June 1786, that’s less than one year right there. And, we can dive into thousands and thousands.

I already showed you Madison’s papers. I mean, we can get inside their minds, folks. They wrote to each other.

Thousands of Papers

Their correspondence back and forth is about like us texting today. Thousands of letters, journals where really you can get into their minds. You can read the journals of the people that spent time with them; that’s a great way also, because not only do you read the writing of someone and their view, you can say to someone else over here across the room, “What was he really like?

“I want to know what was going on behind the scenes, not just what he’s put in the papers that he knows everybody’s going to read.” And, we get to do that with all these guys. Well, George Washington is a great example of that.

You can read General Henry Knox, who served with Washington throughout the Revolutionary War. He kept a journal and talked about how he kept on walking in on General Washington during the war, into his tent, he was interrupting him. Guess what he was doing when he interrupted him? He was praying in his tent.

Wait a minute. I thought this was an atheist. He was praying in his tent.

Knox talks about all the times he walked in. Secretary Thompson, right here, was his secretary. He talked about how he would walk walking on President Washington, accidentally interrupting him kneeling in prayer.

Bring A Speaker To Your Area

Tim:

Hey, this is Tim Barton with WallBuilders.  And, as you’ve had the opportunity to listen to WallBuilders Live, you’ve probably heard a wealth of information about our nation, about our spiritual heritage, about the religious liberties, and about all the things that make America exceptional.

And, you might be thinking, “As incredible as this information is, I wish there was a way that I could get one of the WallBuilders guys to come to my area and share with my group.”

Whether it be a church, whether it be a Christian school, or public school, or some political event, or activity, if you’re interested in having a WallBuilders speaker come to your area, you can get on our website at www.WallBuilders.com and there’s a tab for scheduling. If you’ll click on that tab, you’ll notice there’s a list of information from speakers bio’s, to events that are already going on. And, there’s a section where you can request an event, to bring this information about who we are, where we came from, our religious liberties, and freedoms. Go to the WallBuilders website and Bring a speaker to your area.

George Washington Kneeling in Prayer

RICK:

Go to Valley Forge, right down the road from here, and you can see the big bronze monument of George Washington’s kneeling in prayer. Down the street, there’s a stained glass window at  the chapel; he’s kneeling in prayer.

Right here, you’re looking at the chapel in Washington at the United States Capitol, right now a private prayer of our Congressman, is George Washington kneeling in prayer. We’ve all seen the paintings of Washington kneeling in prayer there at Valley Forge. There in the corner, you see Isaac Potts.

As the story goes, he walked upon George Washington, saw him praying. He was praying so fervently that Potts, who was a Tory against the war, goes home and tells his wife, “We’re on the wrong side. I’ve seeing that guy pray; and, when a guy prays like that, God is going to answer.

We’d better switch quick and get on the right side of this thing.”

I mean, this is guy prayed a lot for an atheist Founding Father; don’t you think? If people of faith today would pray as much as these supposed atheist Founding Fathers, we’d be up a whole lot better off. But see, our view of these guys–in fact, his adopted daughter, Nellie Custer said, “If you question the Christianity of George Washington,” she said, “you might as well be questioning his patriotism,” which no one would question his patriotism.

What Did They Take Out of the History Books?

But, she said that there was no doubt about the man’s faith. See, today we leave all of that out when we talk about Washington. You look at these books, like this one here about don’t know much about history.

Here’s Patrick Henry’s speech on March 23, 1775, that famous “Give me liberty or give me death” speech. Well, when you read it in this book, see that ellipse right there? They’ve cut out something; I wonder what they took out of the speech.

Guess what they took out. “Forbid it Almighty God,” ooh, we wouldn’t want kids to read that. Well, they might be offended.

You take a look at the Mayflower Compact; here’s your Mayflower Compact. Wonder what that ellipse–what they we’ve cut out right there. Any idea?

Guess what we cut out. “Having undertaken for the glory of God {advancement} of the Christian faith.” Oh, we couldn’t say that now.

If we let anybody know that that’s what the Mayflower Compact was about, that would mess up the view that all the people that came here were just greedy capitalists trying to abuse everybody and steal it. See, it changes our view if we can lose part of the history. You can twist the history.

Maxims of George Washington

How about the Maxims of George Washington? This was widely read. I mean, look at all these printings from 1832 to 1855.

