Mississippi Lawmakers Propose Designating Bible as State Book

RomansJACKSON, Miss. — Lawmakers in Mississippi have again proposed designating the Bible as the state book.

H.B. 840 was recently re-proposed by Rep. Tom Miles, D-Forest, and has nine co-sponsors, including Rep. Michael Evans, D-Preston, who joined him in the first effort last year.

“Me and my constituents, we were talking about it and one of them made a comment that people ought to start reading the Bible,” Evans told AL.com when the bill was first introduced.

“The Bible provides a good role model on how to treat people,” Miles commented to the Associated Press. “They could read in there about love and compassion.”

Miles recently added to reporters that he is not seeking to “force religion on anyone” with the bill, but would like to encourage Mississippi residents and their leaders to emulate the principles found in the Scriptures.

“I am [pleased] to say that we once again enjoyed bipartisan support of this effort,” he told KMOV-TV.

While the teddy bear has been recognized as the state bear, square dancing as the state folk dance and milk as the state beverage, no publication has yet been regarded as the state book.

  • Connect with Christian News

Miles’ bill simply states, “The following shall be codified as Section 3-3-59, Mississippi Code of 1972: The Holy Bible is hereby designated as the official state book of Mississippi.” It must pass out of committee by Feb. 23 in order advance for the 2016 legislative season.

As previously reported, in 2012, lawmakers in Pennsylvania unanimously passed a resolution that declared a “Year of the Bible.” The resolution stated that not only has the Bible been an important part of America’s history, but that in difficult times such as the present, there is a “national need to study and apply the teachings of the Holy Scriptures.”

In 1983, then-President Ronald Reagan declared the year the national “Year of the Bible.”

“Many of our greatest national leaders—among them Presidents Washington, Jackson, Lincoln, and Wilson—have recognized the influence of the Bible on our country’s development,” he stated. “The plainspoken Andrew Jackson referred to the Bible as no less than ‘the rock on which our Republic rests.’”

“Today our beloved America and, indeed, the world, is facing a decade of enormous challenge,” Reagan continued. “There could be no more fitting moment than now to reflect with gratitude, humility, and urgency upon the wisdom revealed to us in the writing that Abraham Lincoln called ‘the best gift God has ever given to man . . . But for [without] it we could not know right from wrong.”’


A special message from the publisher...

Dear Reader, our hearts are deeply grieved by the ongoing devastation in Iraq, and through this we have been compelled to take a stand at the gates of hell against the enemy who came to kill and destroy. Bibles for Iraq is a project to put Arabic and Kurdish audio Bibles into the hands of Iraqi and Syrian refugees—many of whom are illiterate and who have never heard the gospel.Will you stand with us and make a donation today to this important effort? Please click here to send a Bible to a refugee >>

Print Friendly
  • OldBut YoungMoney

    Cool! Hope it passes.

    • BarkingDawg

      If so, it will be struck down by the courts.

  • BarkingDawg

    How much will it cost the state to defend this unconstituional act in court?

  • Chrissy Vee

    Glory be. Wisest words I have read in an article in a long time. God’s will be done.

  • Josey

    1620 – Mayflower Compact signed “Having undertaken for the glory of God and advancement of the Christian faith . . . furtherance of the ends aforesaid.” The Pilgrims taught their children the Bible and the Christian faith. Also in the 1700’s and 1800’s and onward until they removed God from schools in the sixties.
    All through the sixteen, seventeen, eighteen, nineteen hundreds the Bible was a teaching tool in schools.

    1802 – Thomas Jefferson acting as President for Washington D.C. schools requires the Bible and the Watts Hymnal to be used in classrooms. I guess Obama left that little knowledge out when he recently gave a speech quoting Jefferson and the Quran, he also left out that Jefferson dealt with muslims who were killing Americans and the reason Jefferson had a Quran was to know his enemy, Jefferson went on to fight the muslims when he discovered there was no negotiating with them, something else Obama conveniently left out of his speech. Muslims were enemies and they didn’t contribute to American society, they were out to kill then anyone who didn’t think like them and they still kill to this day, their god is a god of destruction, period. Obama can try to whitewash it anyway he wants but they are nothing but lies that come out of his mouth.

    1808 – Washington’s Farewell Address is published as a separate text book. Washington’s Address is looked upon as one of the most important political documents in American history. In the speech Washington emphases that for America to succeed it must have a moral society which can only come from roots in the Christian faith. This textbook and prayer in school is used until 1960’s. There began the downfall of American when as a Country when as a Nation we turned our backs on God and there began the dumbing down of America too. NO MUSLIM CONTRIBUTED TO AMERICAN! Also many other founding fathers acknowledged God and the bible.

