A letter writer to USA TODAY takes exception to the use of religion in evaluating politicians. He argued that our founders got it right by “separating church and state.” Anyone familiar with our nation’s founding and its documents would know that “separating church and state” was not an issue. Church and state were separate, and there isn’t a Christian today who would want it any other way. The Bible itself separates church and state.1
A quick reading of the First Amendment will show that the states did not want the Federal Government interfering with their right to deal with religious issues. That’s why the First Amendment begins with “Congress shall make no law. . .” and not “church and state should be separate.”
The same letter writer argues that if religion was part of the political mix “the faithful would constantly be fighting over the ‘proper’ interpretation of the Bible, and using those arguments in political discourse.” This is true of every worldview. In fact, it’s true of the Constitution itself. The Obama Administration says the commerce clause supports an individual health mandate and the majority of Republicans say it does not. Pick any subject and you’ll find people taking sides based on what each side says is “the ‘proper’ interpretation.”
Our founders didn’t see the “‘proper’ interpretation” issue to be a problem, and they had no difficulty referencing God in their official documents. From the Mayflower Compact and Massachusetts Bay to the first prayer in Congress and the use of the designation “In the year of our Lord” in closing the Constitution and fixing its date of composition was fundamental to America’s founding. For example, the 50 state constitutions mention God using various designations such as “Supreme Ruler of the Universe,” “Creator,” “God,” “Divine Goodness,” “Divine Guidance,” “Supreme Being,” “Lord,” “Sovereign Ruler of the Universe,” “Legislator of the Universe,” with “Almighty God” as the most common biblical phrase (Gen. 17:1; 28:3; 35:11; 43:14; 48:3; etc.).
It is unhistorical to read history any other way. A person can disagree with the way religion was brought into the political sphere, but he can’t argue that it wasn’t done and done repeatedly. The pendulum has swung so far the other way that any mention of religion in the context of politics is considered to be unconstitutional and damaging to the body politic, unless, of course, you’re a liberal trying to support a pet project that has no constitutional authority. Then religion becomes a most necessary addition to political discourse.
Some will argue, like our intrepid letter writer that we would be better off getting rid of religion all together or at least to make it a private matter only. If this is every done, then the State is left with no limiting authority. Then the State moves from being a governor to a god. Religion, at least in terms of what the Bible teaches, limits the power of the State. That’s what secularists despise about mixing religion and politics.