The Wall of Separation

Inventor Spin
Dominion Founding Fathers
Lost Liberty Madalyn Murray O'Hair
Encroachment Breach the Wall
Looming Threats


Who invented separation of church and state? Jesus of Nazareth, who said:

  • “Then the Pharisees went and plotted how they might entangle Him in His talk. And they sent to Him their disciples with the Herodians, saying, 'Teacher, we know that You are true, and teach the way of God in truth; nor do You care about anyone, for You do not regard the person of men. Tell us, therefore, what do You think? Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?'
    But Jesus perceived their wickedness, and said, 'Why do you test Me, you hypocrites? Show Me the tax money.'
    So they brought Him a denarius.
    And He said to them, 'Whose image and inscription is this?'
    They said to Him, 'Caesar’s.'
    And He said to them, 'Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.' When they had heard these words, they marveled, and left Him and went their way.”
  • (Matthew 22:15-22).

  • “Then they sent to Him some of the Pharisees and the Herodians, to catch Him in His words. When they had come, they said to Him, 'Teacher, we know that You are true, and care about no one; for You do not regard the person of men, but teach the way of God in truth. Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not? Shall we pay, or shall we not pay?'
    But He, knowing their hypocrisy, said to them, 'Why do you test Me? Bring Me a denarius that I may see it.' So they brought it.
    And He said to them, 'Whose image and inscription is this?' They said to Him, 'Caesar’s.'
    And Jesus answered and said to them, 'Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.'
    And they marveled at Him.”
  • (Mark 12:13-17).

  • “Then they asked Him, saying, 'Teacher, we know that You say and teach rightly, and You do not show personal favoritism, but teach the way of God in truth: Is it lawful for us to pay taxes to Caesar or not?'
    But He perceived their craftiness, and said to them, 'Why do you test Me? Show Me a denarius. Whose image and inscription does it have?'
    They answered and said, 'Caesar’s.'
    And He said to them, 'Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.'
    But they could not catch Him in His words in the presence of the people. And they marveled at His answer and kept silent.”
  • (Luke 20:21-26).

The sphere of 'what belongs to Caesar' and 'what belongs to God' do not coincide. This has not stopped Caesar from persistently climbing up his side of the wall and grabbing things from the other side that do not belong to him. Caesar has no competence to decide religious truth or shepherd his people into heaven. Princes have upheld, and imposed upon their long-suffering people, almost every religious error that human folly has imagined, from paganism to Islam. When they teach their people the way to God, they are usurpers. Caesar rashly and illegitimately interposes himself where no interposition is possible, between the believer and the throne of grace.

Pantocrator, Macedonia

Roger Williams introduced this phrase to American political discourse, saying,

"[T]he faithful labors of many witnesses of Jesus Christ, extant to the world, abundantly proving, that the Church of the Jews under the Old Testament in the type, and the Church of the Christians under the New Testament in the Antitype, were both separate from the world: and that when they have opened a gap in the hedge or wall of separation between the garden of the church and the wilderness of the world, God hath ever broke down the wall itself, removed the Candlestick, etc., and made His Garden a wilderness as it is this day. And that therefore if He will ever please to restore His garden and Paradise again, it must of necessity be walled in peculiarly unto Himself from the world, and all that be saved out of the world are to be transplanted out of the wilderness of the World. ("Mr. Cotton's Letter Lately Printed, Examined and Answered," The Complete Writings of Roger Williams, Volume 1, page 108 (1644))

Biblical references to this wall include, "A garden enclosed is my sister, my spouse; a spring shut up, a fountain sealed." (Song of Solomon 4:12), and "Now will I sing to my well-beloved a song of my beloved touching his vineyard. My well-beloved hath a vineyard in a very fruitful hill: And he fenced it, and gathered out the stones thereof, and planted it with the choicest vine, and built a tower in the midst of it, and also made a winepress therein: and he looked that it should bring forth grapes, and it brought forth wild grapes. . .And now go to; I will tell you what I will do to my vineyard: I will take away the hedge thereof, and it shall be eaten up; and break down the wall thereof, and it shall be trodden down: and I will lay it waste: it shall not be pruned, nor digged; but there shall come up briers and thorns: I will also command the clouds that they rain no rain upon it." (Isaiah 5:1-6). This fence, hedge or wall separates the congregation from the world. Breaking down the wall is God's curse, His judgment against the under-performing vineyard, not His benevolent will. The church and the state are not one and the same crowd, differently arrayed, one group in their work-day clothes and the other sporting their Sunday best, although some confused writers considered the church of England as no more than the populace of England at prayer. Though intermingled, one cannot escape the reality that there is not one body politic eternally compacted together, but two distinct lines gathered to board buses headed for different destinations, one group surging onto the express to Hell and the other picking their way through the narrow gate toward the Heaven-bound special. They are to be kept separate because God has so ordained, their promiscuous intermingling is pernicious, not desirable.

The Danbury Baptists wrote to Thomas Jefferson, expressing concern about inadequate protection for their religious liberty: "Our sentiments are uniformly on the side of religious liberty—that religion is at all times and places a matter between God and individuals—that no man ought to suffer in name, person, or effects on account of his religious opinions—that the legitimate power of civil government extends no further than to punish the man who works ill to his neighbors. . ." They based their reasoning on secular government's lack of authority over God's kingdom: "'It is not to be wondered at therefore, if those who seek after power and gain, under the pretense of government and religion, should reproach their fellow men, [or] should reproach their Chief Magistrate, as an enemy of religion, law, and good order, because he will not, dares not, assume the prerogative of Jehovah and make laws to govern the Kingdom of Christ."' (Letter of the Danbury Baptists, quoted on p. 51, Getting Jefferson Right: Fact Checking Claims about our Third President, Warren Throckmorton and Michael Coulter). In his reply, Jefferson used Williams' phrase:

"Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between man & his god, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, and not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, thus building a wall of separation between church and state."