    • TheKingOfRhye

      “1802 – Thomas Jefferson acting as President for Washington D.C. schools
      requires the Bible and the Watts Hymnal to be used in classrooms. I
      guess Obama left that little knowledge out when he recently gave a
      speech quoting Jefferson”

      Probably because the whole story is apparently a commonly repeated myth.

      “This myth about Jefferson and the Washington D.C. schools was created by
      combining two things. One is that, in 1805, Jefferson was elected president of the Washington City school board. The other is an 1813 report by the teacher of one of the city’s early public schools, showing that the Bible and Watts’s Hymns were used as reading texts in that school. The problem with the story is that the school that these books were used in didn’t exist until several years after Jefferson left Washington and the school board.” (www talk2action org/story/2007/3/10/111937/740)

      Anyway, this is, after all, the same guy who was a Deist, and who made his own version of the Bible, with most of the references to anything supernatural, and even to Jesus being the son of God, taken out. Also, from his book, Notes on Virginia: ”
      The first stage of this education being the schools of the hundreds, wherein the
      great mass of the people will receive their instruction, the principal foundations of future order will be laid here. Instead therefore of putting the Bible and Testament into the hands of the children, at an age when their judgments are not sufficiently matured for religious enquiries, their memories may here be stored with the most useful facts from Grecian, Roman, European and American history.”

      Does that sound like a guy who’s putting Bibles in schools?

    • Chrissy Vee

      Great info Josey! It’s ridiculous what he is trying to sell. Too bad there are so many buyers. Thanks much! May God continue to bless and anoint you. ♥

  • Ambulance Chaser

    How does this NOT violate the Establishment Clause? It basically fails ALL THREE parts of Lemon v. Kurtzman, and a state action only has to violate one to be in violation.

    • afchief

      How does this not support the “Free exercise clause”?????

      • Ambulance Chaser

        Because it has nothing to do with free exercise. It doesn’t grant anyone a religious right thst they didn’t have before.

        • afchief

          Sure it does! The 1st amendment says;

          “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;”

          The State is not Congress and they are exercising their 1st amendment right. What part do you not understand?

          • Ambulance Chaser

            Now you think state governments have Free Exercise rights? And you still insist that the Establishment Clause doesn’t extend to the states?

            I guess the “part [I] don’t understand” is why you think that a legal system that you invented and exists only in your fantasies should have any bearing on how law is practiced in the United States.

          • afchief

            This is why you are no lawyer, but a liar……..you cannot read!!!!! The 1st amendment SAYS Congress shall make no law!!!!! Is that too hard for you to understand????????? Is Mississippi Congress? Tell me you have a few brain cells left in that liberal cranium?????

          • Ambulance Chaser

            Oh. Okay. So if I were a lawyer, what would I believe?

          • afchief

            What the founders meant exactly what they said: “Congress,” as in the United States Congress, “shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.”

            Is that too hard for you to read?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!??!?!

            Debunking The ‘Separation of Church and State’ Myth

            Yet these words remain abundantly clear in both scope and meaning. The Establishment Clause states merely: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion. …”

            That’s it.

            And the founders meant exactly what they said: “Congress,” as in the United States Congress, “shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.”

            In a letter to Benjamin Rush, a fellow-signer of the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson, often touted by the left as the great church-state separationist, spelled out exactly what this meant then, and what it means today. The First Amendment’s Establishment Clause was simply intended to restrict Congress from affirmatively “establishing,” through federal legislation, a national Christian denomination (similar to the Anglican Church of England).

            As Jefferson put it: “[T]he clause of the Constitution” covering “freedom of religion” was intended to necessarily preclude “an establishment of a particular form of Christianity through the United States.”

            The individual states, however, faced no such restriction. In fact, until as late as 1877, and after religious free exercise became absolute with passage of the 14th Amendment, most states did have an official state form of Christianity. Massachusetts, for example, sanctioned the Congregational Church until 1833.

            Even so, today’s anti-Christian ruling class insists on revising history. The ACLU’s own promotional materials, for example, overtly advocate unconstitutional religious discrimination: “The message of the Establishment Clause [to the U.S. Constitution] is that religious activities must be treated differently from other activities to ensure against governmental support for religion,” they claim.

            This is abject nonsense. It’s unconstitutional viewpoint discrimination—a twisted misrepresentation of the First Amendment. Secular “progressivism” depends upon deception as much as it relies upon revisionism. Yes, “separation” applies, but only insofar as it requires the state to remain separate from the church. That is to say, that government may not interfere with the free exercise of either speech or religion.

