The Constitutional Principle: Separation of Church and State
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A Simple Test

I always love to run into those people who love to try and sell the idea that church-state separation is a myth, it was invented by the (take your pick: liberals, activist judges, United States Supreme Court, all the previous, atheists, and so on) in the (take your pick: 1940s, 1950s, 1960s), or those people that like to try to sell the idea that the founders didn't intend unions between church and state to be broken.

By Jim Allison


PART I

  1. There is a vast amount of documented historical and legal data that supports a desire on the part of some founders and many Americans of that period as well as Americans who came later wanting religious freedom, as in the type of religious freedom that strict separation of church and state can provide.

  2. There is a good deal of documented historical and legal data that supports that a desire existed on the part of some founders and some of the American people of that period, and later periods, for a status quo with regards to church and state, That is, for keeping those establishments, unions and alliances between church and state maintained near as or as strong as they existed prior to and at the founding of this nation supporting some denominations of Protestant Christianity.

  3. There are a good deal of historical documents and historical evidence that supports a desire on the part of some founders and some of the American people, then and later for a status quo with regards to church and state, i.e. some unions between church and state in general to be maintained.

  4. There are documented historical and legal data that show some Americans of the founding era and many who came later didn't involve themselves a great deal in thoughts about church and state, in short were a bit indifferent to strict separation and/or accommodation of religion.

There is a short cut to all of this, and that short cut is to acknowledge certain facts:

  1. From the very beginning, first on the state level, then the national level there were two major camps with regards to church-state unions.

  2. Those two groups have been fighting over this issue from 1776 and are still fighting over this issue and will continue fighting over this issue for a long time to come, probably.

  3. That church-state separation, religious freedom for all, i.e. breaking of unions between church and state, leveling the playing field between all religions, and non religion as well, is a process that takes time. What the progressive founders began, untold millions yet to be born would have to continue on and finally complete. Those progressive founders gave directions and pointed in the way to go.

  4. What does history show us about the outcome of this struggle so far? It shows us that while there have been setbacks, while they have lost some battles, overall, the progressives have been winning the war.

  5. Want proof? You can find that proof by doing comparisons. Read over copies of the original colonial charters for the various colonies. Compare those with the original state Constitutions. Note changes with regards to unions between church and state. Next compare the original state constitutions to state constitutions every 50 to 70 years from then to now. Note differences with regards to church-state unions.


State Constitutions began breaking church-state unions with the very first attempts at constitution making in 1776. "Began" indicates just that, the start of a process. That is precisely what many of the states did with their first constitutions, they began the process. Many were slower than others in this process but the process did begin with the first state constitutions.

The appropriate portions of those early efforts are available at The Original Thirteen States: Introduction (Original and Early State Constitutions)

By the mid 1800s some state courts had begun to rule daily prayers in schools and daily bible reading to be unconstitutional.

Church-state separation was and is a process, a process that continues even today.

The words of the religious test ban and the words of the religious clauses of the 1st Amendment did not automatically break any and all church-state unions. But it began the process that has led to the vast majority of church-state alliances and unions being eliminated.

That process will continue, probably for a very long time yet.

In addition, after 1791, States began to adopt wording similar to contained in the Federal constitution when revising their state constitutions or, in the case of new States, when writing their original constitutions.

Read the Federal Constitution, compare it to the state constitutions of 1776, 1780, 1790, 1800, 1850, etc. Note how those state constitutions became more and more like the federal.

Next, compare court cases on the state and federal level with regards to church-state issues as those cases changed from 1790 to 2002. An in-depth cross section of those cases from 1790 to 1920 is available on this website here and here.

What does all this mean? All those unions between church and state that existed from 1620 to 1776, but didn't exist after 1776. All those unions that still existed from 1776 to 1880; but didn't exist anymore after 1880. All those unions between church and state that still existed from 1880 to 1940, but not after 1940. All those unions between church and state that still existed from 1940 to 2000 but not today didn't happen by accident.

They happened because Americans, those in power and those not in power, religious and non-religious alike wanted it to happen.

This took place because Americans wanted those unions broken. Americans from all walks of life, across the entire political spectrum, religious and non religious. Oh, yes, to be sure, there were Americans that didn't and there still are Americans that don't want those unions broken, but the facts show that while they have made noise, won some battles they have been on the losing side of this struggle overall.


PART II

A very short version of all the above is: There is historical evidence to support the position of those who advocate strict separation. There is historical evidence that supports those who advocate accommodation of religion and there is historical evidence that is totally indifferent to both positions.

However, the facts are not so indifferent. All one needs to do is do a simple examination of the original colonial charters and the very first state constitutions and compare them to the present US Constitution and the current state constitutions to see what the intent of those founders who carried the day and the vast majority of the American people has been for the past 200+ years. You can make it even more fun by comparing those state constitutions beginning in 1776 to today in steps of say every 20 years, or 40 years, or 60 years and watch how they change with regards to church-state.

You can do the same thing with court cases, state and federal court cases, beginning in, oh say, 1790 to today. Once more, do it is steps. Watch how from founding of our constitutional form of government, it has evolved, with regards to church-state jurisprudence, generation after generation. Watch the process of strict separation grow.

We could not have traveled from the point of those original colonial charters and state constitutions to where we are today (almost all of the unions between church and state broken) without the express approval and co-operation of the vast majority of Americans, both those in and those out of government, law, etc.

It is precisely because of this fact that I can say the position our web site takes is the correct position. it reflects the events as they were happening and it reflects the ultimate results of those events.

So here:

I submit that the "right" of it was and is a separation of church (religion) and state (government) as well as a separation of state (government) and church (religion). That the founders started a process with in 1776 with the beginning of the framing of state constitutions, revisions of same and the framing of a secular national or federal constitution.

Now for this simple test.

You will see with your own eyes the evolution from many and various unions between church and state to less and less unions. From extreme unions between government and religion to a more and more complete and strict separation of church and state. That wasn't by accident.

The process isn't done, and probably won't be done for a long time yet. But it sure has come a long way as this test will show you. There have been times in the history of that process when that evolution slowed down, even a few times it was stopped or even reversed for brief period of time, but ultimately it began again and continued on. While it is being battered and bruised right now, it will recover and move on again in time.

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