"Thomas Jefferson
Jan. 1. 1802. (Letter to Danbury Baptists, U.S. Constitution Online).

Jefferson himself was a Unitarian:

Three of Six The Problem
Sister Heresy Then and Now
The Face of God Church Government
All Paths He Says
Mary in the Koran Post-Modernism
David Barton Et Tu
Desire of Nations Restoration

It is easy enough for members of religious minorities like the unitarian Jefferson or the Quakers or the Baptists to see the virtue in disestablishment, because a simple head-count will reveal that, whoever gets their hands on the public purse, it won't be them. The Anglicans and the Congregationalists had a shot at establishment, these smaller groups did not. But their numerical weakness freed them to see, and do, the right thing.

Persecution makes its victims eloquent in the defense of religious liberty, and always has: "For who is so arrogant, who so lifted up, as to forbid me to raise my eyes to heaven? Who can impose upon me the necessity either of worshipping that which I am unwilling to worship, or of abstaining from the worship of that which I wish to worship? What further will now be left to us, if even this, which must be done of one’s own will, shall be extorted from me by the caprice of another?" (Lactantius, The Divine Institutes, Book 5, Chapter 14). The hard part is, continuing to take this viewpoint when in the majority. The very Communists defended free speech in twentieth century America, when no Communist nation on earth had any such thing. It is somewhat harsh though to tell a persecuted group, as was the early church, that they have no conception of religious liberty. They did.

According to the Bible, nothing can come between believers and their head:

  • "Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need."
  • (Hebrews 4:14-16).

The most godly thing the American republic ever did was to enshrine protection for this wall of separation in the U.S. Constitution:

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances." (Amendment 1, Bill of Rights).

Psalm 68:30

Back when the Baptists still believed in the Bible, their support for this principle was unquestioned:

"XVIII. Religious Liberty

"God alone is Lord of the conscience, and he has left it free from the doctrines and commandments of men which are contrary to his Word or not contained in it. Church and state should be separate. The state owes to the church protection and full freedom in the pursuit of its spiritual ends. In providing for such freedom no ecclesiastical group or denomination should be favored by the state more than others. Civil government being ordained of God, it is the duty of Christians to render loyal obedience thereto in all things not contrary to the revealed will of God. The church should not resort to the civil power to carry on its work. The gospel of Christ contemplates spiritual means alone for the pursuit of its ends. The state has no right to impose penalties for religious opinions of any kind. The state has no right to impose taxes for the support of any form of religion. A free church in a free state is the Christian ideal, and this implies the right of free and unhindered access to God on the part of all men, and the right to form and propagate opinions in the sphere of religion without interference by the civil power." (1925 Baptist Faith and Message).

  • "In civil states the power of the whole collective body is vested in a few hands, that they may with better advantage defend themselves against injuries from abroad, and correct abuses at home, for which end a few have a right to judge for the whole society; but in religion each one has an equal right to judge for himself; for we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done (not what any earthly representative hath done for him) 2 Cor. 5. 10. And we freely confess that we can find no more warrant from divine truth, for any people on earth to constitute any men their representatives, to make laws to impose religious taxes, than they have to appoint Peter or the Virgin Mary to represent them before the throne above."
  • (Isaac Backus, An Appeal to the Public for Religious Liberty).

Isaac Backus
 An Appeal to the Public 
for Religious Liberty

Danbury Baptists' Letter
to Thomas Jefferson

One of the most grotesque miscarriages of justice in history took place when the propagandists of the self-described 'Enlightenment' declared that Christianity had invented intolerance. In theory, perhaps, pagan polytheism should be tolerant, because you can always add another godling to the pantheon. In reality, however, pagans have always found it easy to burn and torture Christians and other monotheists:

"With the exodus of bishop Wulfilas and his company, Christianity had not died out in Gothland, and the pagan chiefs, especially one of the most prominent, named Athanaric, were intent upon killing it. It made them indignant to see men of their folk withholding sacrifices from the national gods, insulting the images, even burning the sacred groves. And so the blood of martyrs flowed in Dacia. A religious test was instituted. One feast days statues were carried round the wooden dwellings in every village, and whoever refused to worship was burned alive." (The Invasion of Europe by the Barbarians, J. B. Bury, Kindle location 509.)

Who taught religious intolerance to these European pagans? Certainly no Christian. Could it have been an atheist? In fact, they did not need to be taught. Given the history of Christian martyrdom, it is obscene blaming-the-victim to pretend they taught the world to do what never needed teaching.

Credit should be given where it is due and it should be understood that it was dissenting Christians who established this principle, not atheists, who have never understood nor practiced it when in power.


Not so very long ago, perceiving 'separation of church and state' as desirable was commonplace, and not just among Baptists:

"There is no question regarding our belief that the church and state (government) should be separate and distinct. Each is a unique entity, not to be consolidated. Our Lord Jesus Christ stated as much in Mark 12:17 when He said: 'Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's.'" (Charles R. Swindoll, Come before Winter, p. 209)

How then did Christian radio personalities succeed in convincing so many that atheist Madalyn Murray O'Hair invented the concept? Here is a typical modern anti-Constitutional screed:

"Second, the idea of the separation of church and state was a new idea in that age, held only by some atheistic philosophers and first put into practice only with the French Revolution." (United States: A Christian Republic, Rousas J. Rushdoony, Kindle location 39).