            For decades, hard-left anti-theist groups like the ACLU, People for the American Way (PFAW) and Barry Lynn’s Americans United (AU) have employed a cynical disinformation scheme intended to intimidate clergy into silence on issues of morality, culture and Christian civic involvement—issues that, as Falwell noted, are not political so much as they have been politicized; issues that are inherently “religious.”

            AU, for instance, annually sends tens-of-thousands of misleading letters to churches across the nation warning pastors, priests and rabbis that, “If the IRS determines that your house of worship has engaged in unlawful intervention, it can revoke the institution’s tax-exempt status.”

            That’s a lie.

            In reality, there is no legal mechanism whatsoever for the Internal Revenue Service to take away a church’s tax exemption. Churches are inherently tax-exempt, or, better still, “tax immune,” simply by virtue of being a church. Churches do not need permission from the IRS, nor can the IRS revoke a church’s tax immunity.

            Since 1934, when the lobbying restriction was added to the Internal Revenue Code, not a single church has ever lost its tax-exempt status. Since 1954, when the political endorsement/opposition prohibition was added, only one church has ever lost its IRS letter ruling, but even that church did not lose its tax-exempt status.

            The case involved the Church at Pierce Creek in New York, which placed full-page ads in USA Today and the Washington Times opposing then-Gov. Bill Clinton for president. The ads were sponsored by the church, and donations were solicited. The IRS revoked the church’s letter ruling, but not its tax-exempt status. The church sued, and the court noted that churches are tax-exempt without an IRS letter ruling. It ruled that “because of the unique treatment churches receive under the Internal Revenue Code, the impact of the revocation is likely to be more symbolic than substantial.” Not even this church lost its tax-exempt status, and not one donor was affected by this incident.

            As Mat Staver, founder of Liberty Counsel has observed, “Pastors can preach on biblical, moral and social issues, such as natural marriage and abortion, can urge the congregation to register and vote, can overview the positions of the candidates, and may personally endorse candidates. Churches may distribute nonpartisan voter guides, register voters, provide transportation to the polls, hold candidate forums, and introduce visiting candidates.”

            Since 2008, the Christian legal organization Alliance Defending Freedom has spearheaded a First Amendment exercise called “Pulpit Freedom Sunday.” Since then, thousands of pastors across America have boldly exercised their guaranteed constitutional rights by addressing “political” issues from the pulpit. This has included directly endorsing candidates. These pastors have dared the IRS to come after them, and, not surprisingly, the IRS has balked.

            Pastors, this election season follow the lead of Christ. Speak moral/political truths, in love, fearlessly. Remain undaunted by the threat of government intervention or punitive action by the state. And encourage your congregation to vote for candidates who sincerely reflect, in both word and deed, a biblical worldview and biblical principles.

            Be “salt and light.”

            Because Christ didn’t give us an option to do otherwise.

          • TheKingOfRhye

            “The “establishment of religion” clause of the First Amendment means at least this: Neither a state nor the federal government can set up a church. Neither can pass laws which aid one religion, aid all religions, or prefer one religion over another. Neither can force nor influence a person to go to or to remain away from church against his will or force him to profess a belief or disbelief in any religion. No person can be punished for entertaining or professing religious beliefs or disbeliefs, for church attendance or non-attendance. No tax in any amount, large or small, can be levied to support any religious activities or institutions, whatever they may be called, or whatever form they may adopt to teach or practice religion. Neither a state nor the Federal Government can, openly or secretly, participate in the affairs of any religious organizations or groups and vice versa. In the words of Jefferson, the clause against establishment of religion by law was intended to erect “a wall of separation between church and State.””

            – Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black, 1947

          • afchief

            That is a lie!!!!

            In 1947, in the case Everson v. Board of Education, the Supreme Court declared, “The First Amendment has erected a wall between church and state. That wall must be kept high and impregnable. We could not approve the slightest breach.” The “separation of church and state” phrase which they invoked, and which has today become so familiar, was taken from an exchange of letters between President Thomas Jefferson and the Baptist Association of Danbury, Connecticut, shortly after Jefferson became President.

            The election of Jefferson – America’s first Anti-Federalist President – elated many Baptists since that denomination, by-and-large, was also strongly Anti-Federalist. This political disposition of the Baptists was understandable, for from the early settlement of Rhode Island in the 1630s to the time of the federal Constitution in the 1780s, the Baptists had often found themselves suffering from the centralization of power.

