Freedom From Religion and the US Constitution?

Who can show me in the US Constitution where one can find “freedom from religion”.

You won’t be able to. It’s also not found in Jefferson’s famous letter to the Danbury Baptist Association. 

The reason you won’t find it is because 100% of humanity is religious. 

You see- whether someone espouses Christianity, Buddhism, Islam, Judaism, Shintoism, Animism, or any other named religious system, or claim to be an Atheist or simply  “non-religious”, you are still practicing a religion. 

Yes, Atheism is a religion. You just elevate yourself as your own personal god in the place of the Creator.  The god of Atheists – is themselves, but make no mistake – it is still a religion.  This religion even has a name – Secular Humanism, a subject that is taught in schools.

Religion is best defined as a system of beliefs that direct or influence your life. Those who claim to be Atheists, simply (think they) direct their own lives by their own personal values and desires. But self-worship is still a religion. 

1st Amendment:

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…”

Of course, when one actually studies the context of the writing of said Amendment, reads Jefferson’s above-mentioned letter as well much of the remaining bulk of the writings and statements of the authors of the Constitution, we find that there was an expectation of some kind of religious affection, not only in our government but that a moral society, based on the values espoused by the “Christian religion” was the foundation the unique document was built on.

Where all the “founding fathers” Christain?  Not even if you. were to stretch the label even beyond modern over-use. But almost all recognized a God (many were indeed Deists), and almost all were educated in what would be considered bible schools or seminaries today.

The first government-funded school textbooks in the Americas?  They used Bible texts for reading and study. Every session of the US Congress began for well over a century with a Christian sermon delivered by a Christian preacher and included Christian prayer. All of this raised no opposition, even from the Deists among the delegates.

The real “wall of separation” that Thomas Jefferson eluded to in his letter was one that was to prevent the totalitarian single church-states that the early settlers had often fled from. It was not viewed, when the Constitution was penned, as freedom FROM religion, but explicitly was to prevent a single, national religion (such as Catholicism, Lutheranism, Anglican, etc.), and the often oppressive Theocracies those represented. And it is in the full set of letters exchanged between Jefferson and those Danbury Baptists that actually help us to understand this. You see, the Baptists in Connecticut were being oppressed and shut out of having any voice in the state government. The government of Connecticut was completely dominated by Congregationalists. Even Jefferson, as President, didn’t seek to remove Christianity (much less all religions) from the public square, or even from the influence of Christianity ON the government.

Indeed, the removal and avoidance of all religious connections and influence on our government is a relatively recent movement, that is more often than not, exercised almost exclusively on Christianity. In fact, there is a growth in teaching many world religions and even training public school students to memorize and recite Islamic prayers and to practice other religious rituals as a form of teaching “diversity”.

Responsibility, Decisions, Accountability, and Politics

I have made plenty of mistakes in my life, from economic to moral, from spiritual to physical. When I was a child, my parents tried to be selective in when and how they would “bail me out” of the consequences of my errors, all with the intent of guiding me to learn from my mistakes.

When I graduated high school, I was able to secure a band scholarship to the University of Central Arkansas, but I had to find funding for the rest of the expenses – from room and board, to books and additional fees. I was able to secure the old “PELL Grant” most years, but had to fill the gap with fairly sizable loans from a private fund for most semesters, and even a Federal Guaranteed Student Loan for a few semesters to make ends meet.

When I finally finished my extended undergraduate time and received my degree, I quickly learned that education loans, whether Government guaranteed, or privately-funded, remain one’s responsibility no matter your economic situation. They just don’t go away. It took several years on the relatively low income of a public school teacher to finally get those debts paid off. I often looked back at my fellow students who chose to work many long hours to pay for their education instead of taking out loans and thinking “that was what I should have done”. But at no point did I ask for or demand anyone else pay off my student loans for me. They were my responsibility.

Since then, I have been in several areas of work and ministry that have truly opened my eyes to how our national mentality has shifted from personal responsibility. Just listen for a minute to many candidates for the 2020 Presidential election who are promising to “wipe out” student debt. We hear cries of those being “crushed” under the weight of 6-figure debt for relief. But we hardly hear a peep about the fact that they all voluntarily entered in to said debt. We don’t see much published about the worthless diplomas being “earned” at such high cost.

But is this really so out-of-character for our culture?

Absolutely not! Every day, it seems we see yet another demand for something to be an entitled “right” – unlimited health care (at no cost to them), handouts, panhandling by people making more than the average employee – it really is startling if you take an honest look. I cannot find the article now, as it’s been several years ago, but a local media outlet did a bit of actual journalism and found a panhandler who admitted to taking in an average of $1,500 per week simply standing on a corner with a sign asking for money. Pretty lucrative when you consider there are no taxes being paid on that!

Have you ever taken someone grocery shopping who came looking for food help, only to get to the store and they don’t want any staples and components that would stretch the dollars available? Frozen meals, name-brand products, etc. And it all has to be “heat-and-eat”.

I must admit that I have become a bit jaded when it comes to people asking for help. If you come to me asking for $10 for gasoline – and you have a lit cigarette in your mouth and a pack of cigs in the car seat – I see gas money being smoked up. If you come asking for diapers or baby food because your kids are hungry – but I see beer cans and lottery tickets on your floorboard – it is you who deprived your child of those needs via your priorities.

A tough lesson in grace…

I say all of this precisely because I have allowed myself to grow jaded, pessimistic even, when it comes to those who come asking for help. How does one balance demonstrating grace while at the same time trying to not enable and encourage abuse and ongoing defective decision making and priorities? Grace.

This is why the church I pastor sponsors what we call a Micro Food Pantry we call “God’s Kitchen”. It is a box set up outside one of our doors that is “self-serve” with the mantra “take what you need, leave what you can”. No questions are asked. No criteria or paperwork necessary. If you take from it, that is between you and God.

At the same time, we really should look at the biblical example. We can rightly look at Jesus command to care for the widows, feed the hungry, give water to those who thirst, clothe the naked, etc., but we must balance that with the Old Testament warning about those who do not work (do not eat!), as well as the “filter” given in the New Testament regarding those like widows who have other means of support (like family). And from a moral persepectiv, if you have the means or are physically able and choose to take take handouts (or even demand them), you are taking resources from those who do not have the means or ability ot help themselves.

When we have means to discern real need – exercise it diligently. When we do not have such ability, then exercise grace. Be sensitive to the leadership of the Holy Spirit. And remember – it is still about personal accountability. If they take from you but don’t really need it or are abusing it – that will ultimately be between them and the LORD, if you are simply being faithful.

Don’t expect or demand that the government/taxpayers bail you out of holes you dig for yourself. Step up, make sacrifices, and take ownership of your situation. Stop digging holes you can never fill in. Get the help you REALLY need (and it might very well begin not with economic help, but spiritual help!). Find someone to help hold you accountable.

And if you really need help – don’t be afraid to ask for it – but with the request, commit to making the changes necessary to fix the problem at hand by making the changes in priority, habits, patterns, and decision making necessary.