Atheist Sam Harris goes so far in the revision of history that he not only denies Christian non-conformists agitated for religious tolerance, he denies that any religious person can ever at any time encourage tolerance:

"Certainty about the next life is simply incompatible with tolerance in this one." (Sam Harris, 'The End of Faith,' p. 13).

  • "On and on was the struggle waged by our Baptist fathers for religious liberty in Virginia, in the Carolinas, in Georgia, in Rhode Island and Massachusetts and Connecticut, and elsewhere, with one unyielding contention for unrestricted religious liberty for all men, and with never one wavering note. They dared to be odd, to stand alone, to refuse to conform, though it cost them suffering and even life itself. . .They pleaded and suffered, they offered their protests and remonstrances and memorials, and, thank God, mighty statesmen were won to their contention. Washington and Jefferson and Madison and Patrick Henry, and many others, until at last it was written into our country's Constitution that church and state must in this land be forever separate and free, that neither must ever trespass upon the distinctive functions of the other. It was pre-eminently a Baptist achievement."
  • (George W. Truett, Baptists and Religious Liberty).

Fortunately, amid all this confusion, back-sliding and misrepresentation, some traditionalists still hold for the historic Baptist principle:

Baptist Joint Committee
for Religious Liberty

I have borrowed from this web-site the excellent address delivered by George W. Truett from the East steps of the National Capitol in 1920:

George W. Truett
Baptists and
 Religious Liberty 

It may be objected: why does history not testify to these principles, but to other, darker and more more tragic? Not because of following the Bible, but the contrary:


The late post-millenialist author Rousas J. Rushdoony simplified the political options available to God's people:

  • "Law is the will of the sovereign for his subjects. Thus Law represents the word of the God of the society. Now whose Law you have, He is your God. So if Washington makes our laws, Washington is our God. As Christians we cannot believe that. For centuries, God's law has functioned wherever God's people have been, whether in Israel or in Christendom. This is a new and modern thing that we turn to the state's law. One professor of law, the dean of a law school, told me that he found that even into the 1840s, courts in the United States, decided cases out of the Bible -- out of God's Word, out of His Law -- because He is God.

  • "Now we do not recognize God as God over the United States. The oath of office for the president of the United States used to be taken on an open Bible on Deuteronomy 28 invoking all the curses of God for disobedience to His law and all the blessings of God for obedience to his law. Now basically you can have two kinds of law: theonomy -- God's law, or autonomy -- self-law. That's what it boils down to and autonomy leads to anarchy, which is what we are getting increasingly."
  • (Rousas John Rushdoony, interview quoted at Forerunner website).

Unfortunately he has simplified the options beyond those taught by Jesus. His two choices: God's law-book or anarchy,-- are the same two options offered by Muslim fundamentalists:

The reader will have noted that Rushdoony omits the democratic option: law as the will of the sovereign people. Yet this option is neither unbiblical nor ungodly. God's law is not arbitrary nor mysterious; it can be understood:

"For you, brethren, have been called to liberty; only do not use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.'" (Galatians 5:13-14).
"Owe no one anything except to love one another, for he who loves another has fulfilled the law. For the commandments, 'You shall not commit adultery,' 'You shall not murder,' 'You shall not steal,' 'You shall not bear false witness,' 'You shall not covet,' and if there is any other commandment, are all summed up in this saying, namely, 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' Love does no harm to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law." (Romans 13:8-10).

Since Pentecost, God does not speak only through a few:

"But this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel: ‘And it shall come to pass in the last days, says God, that I will pour out of My Spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your young men shall see visions, your old men shall dream dreams. And on My menservants and on My maidservants I will pour out My Spirit in those days; and they shall prophesy." (Acts 2:16-18).

This author speaks favorably of rule by bishops, without noticing that in the early years of the church, bishops, including the bishop of Rome, were elected by the popular suffrage of clergy and laity:

  • "In the first place, therefore, I Peter say, that a bishop ordained is to be, as we have already, all of us, appointed, unblameable in all things, a select person, chosen by the whole people, who, when he is named and approved, let the people assemble, with the presbytery and bishops that are present, on the Lord’s day, and let them give their consent. And let the principal of the bishops ask the presbytery and people whether this be the person whom they desire for their ruler. And if they give their consent, let him ask further whether he has a good testimony from all men as to his worthiness for so great and glorious an authority; whether all things relating to his piety towards God be right; whether justice towards men has been observed by him; whether the affairs of his family have been well ordered by him; whether he has been unblameable in the course of his life. And if all the assembly together do according to truth, and not according to prejudice, witness that he is such a one, let them the third time, as before God the Judge, and Christ, the Holy Ghost being also present, as well as all the holy and ministering spirits, ask again whether he be truly worthy of this ministry, that so “in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.” And if they agree the third time that he is worthy, let them all be demanded their vote; and when they all give it willingly, let them be heard."
  • (Apostolic Constitutions, Book 8, Section 2, IV.).

If democracy is good enough for the church, as in the early years of the church it was, then it is plenty good enough for the world. Whoever speaks against the congregation's power to govern itself, may find himself speaking against God, should that congregation be filled with the Holy Spirit.