            Consequently, now having a President who not only had championed the rights of Baptists in Virginia but who also had advocated clear limits on the centralization of government powers, the Danbury Baptists wrote Jefferson a letter of praise on October 7, 1801, telling him:

            Among the many millions in America and Europe who rejoice in your election to office, we embrace the first opportunity . . . to express our great satisfaction in your appointment to the Chief Magistracy in the United States. . . . [W]e have reason to believe that America’s God has raised you up to fill the Chair of State out of that goodwill which He bears to the millions which you preside over. May God strengthen you for the arduous task which providence and the voice of the people have called you. . . . And may the Lord preserve you safe from every evil and bring you at last to his Heavenly Kingdom through Jesus Christ our Glorious Mediator. [1]

            However, in that same letter of congratulations, the Baptists also expressed to Jefferson their grave concern over the entire concept of the First Amendment, including of its guarantee for “the free exercise of religion”:

            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, [and] that the legitimate power of civil government extends no further than to punish the man who works ill to his neighbor. But sir, our constitution of government is not specific. . . . [T]herefore what religious privileges we enjoy (as a minor part of the State) we enjoy as favors granted, and not as inalienable rights. [2]

            In short, the inclusion of protection for the “free exercise of religion” in the constitution suggested to the Danbury Baptists that the right of religious expression was government-given (thus alienable) rather than God-given (hence inalienable), and that therefore the government might someday attempt to regulate religious expression. This was a possibility to which they strenuously objected-unless, as they had explained, someone’s religious practice caused him to “work ill to his neighbor.”

            Jefferson understood their concern; it was also his own. In fact, he made numerous declarations about the constitutional inability of the federal government to regulate, restrict, or interfere with religious expression. For example:

            [N]o power over the freedom of religion . . . [is] delegated to the United States by the Constitution. Kentucky Resolution, 1798 [3]

            In matters of religion, I have considered that its free exercise is placed by the Constitution independent of the powers of the general [federal] government. Second Inaugural Address, 1805 [4]

            [O]ur excellent Constitution . . . has not placed our religious rights under the power of any public functionary. Letter to the Methodist Episcopal Church, 1808 [5]

            I consider the government of the United States as interdicted [prohibited] by the Constitution from intermeddling with religious institutions . . . or exercises. Letter to Samuel Millar, 1808 [6]

            Jefferson believed that the government was to be powerless to interfere with religious expressions for a very simple reason: he had long witnessed the unhealthy tendency of government to encroach upon the free exercise of religion. As he explained to Noah Webster:

            It had become an universal and almost uncontroverted position in the several States that the purposes of society do not require a surrender of all our rights to our ordinary governors . . . and which experience has nevertheless proved they [the government] will be constantly encroaching on if submitted to them; that there are also certain fences which experience has proved peculiarly efficacious [effective] against wrong and rarely obstructive of right, which yet the governing powers have ever shown a disposition to weaken and remove. Of the first kind, for instance, is freedom of religion. [7]

            Thomas Jefferson had no intention of allowing the government to limit, restrict, regulate, or interfere with public religious practices. He believed, along with the other Founders, that the First Amendment had been enacted only to prevent the federal establishment of a national denomination – a fact he made clear in a letter to fellow-signer of the Declaration of Independence Benjamin Rush:

            [T]he clause of the Constitution which, while it secured the freedom of the press, covered also the freedom of religion, had given to the clergy a very favorite hope of obtaining an establishment of a particular form of Christianity through the United States; and as every sect believes its own form the true one, every one perhaps hoped for his own, but especially the Episcopalians and Congregationalists. The returning good sense of our country threatens abortion to their hopes and they believe that any portion of power confided to me will be exerted in opposition to their schemes. And they believe rightly. [8]

            Jefferson had committed himself as President to pursuing the purpose of the First Amendment: preventing the “establishment of a particular form of Christianity” by the Episcopalians, Congregationalists, or any other denomination.

            Since this was Jefferson’s view concerning religious expression, in his short and polite reply to the Danbury Baptists on January 1, 1802, he assured them that they need not fear; that the free exercise of religion would never be interfered with by the federal government. As he explained:

            Gentlemen, – The affectionate sentiments of esteem and approbation which you are so good as to express towards me on behalf of the Danbury Baptist Association give me the highest satisfaction. . . . Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between man and his God; that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship; that the legislative 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. Adhering to this expression of the supreme will of the nation in behalf of the rights of conscience, I shall see with sincere satisfaction the progress of those sentiments which tend to restore to man all his natural rights, convinced he has no natural right in opposition to his social duties. I reciprocate your kind prayers for the protection and blessing of the common Father and Creator of man, and tender you for yourselves and your religious association assurances of my high respect and esteem. [9]

            Jefferson’s reference to “natural rights” invoked an important legal phrase which was part of the rhetoric of that day and which reaffirmed his belief that religious liberties were inalienable rights. While the phrase “natural rights” communicated much to people then, to most citizens today those words mean little.