Back then, this was the generation that knew George Washington. So, in the Maxims of George Washington, they added all these comments from all these people that knew him. Consequently, you had first-hand witnesses of the kind of things that Washington did.

“He was a firm believer in the Christian religion. He was a sincere believer in the Christian faith. The general was a Christian,” that was Judge Boudinot, Elias Boudinot.

“Nor ashamed of his Christian faith.” “He was a professor of Christianity,” “a Christian in faith and practice.”

These were all the people that knew him. Now fast forward to today. Same book, Maxims of George Washington,  but in the 1987 edition of the book, you don’t get any of that.

All of that has been redacted from the book. And instead, you get this one summary that says, “A product of the Enlightenment, Washington’s terms for God included ‘Divine Author of our blessed religion, Divine Providence, and the Almighty Being who rules over the universe. Like many Deists, Washington viewed the Supreme Being as an overseer and protector of all.”

So, now they’ve taken him from what his friends and the people close to him said was a Christian belief system, to just a Deistic belief system, which I’ll take the Deistic belief system at this point because everybody today is trying to say that they were atheist that didn’t believe in God at all or want God in the system

But, in reality, he was a Christian. He was an outspoken Christian; there was no question about it. But, when we lose it from the history books, we lose our view of these guys.

Abraham Baldwin

How about that fellow right there? That’s Abraham Baldwin. He was from the delegation from Georgia. He was actually the founder of the University of Georgia and sat in this room to participate in those debates that helped to give us our Constitution.

Abraham Baldwin was a chaplain in the Revolutionary War for seven years. We couldn’t find any people of faith to be our chaplain; so, we got one of these atheists from the Constitutional Convention to do that for us. He was also offered a professorship of divinity at Yale when he’s only 23 years old. I’m sure we have lots of atheist professors of divinity at Yale today; but, I don’t think there were any in 1776 or 1787.

The American Bible Society

Here we have Rufus King. He’s an original manager of the American Bible Society. Now, what is the American Bible Society? Well, I happen to have on loan an original copy of the Constitution of the American Bible Society.

Do you know who came together to form the American Bob’s society? A bunch of these guys right here in this room. In fact, John Langdon and Charles Cotesworth Pinckney were also founders of the American Bible Society.

Elias Boudinot was a founder of the American Bible Society. If you go through this constitution and see what these guys are wanting to do–by the way, what’s the purpose of a Bible Society? AUDIENCE MEMBER:

Teach the Bible.

RICK:

Yes, to spread the Word of God, distribute Bibles, right? So, these guys are very much into getting the Bible in as many hands as possible. Founder after Founder involved in Bible societies for the purpose of–now, why?

Because they knew that society acts differently if they understand their freedom comes from God and they have a responsibility to God, versus if we just give it to each other and we’re just animals who can do anything that we want. It creates a totally different culture and society. And, they wanted a society that acknowledged that faith.

Constitution Alive!

Have you ever wanted to learn more about the United States Constitution but just felt like, man, the classes are boring or it’s just that old language from 200 years ago or I don’t know where to start? People want to know. But, it gets frustrating because you don’t know where to look for truth about the Constitution either.

Well, we’ve got a special program for you available now called Constitution Alive! with David Barton and Rick Green. It’s actually a teaching done on the Constitution at Independence Hall in the very room where the Constitution was framed. We take you both to Philadelphia, the Cradle of Liberty and Independence Hall and to the WallBuilders’ library where David Barton brings the history to life to teach the original intent of our Founding Fathers.

We call it the QuickStart guide to the Constitution because in just a few hours through these videos you will learn the Citizen’s Guide to America’s Constitution.  You’ll learn what you need to do to help save our Constitutional Republic. It’s fun! It’s entertaining! And, it’s going to inspire you to do your part to preserve freedom for future generations. It’s called Constitution Alive with David Barton and Rick Green. You can find out more information on our website now at WallBuilders.com.

Preaching at a Public Graduation

RICK:

William Samuel Johnson, another guy from this room right here, was also president of Colombia. I love this speech that he gave at a public school graduation.He said, “You this day have received a public education.

“The purpose whereof has been to qualify you the better to serve your Creator and your country. Your first great duties are sensible: those you owe to heaven, to your Redeemer, in Whom we live, move and have our being.” Wait a minute.