This author's harsh exclusion of the people's right to govern themselves does find Biblical precedent: "But this crowd that does not know the law is accursed." (John 7:49). What if it is those who think they know the law who are blind? Certainly if the people are lost, they will rush to their destruction; but this author's authoritarianism will not save them, it will only stamp out the last embers of the once bright hope of rule by the people.

The excommunicated Jew Benedict de Spinoza, though not normally a reliable guide in spiritual matters, hits the nail on the head in explaining why theocracy is not now a viable option: God has taken the proffer off the table:

"Although the commonwealth of the Hebrews, as we have conceived it, might have lasted for ever, it would be impossible to imitate it at the present day, nor would it be advisable so to do. If a people wished to transfer their rights to God it would be necessary to make an express covenant with Him, and for this would be needed not only the consent of those transferring their rights, but also the consent of God. God, however, has revealed through his Apostles that the covenant of God is no longer written in ink, or on tables of stone, but with the Spirit of God in the fleshy tables of the heart." (Benedict de Spinoza, Theologico-Political Treatise, Part IV, Chapter XVIII, 1-3).

Founding a theocracy is not a do-it-yourself project. Either God establishes a theocracy, or none is established. There is nothing in the Bible to suggest that any state which so desires can adopt the political blueprint of ancient Israel and become a theocracy of God's founding. If man so constituted the state, it's not a theocracy.

Rushdoony still has disciples in the world, including, some of the time, slavery apologist Douglas Wilson:


Rushdoony, a post-millenialist, never achieved the following of John Nelson Darby's dispensational system, which fires the 'Religious Right.' Unfortunately this latter system has shown an ungodly love of war: any war, even unlawful aggression against a sovereign nation. Is this Biblical?:


  • "Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets."
  • (Matthew 7:12).

  • "Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord:. . ."
  • (Hebrews 12:14).

  • "Depart from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it."
  • (Psalm 34:14).

Christians Against Bush

Founding Fathers

From whence came our democratic ideals? Our political institutions are modeled on ancient Greece and Rome. Yet these slave societies never articulated the ideal of human equality. How did this ideal come into the world? Friedrich Nietzsche identified the culprit as Christianity:

  • "That, as an 'immortal soul,' everybody is equal to everybody else, that in the totality of beings the 'salvation' of every single one is permitted to claim to be of everlasting is to this pitiable flattery of personal vanity that Christianity owes its victory -- it is with this that it has persuaded over to its side everything ill-constituted, rebellious-minded, under-privileged, all the dross and refuse of mankind. [...] The poison of the doctrine 'equal rights for all' -- this has been more thoroughly sowed by Christianity than by anything else; from the most secret recesses of base instincts, Christianity has waged a war to the death against every feeling of reverence and distance between man and man, against, that is, the precondition of every elevation, every increase in culture -- it has forged out of the ressentiment of the masses its chief weapon against us, against everything noble, joyful, high-spirited on earth, against our happiness on earth...'Immortality' granted to every Peter and Paul has been the greatest and most malicious outrage on noble mankind ever committed."
  • (Friedrich Nietzsche, 'The Anti-Christ,' 43).

When we turn to John Locke to discover the impulses underlying our republic, we learn that "many are beholden to revelation, who do not acknowledge it:"

"A great many things which we have been bred up in the belief of, from our cradles, (and are notions grown familiar, and, as it were, natural to us, under the gospel,) we take for unquestionable obvious truths, and easily demonstrable; without considering how long we might have been in doubt or ignorance of them, had revelation been silent. And many are beholden to revelation, who do not acknowledge it. It is no diminishing to revelation, that reason gives its suffrage too, to the truths revelation has discovered. But it is our mistake to think, that because reason confirms them to us, we had the first certain knowledge of them from thence; and in that clear evidence we now possess them. The contrary is manifest, in the defective morality of the gentiles, before our Saviour’s time; and the want of reformation in the principles and measures of it, as well as practice. . .To one who is once persuaded that Jesus Christ was sent by God to be a King, and a Saviour of those who do believe in him; all his commands become principles; there needs no other proof for the truth of what he says, but that he said it."
(John Locke, The Reasonableness of Christianity, As Delivered in the Scriptures).

This is still true today. Some people look at the American Revolution as if it were isolated in a glass vacuum bottle, forgetting that it is a 'second try:' the English people had already killed their king, under confessedly religious impulses. But he had been restored.

John Milton's 'Areopagitica' was a step on the path to free speech. It is still worthwhile for its realization that freedom is no threat to truth, only to error:

John Milton

Lost Liberty

The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution guarantees freedom of speech:

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."

We used to enjoy this liberty, but it has not survived the War on Terror. Terry Jones, who pastors a small, independent Pentecostal church in Gainesville, Florida, announced that he intended to burn the Koran as a protest on 9/11. This would normally be considered 'symbolic speech,' as when an anti-war protestor burns the American flag. The fire-bug speaker intends to communicate aversion, contempt, disdain and ill-will toward the object treated so disrespectfully. Arson can count as 'speech' under the U.S. Constitution; so says the Supreme Court:

"The First Amendment literally forbids the abridgment only of 'speech,' but we have long recognized that its protection does not end at the spoken or written word. . .In deciding whether particular conduct possesses sufficient communicative elements to bring the First Amendment into play, we have asked whether '[a]n intent to convey a particularized message was present, and [whether] the likelihood was great that the message would be understood by those who viewed it.'" (Texas vs. Johnson).