            By definition, “natural rights” included “that which the Books of the Law and the Gospel do contain.” [10] That is, “natural rights” incorporated what God Himself had guaranteed to man in the Scriptures. Thus, when Jefferson assured the Baptists that by following their “natural rights” they would violate no social duty, he was affirming to them that the free exercise of religion was their inalienable God-given right and therefore was protected from federal regulation or interference.

            So clearly did Jefferson understand the Source of America’s inalienable rights that he even doubted whether America could survive if we ever lost that knowledge. He queried:

            And can the liberties of a nation be thought secure if we have lost the only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are the gift of God? That they are not to be violated but with His wrath? [11]

            Jefferson believed that God, not government, was the Author and Source of our rights and that the government, therefore, was to be prevented from interference with those rights. Very simply, the “fence” of the Webster letter and the “wall” of the Danbury letter were not to limit religious activities in public; rather they were to limit the power of the government to prohibit or interfere with those expressions.

            Earlier courts long understood Jefferson’s intent. In fact, when Jefferson’s letter was invoked by the Supreme Court (only twice prior to the 1947 Everson case – the Reynolds v. United States case in 1878), unlike today’s Courts which publish only his eight-word separation phrase, that earlier Court published Jefferson’s entire letter and then concluded:

            Coming as this does from an acknowledged leader of the advocates of the measure, it [Jefferson’s letter] may be accepted almost as an authoritative declaration of the scope and effect of the Amendment thus secured. Congress was deprived of all legislative power over mere [religious] opinion, but was left free to reach actions which were in violation of social duties or subversive of good order. (emphasis added) [12]

            That Court then succinctly summarized Jefferson’s intent for “separation of church and state”:

            [T]he rightful purposes of civil government are for its officers to interfere when principles break out into overt acts against peace and good order. In th[is] . . . is found the true distinction between what properly belongs to the church and what to the State. [13]

            With this even the Baptists had agreed; for while wanting to see the government prohibited from interfering with or limiting religious activities, they also had declared it a legitimate function of government “to punish the man who works ill to his neighbor.”

            That Court, therefore, and others (for example, Commonwealth v. Nesbit and Lindenmuller v. The People), identified actions into which – if perpetrated in the name of religion – the government did have legitimate reason to intrude. Those activities included human sacrifice, polygamy, bigamy, concubinage, incest, infanticide, parricide, advocation and promotion of immorality, etc.

            Such acts, even if perpetrated in the name of religion, would be stopped by the government since, as the Court had explained, they were “subversive of good order” and were “overt acts against peace.” However, the government was never to interfere with traditional religious practices outlined in “the Books of the Law and the Gospel” – whether public prayer, the use of the Scriptures, public acknowledgements of God, etc.

            Therefore, if Jefferson’s letter is to be used today, let its context be clearly given – as in previous years. Furthermore, earlier Courts had always viewed Jefferson’s Danbury letter for just what it was: a personal, private letter to a specific group. There is probably no other instance in America’s history where words spoken by a single individual in a private letter – words clearly divorced from their context – have become the sole authorization for a national policy. Finally, Jefferson’s Danbury letter should never be invoked as a stand-alone document. A proper analysis of Jefferson’s views must include his numerous other statements on the First Amendment.

            For example, in addition to his other statements previously noted, Jefferson also declared that the “power to prescribe any religious exercise. . . . must rest with the States” (emphasis added). Nevertheless, the federal courts ignore this succinct declaration and choose rather to misuse his separation phrase to strike down scores of State laws which encourage or facilitate public religious expressions. Such rulings against State laws are a direct violation of the words and intent of the very one from whom the courts claim to derive their policy.

            One further note should be made about the now infamous “separation” dogma. The Congressional Records from June 7 to September 25, 1789, record the months of discussions and debates of the ninety Founding Fathers who framed the First Amendment. Significantly, not only was Thomas Jefferson not one of those ninety who framed the First Amendment, but also, during those debates not one of those ninety Framers ever mentioned the phrase “separation of church and state.” It seems logical that if this had been the intent for the First Amendment – as is so frequently asserted-then at least one of those ninety who framed the Amendment would have mentioned that phrase; none did.

