What is the separation of church and state?

The separation of church and state in the United States of America is a long-held part of our constitutional republic, but is not foundational and is not found in the U.S. Constitution.

The separation of church and state is not a prohibition against people of faith serving in government. It is not an effort to bar the influence of religion in shaping the laws and culture of America. It is not meant to be wielded against religious activities.

The separation of church and state is an idea that prohibits the government from interfering with the church. It is a shield against the government sanctioning one faith or system of beliefs as the governmental favorite.

The idea of the separation of church and state was first put into writing by Thomas Jefferson in a letter to a group of Baptists ten years after the Constitution was ratified. Jefferson was a deeply religious man who believed that the government should not interfere with his, nor anyone else's, belief system. In his letter, Jefferson cites the Constitution's prohibition against the government establishing a religion or stopping any person from adhering to his or her beliefs.

Jefferson concludes his letter with these words: "I reciprocate your kind prayers for the protection & blessing of the common father and creator of man, and tender you for yourselves & your religious association assurances of my high respect & esteem."

Jefferson and a vast majority of the founding fathers and signers of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution aligned themselves with Christianity. Men and women of faith have served honorably in all levels of government in the United States and allowed their religious convictions to guide them in decision-making while in office. In fact, Jefferson went so far as to declare public days of fasting and prayer.

The United States of America is not a theocracy (where the government is led by people chosen because of the thought they are especially divinely guided). The U.S. government is not to give any favor, special rights, or privileges to one religion without extending them to others. It is not up to the government to establish religious rules or thinking. Jesus Christ is the One who will build His Church, and He entrusts His followers with proclaiming His truth.

Related Truth:

What was God's purpose in establishing the church?

What is the universal church and how is it different from the local church?

Are Christians subject to the laws of the land?

What does the Bible say about civil disobedience?

How can I be an effective witness for Christ? How can I effectively witness to a lost world?

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