Who can doubt the Muslims would have "understood" Pastor Jones' message? That's the whole problem! The reaction of the U.S. Government to Pastor Jones' stated plan has made clear that our leaders no longer intend to protect our right to religious free speech. Whatever happened to the principle, 'I disagree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it?'

Speech need not be eloquent, thoughtful, interesting or persuasive to be protected by the First Amendment. An obscenity scrawled across a T-shirt may be constitutionally protected speech. The right to free speech is a right enjoyed by all human persons by virtue of their creation; even the morons who wear T-shirts with obscenities scrawled across them enjoy this right. You do not have to be smart, articulate or creative to find shelter under the protection of the U.S. Constitution. The principle of free speech was stated by Justices Douglas and Black in dissent on Roth v. United States: "Government should be concerned with antisocial conduct, not with utterances."

Had Pastor Jones possessed more rhetorical skill, he might have thought up a demonstration more persuasive than burning a book, which reminds people of the Nazis. What did the Nazis ever contribute to the store of the world's literature? Their habit of incinerating others' works only showed their own impotence. Consequently people associate book-burning with the spread of darkness and the extinguishing of light. Book-burners are like the Vandals who swept across North Africa at the twilight of the classical world, destroying but never creating. Or are they always? Practitioners of magic burnt their books when they converted to Christianity: "Many of them also which used curious arts brought their books together, and burned them before all men: and they counted the price of them, and found it fifty thousand pieces of silver." (Acts 19:19). The Talmud recommends burning books such as the New Testament: "It was stated in the text: The blank spaces and the Books of the Minim, we may not save them from a fire. R. Jose said: On weekdays one must cut out the Divine Names which they contain, hide them, and burn the rest. R. Tarfon said: May I bury my son if I would not burn them together with their Divine Names if they came to my hand." (Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Shabbath 16a). The pious government of Saudi Arabia routinely confiscates and destroys Bibles unwary travellers carry into that county, Wahhabism's show-place (Fox News, 'Saudi Arabian Government Confiscates Non-Islamic Religious Items That Enter Country,' August 9, 2007).

German poet Heinrich Heine warned, "Those who begin by burning books will end by burning people." The Inquisition had done both. Why any speaker would voluntarily take upon himself so much negative baggage: the Nazis and the Inquisition,— is unclear, but it's also beside the point. Pastor Jones' proposed fiery negative review of the Koran posed no risk of putting that perennial best-seller out of print. It is not so simple as to say, only bad people burn books and thus the right so to do need not be defended. Though by his own admission he has not read the Koran and thus has nothing to contribute to the discussion, Pastor Jones nevertheless has an opinion which he has a God-given right to express. Books are not always and only good, they can also be evil, as 'Mein Kampf,' 'Protocols of the Elders of Zion,' and 'Atlas Shrugged;' to repudiate the content of such a book by burning it would be more impressive if accompanied by the ability to refute it, but even if unaccompanied, is still constitutionally protected free speech. Does the Koran fall in with such company or does it belong in a better category? Pastor Jones has an opinion, which the First Amendment allows him to share with the world.

When the United States sent troops into Afghanistan, the intent was not to offer these young people as hostages to Islamic extremists, so that if any private American citizen offends in any way the sensibilities of the Taliban, the threat to harm our hostages will be available at-the-ready to rein in the potential offender. Rather, they were intended to transform Afghanistan. As a Taliban-run, Islamist state, it had willingly harbored the terrorists who attacked America on 9/11. In self-defense, the U.S. proposed to change the regime and inaugurate freedom and civilization in this dark, benighted land. Certainly this was a kinder and gentler approach than carpet-bombing the place.

But sadly the Afghans turned out to have little use for liberty, certainly not religious liberty, and the U.S. commander, General David Petraeus, accordingly sought the lowest common denominator. Since Americanizing Afghanistan had failed, why not Talibanize America instead? They will not become like us, so we must become like them. Surely if we can refrain from offending them, they will not hurt us! Like the abused wife who curbs her tongue to avoid touching off her volatile husband, we must self-censor to avoid offending the mobs that gather on the Arab Street. These easily offended mobs are a fixture of the nightly TV news; when their delicate sensibilities are wounded, as they are by any hint of disagreement, they dance around like savages and burn the American flag. Since we cannot make them civilized people, then we will become dhimmis, and thus we will have peace. . .or so General Petraeus promises. But will we have peace? We will have subservience, that is certain, but peace can sometimes elude the grasp of those too eager to clutch, and too ready to give away what should be held and treasured.

Even though it is not customary for American generals to order private citizens about, drawing the line between which Constitutional rights we may exercise and which we may not, General Petraeus explained to Pastor Jones that he must not burn the Koran, or he would be responsible for the loss of American lives. The General has very little concept of individual rights, as he places very little value on individuals:

"But in this case, of course, it's one of those — issues where one person's exercise of freedom of expression jeopardizes the safety of tens of thousands of others — hundreds of thousands of others, probably, around the world. And could do — very significant damage to the image of the United States around the world, as well." (ABC Interview with General David Petraeus, September 14, 2010, ABC).

So that "one person's exercise of freedom of expression" is out of the question; the tens of thousands are simply worth more than he is, and they want safety, not freedom. I wonder how someone like General Petraeus can process the historic fact that the Founding Fathers of our country willingly jeopardized their own safety and that of hundreds of thousands of their compatriots to secure this right, now so lightly and carelessly abandoned.