            In summary, the “separation” phrase so frequently invoked today was rarely mentioned by any of the Founders; and even Jefferson’s explanation of his phrase is diametrically opposed to the manner in which courts apply it today. “Separation of church and state” currently means almost exactly the opposite of what it originally meant.

            http://www.wallbuilders. com/libissuesarticles.asp?id=123

          • TheKingOfRhye

            “Jefferson had committed himself as President to pursuing the purpose of the First Amendment: preventing the “establishment of a particular form of Christianity””

            True enough, but that should continue with “or any other religion”. If the First Amendment was only meant to not favor one denomination of Christianity over another, why doesn’t it say that? It doesn’t mention Christianity, only “religion”.

            Wait a minute, though…..here’s a different way to look at the issue in this story. If Mississippi wants to designate the Bible as it’s state book, that could easily be considered “establishment of a particular form of Christianity” right there, couldn’t it? At least, if they said it was one particular version of the Bible, it would either be a Catholic one or a Protestant one.

          • Ambulance Chaser

            Are they named “Wallbuilders” after the Wall o’ Text?

          • TheKingOfRhye

            All in all it’s all just bricks in the wall….

          • Ambulance Chaser

            “We don’t need no education…”

          • afchief

            The truth always offends!!! Does it not?

          • Ambulance Chaser

            How am I supposed to respond to a giant copy and paste plagiarism job? Are you talking to me or speechifying?

          • afchief

            Let’s break it down for the “make believe lawyer” so he can understand. When our founders wrote the 1st amendment and said “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;”

            Who is Congress?

          • Ambulance Chaser

            I have a better idea. Just answer the simple question: if I’m a “fake lawyer,” show me a “real lawyer” who agrees with your belief that court rulings are not binding.

          • afchief

            Find you own lawyer!!! It is apparent you can’t read!!!!!

          • Trivia Jockey

            The Supreme Court has held that the 1st Amendment also applies to STATE governments. See Everson v. Board of Education, 330 U.S. 1 (1947).

          • afchief

            Wrong! The Separation of Church and State

            David Barton – 01/2001

            In 1947, in the case Everson v. Board of Education, the Supreme Court declared, “The First Amendment has erected a wall between church and state. That wall must be kept high and impregnable. We could not approve the slightest breach.” The “separation of church and state” phrase which they invoked, and which has today become so familiar, was taken from an exchange of letters between President Thomas Jefferson and the Baptist Association of Danbury, Connecticut, shortly after Jefferson became President.

            The election of Jefferson – America’s first Anti-Federalist President – elated many Baptists since that denomination, by-and-large, was also strongly Anti-Federalist. This political disposition of the Baptists was understandable, for from the early settlement of Rhode Island in the 1630s to the time of the federal Constitution in the 1780s, the Baptists had often found themselves suffering from the centralization of power.

            Consequently, now having a President who not only had championed the rights of Baptists in Virginia but who also had advocated clear limits on the centralization of government powers, the Danbury Baptists wrote Jefferson a letter of praise on October 7, 1801, telling him:

            Among the many millions in America and Europe who rejoice in your election to office, we embrace the first opportunity . . . to express our great satisfaction in your appointment to the Chief Magistracy in the United States. . . . [W]e have reason to believe that America’s God has raised you up to fill the Chair of State out of that goodwill which He bears to the millions which you preside over. May God strengthen you for the arduous task which providence and the voice of the people have called you. . . . And may the Lord preserve you safe from every evil and bring you at last to his Heavenly Kingdom through Jesus Christ our Glorious Mediator. [1]

            However, in that same letter of congratulations, the Baptists also expressed to Jefferson their grave concern over the entire concept of the First Amendment, including of its guarantee for “the free exercise of religion”:

            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, [and] that the legitimate power of civil government extends no further than to punish the man who works ill to his neighbor. But sir, our constitution of government is not specific. . . . [T]herefore what religious privileges we enjoy (as a minor part of the State) we enjoy as favors granted, and not as inalienable rights. [2]

            In short, the inclusion of protection for the “free exercise of religion” in the constitution suggested to the Danbury Baptists that the right of religious expression was government-given (thus alienable) rather than God-given (hence inalienable), and that therefore the government might someday attempt to regulate religious expression. This was a possibility to which they strenuously objected-unless, as they had explained, someone’s religious practice caused him to “work ill to his neighbor.”

