Separation of Church and State— A Grave Misunderstanding

For decades, society has squabbled over the true meaning of “separation of church and state.” Does it mean no prayer in schools? No nativity scenes at government buildings? No Ten Commandments in courtrooms?

The American Pastors Network recently discussed this long-debated topic on its daily, live, one-hour radio program, “Stand in the Gap Today,” heard on more than 425 stations nationwide.

“We’ve all heard it. You can’t do that. That’s a violation of separation of church and state,” said Dave Kistler, one of the co-hosts of “Stand in the Gap Today.” “From prayer at public school functions to references to the name Jesus in military chaplains’ prayers, if some had their way, they’d end every reference to God, and especially Jesus, claiming that ALL such references are an egregious violation of the ‘separation of church and state’ principle.”

On the program, Kistler, who serves as the president of the North Carolina Pastors Network (NCPN, www.ncpastors.net), a state chapter of APN, and co-host Gary Dull, executive director of the Pennsylvania Pastors Network (PPN, www.papastors.net), welcomed attorney David New, a legal and constitutional expert and Bible scholar. New is the author of “The Separation of Church and State for Beginners,” in which he explores the principle, where it came from and from it really means.

“Separation of church and state is one of the most misunderstood and misapplied concepts in the nation,” said APN president Sam Rohrer. “This idea has been the root cause of religion, faith and God’s presence being pushed out of our culture—and these actions have had detrimental effects on society.”

New told the radio hosts that conservative Christians make three errors when it comes to the separation of church and state:

  1. That separation of church and state appears in the Constitution (that phrase does not).
  2. That only Thomas Jefferson believed in the separation of church and state. (Jefferson had obvious and overt respect, even affection, for religion, though he is often criticized for being irreligious.)
  3. To think that this separation concept is bad for religious liberty (Jefferson assured Baptists during his time that this “wall of separation” would be positive, not to keep God out of government, but rather to keep government out of the affairs of the church.)

Listen to these audio clips for more on the separation of church and state discussion from “Stand in the Gap Today:”

Photo by Sara Silva on Unsplash

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