This military genius, who re-discovered the very old strategy of buying peace by pushing large sums of money at one's adversaries, and used it to great effect in Iraq, has brought his magic to Afghanistan. We've given up any pretense that we can teach the Afghans to respect "one person's exercise of freedom of expression,"— and now we're not going to do that, either. In the face of the chilling effect of massive governmental pressure, Pastor Jones chickened out, as they had hoped. What is likely to come of this new 'don't make them angry' policy? Not peace and quiet, but ever-escalating demands to surrender more and more of the freedom which is our birth-right. At what point will we stop saying 'yes' to the generals and take a stand? When they burn Bibles? Oh, they've done that. When they forbid American soldiers who are Christians from practicing their religion? Oh, they've done that. When they start shutting down Christian web-sites, because Muslims are offended? They've shut down the Dove Center's site already.

The Muslim world is so weak militarily, so fragmented politically, and so backwards culturally, that thrusting the West into a posture of dhimmitude is not a goal they could hope to attain by main force. Many Muslims do not even want to achieve such a goal. But those who do don't have to rely on their own efforts, when General Petraeus is willing to do it for them. They can leverage General Petraeus' new, modern, army of hostages, whose slogan might well be 'Please don't hurt us,' willing to bear any burden, face any foe, and pay any exorbitant sum of protection money demanded of them, all while cheerfully surrendering the Constitutional rights of the folks back home.

Having abandoned the project of transforming Afghanistan into a land of liberty, General Petraeus has 'gone native' and now seeks to impose Taliban-type restrictions on the freedom of speech of Americans. Every success emboldens them: we have surrendered the right to burn the Koran, having earlier surrendered the right to draw funny pictures of Mohammed. In truth, most people don't feel the need to exercise those rights. Soon enough we will lose the right to say a critical word about Mohammed. Will we ever take a stand? And if somewhere we must, why not here? Our soldiers deserve better leadership, from men who remember what it is they are fighting for.


Update: This perplexed and waffling 'pastor' has finally made good on his plan, with the predictable result that innocent people have been murdered by savage mobs. Also predictably, some well-meaning but confused people have reasoned that, because these uncivilized hordes have again made clear their willingness to commit murder, we must surrender our liberties to them. Appeasement does not satisfy aggression, it only feeds and encourages the aggressors. General Petraeus has also, true to form, stomped once again upon the Establishment Clause, exclaiming: "We condemn, in particular, the action of an individual in the United States who recently burned the Holy Quran." (Obama Condemns Koran Burnings, as Afghanistan Protests Spread, by Bryan Hood, April 3, 2011, The Atlantic). It is not the business of the U.S. Government to "condemn" the religious perspectives of its citizens, having no competence to discern between truth and falsity in these matters.

Madalyn Murray O'Hair

This lady's contentious life and horrific death drew quite a lot of attention. What Madalyn wanted to see in the world was ultimately not compatible with the First Amendment: "In the same article Mother was quoted as saying, 'I want to be able to walk down any street in America and not see a cross or any other sign of religion.'" (William Murray, My Life Without God, p. 91). Where was she coming from?

Optimism End Game
School Prayer Problem of Evil
Atoms and the Void Thomas Jefferson
Workers' Paradise Colonel Robert G. Ingersoll
A Loving God Deity of the Sick
Hobgoblin of Little Minds Old Testament
Adolf Hitler Science and Religion

School prayer is the issue forever associated with Ms. O'Hair. Making the case in favor of voluntary public prayer for Christians suffers from hindrances not experienced by, say, Muslims. Jesus told us where and how to pray:

"And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly." (Matthew 6:5-6).

On its face, this seems more a discouragement that a command of corporate public prayer. Evangelical interpretation, as with similar instructions to rich individuals to transfer their wealth to the poor, too often revolves around reassurances that He didn't really mean it: "But Jesus' point was not about the proper location to pray; rather, it was about attitude. If the true worshipper found it necessary, he should find the most secluded, private place available to avoid the temptation to show off." (John MacArthur, Jr., Alone With God, p. 45). If His concern was not with "location," then it is odd He spoke of location rather than of other things. In a similar vein, they say the rich young ruler of Luke 18:18 was overly attached to his possessions, which he could have retained, correcting only his attitude, not his balance sheet. Nevertheless, there is plenty of corporate public prayer in the Book of Acts, and it is after all the church's business, not that of outside busy-bodies, to determine the role of voluntary public prayer in Christian life. Jesus did encourage agreement in prayer, "Again I say unto you, That if two of you shall agree on earth as touching any thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven. For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them." (Matthew 18:19-20). Such agreement is easier to achieve with vocal group prayer. Moreover He taught us to pray, 'Give us this day our daily bread,' not 'me' and 'my.' A better balance on this issue must be struck.

It will not do for outsiders, like the author of a recent Newsweek diatribe against Christianity, to loftily inform Christians they have misconstrued their own faith. Since this author demonstrably knows nothing about it,— he thinks the doctrine of the Trinity says that Jesus is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,— he has no standing to give instruction to anyone, no more than do the courts, prohibited under the First Amendment from telling Christians how to be Christians. Private, inaudible prayer, however, has never been outlawed and in the nature of things cannot be forbidden in school. If prayer is fundamentally private: "Prayer, giving, and fasting are private acts of worship, and therefore should be done privately. We should do them out of love for God, not because we crave the world's praise." (Charles Stanley, Handle With Prayer, p. 38),— then it can not fall within the purview of school administrators. It is reasonable, however, to ask that they set up no constitutionally impermissible road-blocks preventing those students from praying, either personally or corporately, who wish to do so.