William Samuel Johnson is preaching out of Acts? Do you recognize the verse right there? Wait; a Founding father that gave us the Constitution is–

Our Supreme Court today would say, “Mr. Johnson, that’s a nice speech you got there; but, you can’t do that because of the Constitution. Oh, wait that’s your name there on the Constitution. I guess maybe we should rethink this thing.

“If you’re doing it, then maybe it’s okay because you helped to give us the Constitution.”

How about James McHenry, also one of our framers. He founded the Maryland Bible Society, another one kind of like the American Bible Society, now known as the Baltimore Bible Society.

Gouverneur Morris, I mean.

Gouverneur Morris

This guy Gouverneur Morris was the most influential man on the Constitution. He spoke a 173 times. So, of all the guys in here, throughout the entire debate, Morris gets up to speak more than anybody else.

So, here he is from Pennsylvania, this group right here with Ben Franklin. Just imagine rising from that chair over and over again to take the floor, influence, debate, discuss, and weigh in on the Constitution more than anybody. Morris is the guy that wrote the preamble entirely by himself.

So, everything Cameron recited for you last night, he wrote that all by himself. Then, he’s the guy with the committee that actually puts all the wording in the Constitution. So, we call him the “Penman of the Constitution.”

Here’s this guy who is so influential on the Constitution. Surely his view of, for instance, education and religion, would be to constitutionally keep those far apart. No.

Here’s what he said, “Religion is the only solid basis of good morals. Therefore, education should teach the precepts of religion and the duties of man towards God.” He’s saying that education and religion you keep together, side by side, if you want a good society, a good culture; you don’t separate then.

The Northwest Ordinance

Now, our Supreme Court says that you’ve got to keep education and religion as far apart as possible because of the Constitution that this guy gave us, Governor Morrison. More than anybody, he’s saying education–so, I’m just wondering if he’s {helped write} the same Constitution that these guys in the Supreme Court are talking about when they want to separate. In fact, think about the Northwest Ordinance.

Somebody was asking me about it on the break. I mean, passed before we have a Constitution and again when we have a Constitution just to make sure. And, it said that you’re gonna have public schools whenever you have a new state join the Union; and, those public schools will teach religion, morality, and knowledge.

Interesting that they said religion first, then morality, then knowledge. Why? Because knowledge on its own without the buffer of morality and religion is actually a bad thing, because it’s dangerous. There’s no limit to what you do with it.

If you want liberty, they said that you’ve got to have morality. If you want morality, you’ve got to have religion. It wasn’t a bad thing, it was a positive influence on the culture; and, that’s what these guys believed.

James Wilson

James Wilson also from Pennsylvania sat with this group. He’s the second most active member who spoke 168 times. What is it with these guys from Pennsylvania? They must’ve liked to talk.

Anyway, Wilson not only was here for the Constitution, he was also here for the Declaration. So, he’s one of those six that signed both documents. And, he’s an original Supreme Court justice.

You talk about an important Founding Father. He gave us the Declaration, the Constitution, served on the original Supreme Court. I mean, this guy was important and he understood the role of faith in our culture and in the law.

He said, “Human law must rest its authority ultimately upon that law which is Divine. Far from being rivals or enemies, religion and law are twin sisters, friends, mutual assistance. Indeed, these two sciences run into each other,” meaning they’re like a couple of oxen pulling together to give us a good culture and a good society.

Constitution Alive!: What Does Freedom Of Religion Really Mean?

This expert that sat right here said that our city council’s laws, our legislative laws, our congressional–that our human law should be based on the higher law. They didn’t want to separate the two. It’s not that we want the two institutions to be one; but, we do allow for the faith that we get from our religion to influence our decisions as we operate in the government sphere and culture. It means we don’t have to check it out the door.

It doesn’t mean that I’m of a particular denomination and am going to be able to force you to buy into my doctrines. That’s not what they’re talking about at all.

RICK {In Studio}:

We are out of time for today, folks. We will finish up this Constitution Alive! section tomorrow here on WallBuilders Live! If you joined us in the middle of the program, be sure and visit WallBuildersLive.com.

Click on that archived section, and you can get yesterday’s program so that you’ll be all caught up. Then, you can join us for the conclusion tomorrow.

Thanks for listening to WallBuilders Live!