This week we will take a look at the myth about “separation of church and state”. I will start out by quoting the ‘religion’ clause portion of the First Amendment…”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…”. No mention of ‘church’ or ‘state’. We must remember that the Constitution was not written to protect the government from the people, but to protect the people from ! the government!
“Almighty God, we acknowledge our dependence upon Thee, and we beg Thy blessings upon us, our parents, our teachers, and our Country”. These are the simple words of a voluntary prayer, which the Supreme Court ruled as being unconstitutional in 1962 and banned it from being recited by children in our public schools. The court based their actions entirely upon one phrase, “separation of church and state.” [Engel v. Vitale; 370 U.S. 421, 422 (1962)] How did a letter of treaty written in 1796 by a person who had nothing to do with writing or signing the Bill of Rights end up twisting our nation’s foundations so much that even the Supreme Court ‘sipped the cool aid’? Can our Constitution now be amended by a letter?
Few today know that America’s first war after the American Revolution would be against the descendants of Ishmael because of attacks being levied against Americans by those descendants. Five different Islamic nations (Tunis, Morocco, Algiers, Tripoli, and Turkey) began making indiscriminate, ferocious attacks against the property and interests of what they claimed were Christian nations (America, England, France, Spain, Portugal, Denmark, and Sweden). The pirates operated primarily in the Mediterranean Sea. The origins went back to the time of the Crusades. All nations that chose not to pay ransom for return of citizens or property were liable to be taken at sea. Some countries even had organizations that collected funds to pay these “presents”. In 1783 the United States won its freedom from the British monarchy which had been paying this tribute. In 1784 the first American ship was seized by Moroccan pirates. Two more were seized by Algerian pirates in 1785. In 1784 Congress! had authorized American diplomats John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, and Thomas Jefferson to negotiate with the Muslim pirates…terrorists. Jefferson asked the ambassador from Tripoli the motivation behind the unprovoked attacks against Americans. He responded…
“That it was founded on the laws of their Prophet – that it was written in their Koran that all nations who should not have acknowledged their authority were sinners; that it was their right and duty to make war upon them wherever they could be found and to make slaves of all they could take as prisoners; and that every Musselman [Muslim] who should be slain in battle was sure to go to Paradise.”
Given the “spiritual” incentive to enslave and make war, Muslim attacks against American ships were frequent. In an effort to secure a release of kidnapped seamen and guarantee unmolested shipping, President Washington dispatched envoys to negotiate treaties to ensure ‘protection’. While those treaties specifically acknowledged the conflict as between Muslim and Christian nations, the Americans openly sought to convince the Muslims that as a Christian nation, America was not engaged in any ‘holy’ war against their faith. The 1796 treaty with Tripoli declared in Article XI :
“As the government of the United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian religion as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion or tranquility of Musselmen and as the said States [America] have never entered into any war or act of hostility against any Mahometan na! tion, it is declared by the parties that no pretext arising from religious opinions shall ever produce an interruption of harmony existing between the two countries.”
In an effort to distance itself from being numbered among the so-called Christian nations of Europe that fought against the Muslims in the Crusades during the Middle Ages, this article sought to assert that America was not one of those. It was not the type of Christian nation that had an inherent hostility against Muslims. The Christian religion it was founded on was not a religion that was fighting with Muslims – not if it could help it. (Strange that the Muslims could recognize America as a Christian nation yet today we have citizens who have difficulty with that recognition.)
Many of the secular and progressive critics of today ignore the historical context and seek to interpret this partial phrase – …The Government of the United States is in no sense founded on a Christian religion…- as an over arching denial, disavowing America of any and all of its Christian heritage. Thus, for them, this is irrefutable proof that America is not a Christian nation. To say that America is a Christian nation does not mean that other faiths or beliefs are excluded; to the contrary, all are welcomed. It just means that our nation’s foundation principles are based on God’s Word and our government organization and our laws are based on Judeo-Christian principles.
The treaties did not produce the desired results…any wonder…so President Jefferson withheld further payments and Tripoli declared war against the United States, with Algiers threatening to do likewise. Th! us this became America’s first official war as a new nation. The numerous documents and treaties surrounding the Barbary Powers conflict confirm that America was always considered a Christian nation, and today’s claims that the highly edited Treaty of Tripoli proves that America is not a Christian nation are completely false.
Next week we will take a look at our nation’s beliefs about God’s activity.
– Bob Munsey