Ancient Israel was constituted,— by God,— as a theocracy. Indeed, the only way such a polity can be established is by a direct act of God. Even under this system, the functions of church and state were kept apart under separate heads, Moses and Aaron. How did God respond when pious politicians, acting out of misguided zeal for His glory, took it upon themselves to perform functions not assigned to them? King Uzziah was guilty of one such act of excessive entanglement:

  • "But when he was strong, his heart was lifted up to his destruction: for he transgressed against the LORD his God, and went into the temple of the LORD to burn incense upon the altar of incense.
  • "And Azariah the priest went in after him, and with him fourscore priests of the LORD, that were valiant men:
  • "And they withstood Uzziah the king, and said unto him, It appertaineth not unto thee, Uzziah, to burn incense unto the LORD, but to the priests the sons of Aaron, that are consecrated to burn incense: go out of the sanctuary; for thou hast trespassed; neither shall it be for thine honour from the LORD God.
  • "Then Uzziah was wroth, and had a censer in his hand to burn incense: and while he was wroth with the priests, the leprosy even rose up in his forehead before the priests in the house of the LORD, from beside the incense altar.
  • "And Azariah the chief priest, and all the priests, looked upon him, and, behold, he was leprous in his forehead, and they thrust him out from thence; yea, himself hasted also to go out, because the LORD had smitten him.
  • "And Uzziah the king was a leper unto the day of his death, and dwelt in a several house, being a leper; for he was cut off from the house of the LORD: and Jotham his son was over the king’s house, judging the people of the land."
  • (2 Chronicles 26:16-21).

To judge from this example, God does not welcome nor reward encroachments by the state against the church. Some people respond enthusiastically to government-sponsored religious initiatives such as 'days of prayer,' but not because they ever read in the Bible that God responds enthusiastically to such things. Another instance involves a practice that grew up in Judah, evidently similar to the practice at Westminster Cathedral in England, of interring deceased kings beneath the pavement of the temple:

"In their setting of their threshold by my thresholds, and their post by my posts, and the wall between me and them, they have even defiled my holy name by their abominations that they have committed: wherefore I have consumed them in mine anger. Now let them put away their whoredom, and the carcasses of their kings, far from me, and I will dwell in the midst of them for ever." (Ezekiel 43:8-9).

Under the standards of the holiness code, death defiles, and the living God does not appreciate the companionship of deceased kings.

Julius Wellhausen, in his Prolegomena to the History of Israel, one of the silliest books ever written, offers up a triumphant proof that Moses' law is a post-exilic fabrication. He points out that the constitution of ancient Israel requires separation of church and state; the high priest, the titular head of the 'church' or assembly of the faithful, is not a political figure, while at the same time the ruler of the state lacks any dominion over religion:

"What now can be the meaning of this fact,— that he who is at the head of the worship, in this quality alone, and without any political attributes besides, or any share in the government, is at the same time at the head of the nation? What but that civil power has been withdrawn from the nation and is in the hands of foreigners; that Israel has now merely a spiritual and ecclesiastical existence? In the eyes of the Priestly Code Israel in point of fact is not a people, but a church; worldly affairs are far removed from it and are never touched by its laws; its life is spent in religious services. Here we are face to face with the church of the second temple, the Jewish hierocracy, in a form possible only under foreign domination."

(Julius Wellhausen. Prolegomena to the History of Israel (Kindle Locations 2844-2849).

Notice, please, that "only under foreign domination" would it be possible to establish a state in which the secular rulers exercised no control over religion! Not only has he proved Israel's law to be a fable, a late forgery, he has with the same master-stroke proved that the United States does not exist, or if it does, it is under the domination of Mexico. No doubt he would be pleased. It is certainly true that the nineteenth century German autocracy had no conception of any wall of separation, or of religious liberty for that matter, but it is not clear what that tells us about ancient Israel.

Breach the Wall

Efforts to breach the wall of separation protecting the church from state encroachment have been successful at times, most dramatically in the French Revolution. The government took over the churches, lock, stock and barrel, their real property, their revenues, everything, and made the clergy into paid functionaries of the state. And then it got weird. People started dancing, in those ornate cathedrals, now property of the state, in front of a living woman dressed up to personate 'Reason'. . .

Looming Threats

One of the biggest threats to freedom of religion looming on the horizon is Sam Harris, a man who wants the world to know that religious tolerance was all a big mistake:

"I hope to show that the very ideal of religious tolerance -- born of the notion that every human being should be free to believe whatever he wants about God -- is one of the principal forces driving us toward the abyss." (Sam Harris, 'The End of Faith,' p. 15).

This unwillingness to tolerate other viewpoints has not always been a part of atheism, but it is a very striking aspect of the 'New Atheism:'

"The sixth distinction of the New Atheism is the attack on toleration. The American experiment of freedom of expression is considered by many of the New Atheists to be simply too dangerous, because it legitimizes the kinds of belief systems that are dangerous, and it does not distinguish between safe and unsafe forms of religion. Thus Sam Harris, more pointedly than the others, says that the time has come to rid ourselves of religious toleration, for it is an experiment that has become too expensive." (R. Albert Mohler, Jr., Atheism Remix, p. 61).