            Jefferson understood their concern; it was also his own. In fact, he made numerous declarations about the constitutional inability of the federal government to regulate, restrict, or interfere with religious expression. For example:

            [N]o power over the freedom of religion . . . [is] delegated to the United States by the Constitution. Kentucky Resolution, 1798 [3]

            In matters of religion, I have considered that its free exercise is placed by the Constitution independent of the powers of the general [federal] government. Second Inaugural Address, 1805 [4]

            [O]ur excellent Constitution . . . has not placed our religious rights under the power of any public functionary. Letter to the Methodist Episcopal Church, 1808 [5]

            I consider the government of the United States as interdicted [prohibited] by the Constitution from intermeddling with religious institutions . . . or exercises. Letter to Samuel Millar, 1808 [6]

            Jefferson believed that the government was to be powerless to interfere with religious expressions for a very simple reason: he had long witnessed the unhealthy tendency of government to encroach upon the free exercise of religion. As he explained to Noah Webster:

            It had become an universal and almost uncontroverted position in the several States that the purposes of society do not require a surrender of all our rights to our ordinary governors . . . and which experience has nevertheless proved they [the government] will be constantly encroaching on if submitted to them; that there are also certain fences which experience has proved peculiarly efficacious [effective] against wrong and rarely obstructive of right, which yet the governing powers have ever shown a disposition to weaken and remove. Of the first kind, for instance, is freedom of religion. [7]

            Thomas Jefferson had no intention of allowing the government to limit, restrict, regulate, or interfere with public religious practices. He believed, along with the other Founders, that the First Amendment had been enacted only to prevent the federal establishment of a national denomination – a fact he made clear in a letter to fellow-signer of the Declaration of Independence Benjamin Rush:

            [T]he clause of the Constitution which, while it secured the freedom of the press, covered also the freedom of religion, had given to the clergy a very favorite hope of obtaining an establishment of a particular form of Christianity through the United States; and as every sect believes its own form the true one, every one perhaps hoped for his own, but especially the Episcopalians and Congregationalists. The returning good sense of our country threatens abortion to their hopes and they believe that any portion of power confided to me will be exerted in opposition to their schemes. And they believe rightly. [8]

            Jefferson had committed himself as President to pursuing the purpose of the First Amendment: preventing the “establishment of a particular form of Christianity” by the Episcopalians, Congregationalists, or any other denomination.

            Since this was Jefferson’s view concerning religious expression, in his short and polite reply to the Danbury Baptists on January 1, 1802, he assured them that they need not fear; that the free exercise of religion would never be interfered with by the federal government. As he explained:

            Gentlemen, – The affectionate sentiments of esteem and approbation which you are so good as to express towards me on behalf of the Danbury Baptist Association give me the highest satisfaction. . . . Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between man and his God; that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship; that the legislative 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. Adhering to this expression of the supreme will of the nation in behalf of the rights of conscience, I shall see with sincere satisfaction the progress of those sentiments which tend to restore to man all his natural rights, convinced he has no natural right in opposition to his social duties. I reciprocate your kind prayers for the protection and blessing of the common Father and Creator of man, and tender you for yourselves and your religious association assurances of my high respect and esteem. [9]

            Jefferson’s reference to “natural rights” invoked an important legal phrase which was part of the rhetoric of that day and which reaffirmed his belief that religious liberties were inalienable rights. While the phrase “natural rights” communicated much to people then, to most citizens today those words mean little.

            By definition, “natural rights” included “that which the Books of the Law and the Gospel do contain.” [10] That is, “natural rights” incorporated what God Himself had guaranteed to man in the Scriptures. Thus, when Jefferson assured the Baptists that by following their “natural rights” they would violate no social duty, he was affirming to them that the free exercise of religion was their inalienable God-given right and therefore was protected from federal regulation or interference.

            So clearly did Jefferson understand the Source of America’s inalienable rights that he even doubted whether America could survive if we ever lost that knowledge. He queried:

            And can the liberties of a nation be thought secure if we have lost the only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are the gift of God? That they are not to be violated but with His wrath? [11]

            Jefferson believed that God, not government, was the Author and Source of our rights and that the government, therefore, was to be prevented from interference with those rights. Very simply, the “fence” of the Webster letter and the “wall” of the Danbury letter were not to limit religious activities in public; rather they were to limit the power of the government to prohibit or interfere with those expressions.