Unfortunately many people today are unable to conceptualize religious toleration except under the premise of indifferentism: that is, no one nowadays bothers to persecute his neighbor, because no one really believes religious claims are true. It should be apparent that this is an Orwellian negation in the place of a definition, because their understanding of religious toleration is simply incompatible with the Christian faith or any other faith. What that means in practice, as it meant to the Bolsheviks, is that we must eliminate Christianity. . .in order to have religious tolerance! See:

  • “STEVEN PINKER: This speaks to the original question of why a lot of these beliefs persist. And I'm always puzzled how, if you take all of this literally as some profess to do, that it really does lead to some — and speaking anachronistically as a post-enlightenment secular humanist — it leads to all kinds of pernicious consequences. Like if the only thing that keeps you from an eternity of torment is accepting Jesus as your savior, well, if you torture someone until they embrace Jesus, you're doing them the biggest favor of their lives. It's better a few hours now than all eternity. And if someone is leading people away from this kind of salvation, well, they're the most evil Typhoid Mary that you can imagine, and exterminating them would be a public health measure because they are luring people into an eternity of torment, and there could be nothing more evil. Again, it's totally anachronistic. The idea of damnation and hell is, by modern standards, a morally pernicious concept. If you take it literally, though, then of course torturing Jews and atheists and heretics and so on, is actually a very responsible public health measure. Nowadays, people both profess to believe in The Book of Revelation, and they also don't think it's a good idea to torture Jews and heretics and atheists.”

  • “ELAINE PAGELS: Maybe they just don't have the power.”

  • “STEVEN PINKER: Even the televangelists who are thundering from their pulpits, probably don't think it's a good idea to torture Jews. And in fact, in public opinion polls, there's a remarkable change through the 20th century, in statements like, all religions are equally valid, and ought to be respected. which today, the majority of Americans agree with. And in the 1930s, needless to say, the majority disagreed with. What I find fascinating is, what kind of compartmentalization allows, on the one hand, people to believe in a literal truth of judgment day, eternal torment, but they no longer, as they once did, follow through the implication, well, we'd better execute heretics and torture nonbelievers. On one hand they've got admirably, a kind of post-enlightenment ecumenical tolerant humanism, torturing people is bad. On the other hand, they claim to hold beliefs that logically imply that torturing heretics would be an excellent thing. It's interesting that the human mind can embrace these contradictions and that fortunately for all of us, the humanistic sentiments trump the, at least, claimed belief in the literal truth of all of this.”

  • “ELAINE PAGELS: Well, that's certainly an important point.”

  • (The Book of Revelation: Prophecy and Politics Edge Master Class 2011, Elaine Pagels, Edge, November 16, 2011).

From whence but Harvard could the reader learn that Christians are all little Peter-the-Hermit bots whose natural activity, unless suppressed, is 'torturing Jews'? Thus when these folks encounter anyone who actually does believe the Book of Revelation, that person is marked as a threat, and we're right back to the mind-set that gave us the Red Terror. 'Because you are intolerant, we will kill you.'

Is torturing disbelievers into accepting the gospel indeed a 'logical' step inevitably embraced by all believing readers of the book of Revelation? How, when the promise is for "whosoever will," not 'whosoever won't but can be made to say through clenched teeth he will?:'

"And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely." (Revelation 22:17).

The assumption that an effectual profession of faith can be a coerced lie is not generally consonant with the Bible,

"That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation." (Romans 10:9-10).

Torture does not make people believe with with their hearts but only confess with the lips. Unfortunately, you can just watch the gears working with this: 1.) these people will inevitably torture us into accepting their faith, because this follows 'logically' from their religion; 2.) therefore, just as the Hutus were urged to make the first move, let's wipe them out.

The U.S. Constitution prohibits religious tests for holding office, but the reader who supposes therefore that none is ever applied would be naive. U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders refuses to approve an applicant suspected of believing that Christ is the only way to heaven:

“'I don’t know how many Muslims there are in America. I really don’t know, probably a couple million. Are you suggesting that all of those people stand condemned? What about Jews? Do they stand condemned too?' demanded Sanders, himself a secular Jew. 'I understand that Christianity is the majority religion. But there are other people who have different religions in this country and around the world. In your judgment, do you think that people who are not Christians are going to be condemned?'” (Christianity Today, In Christ Alone: Bernie Sanders Attacks Wheaton Grad's Stance on Salvation, Kate Shelnutt, June 8, 2017).

The Bible says in so many words that Jesus is the only way to heaven:

"Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved." (Acts 4:12).

Whether atheists, who believe that no one goes to heaven, are less tolerant or more tolerant than other people, is unclear by this numerical standard. Certainly it's a free country and Bernie Sanders is entitled to believe that Acts 4:12 is “indefensible, it is hateful and Islamophobic, and an insult to over a billion Muslims throughout the world,” (Bernie Sanders quoted in 'Dear political reporters: Does Sanders 'Feel the Bern' over Article 6 and religious tests?', Mark Kellenr, June 9, 2017, Get Religion), but the idea that he can disqualify millions of Christians from public office on that basis alone is mind-boggling. Like the atheist terrorists of the French Revolution and the Bolshevik Revolution, they consign Bible-believing Christians to the status of second-class citizens, and feel entirely justified in so doing, in the name of 'tolerance.' Nobody but them ends up having civil rights, and this in their view is the maximally 'tolerant' position, because nobody but them deserves to have any rights at all.