            Earlier courts long understood Jefferson’s intent. In fact, when Jefferson’s letter was invoked by the Supreme Court (only twice prior to the 1947 Everson case – the Reynolds v. United States case in 1878), unlike today’s Courts which publish only his eight-word separation phrase, that earlier Court published Jefferson’s entire letter and then concluded:

            Coming as this does from an acknowledged leader of the advocates of the measure, it [Jefferson’s letter] may be accepted almost as an authoritative declaration of the scope and effect of the Amendment thus secured. Congress was deprived of all legislative power over mere [religious] opinion, but was left free to reach actions which were in violation of social duties or subversive of good order. (emphasis added) [12]

            That Court then succinctly summarized Jefferson’s intent for “separation of church and state”:

            [T]he rightful purposes of civil government are for its officers to interfere when principles break out into overt acts against peace and good order. In th[is] . . . is found the true distinction between what properly belongs to the church and what to the State. [13]

            With this even the Baptists had agreed; for while wanting to see the government prohibited from interfering with or limiting religious activities, they also had declared it a legitimate function of government “to punish the man who works ill to his neighbor.”

            That Court, therefore, and others (for example, Commonwealth v. Nesbit and Lindenmuller v. The People), identified actions into which – if perpetrated in the name of religion – the government did have legitimate reason to intrude. Those activities included human sacrifice, polygamy, bigamy, concubinage, incest, infanticide, parricide, advocation and promotion of immorality, etc.

            Such acts, even if perpetrated in the name of religion, would be stopped by the government since, as the Court had explained, they were “subversive of good order” and were “overt acts against peace.” However, the government was never to interfere with traditional religious practices outlined in “the Books of the Law and the Gospel” – whether public prayer, the use of the Scriptures, public acknowledgements of God, etc.

            Therefore, if Jefferson’s letter is to be used today, let its context be clearly given – as in previous years. Furthermore, earlier Courts had always viewed Jefferson’s Danbury letter for just what it was: a personal, private letter to a specific group. There is probably no other instance in America’s history where words spoken by a single individual in a private letter – words clearly divorced from their context – have become the sole authorization for a national policy. Finally, Jefferson’s Danbury letter should never be invoked as a stand-alone document. A proper analysis of Jefferson’s views must include his numerous other statements on the First Amendment.

            For example, in addition to his other statements previously noted, Jefferson also declared that the “power to prescribe any religious exercise. . . . must rest with the States” (emphasis added). Nevertheless, the federal courts ignore this succinct declaration and choose rather to misuse his separation phrase to strike down scores of State laws which encourage or facilitate public religious expressions. Such rulings against State laws are a direct violation of the words and intent of the very one from whom the courts claim to derive their policy.

            One further note should be made about the now infamous “separation” dogma. The Congressional Records from June 7 to September 25, 1789, record the months of discussions and debates of the ninety Founding Fathers who framed the First Amendment. Significantly, not only was Thomas Jefferson not one of those ninety who framed the First Amendment, but also, during those debates not one of those ninety Framers ever mentioned the phrase “separation of church and state.” It seems logical that if this had been the intent for the First Amendment – as is so frequently asserted-then at least one of those ninety who framed the Amendment would have mentioned that phrase; none did.

            In summary, the “separation” phrase so frequently invoked today was rarely mentioned by any of the Founders; and even Jefferson’s explanation of his phrase is diametrically opposed to the manner in which courts apply it today. “Separation of church and state” currently means almost exactly the opposite of what it originally meant.

            http://www.wallbuilders. com/libissuesarticles.asp?id=123

          • Trivia Jockey

            That’s not what I cited that case for. I cited it to show that your argument that the 1st Amendment only applies to Congress is false. State governments must also adhere to the 1st Amendment.

            Everson v. Board of Education, 330 U.S. 1 (1947) was a landmark decision of the United States Supreme Court which applied the Establishment Clause in the country’s Bill of Rights to State law. Prior to this decision the First Amendment words, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion”imposed limits only on the federal government, while many states continued to grant certain religious denominations legislative or effective privileges. This was the first Supreme Court case incorporating the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment as binding upon the states through the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

          • afchief

            Again, let’s try and educated brain dead liberals. I know it is hard. Their cranium size is extremely small, but here goes; The First Amendment’s clause prohibiting an establishment of religion applied to the federal government, not the states. Does that register? It clearly says “Congress [not the states] shall make no law…” It was publicly understood and acknowledged that the Constitution was intended to govern the federal government itself, not the people. The states were to be left alone to govern themselves as they saw fit in their pursuit of happiness.

            Why didn’t the First Amendment apply to the states? Many of them already had establishments of religion. At the time of the War for Independence, Massachusetts had a state church, Puritanism (or Calvinism). Connecticut’s official religion was Congregationalism. Rhode Island’s established church was Baptist. Pennsylvania’s was Quakerism. Maryland’s was Roman Catholicism. Virginia’s was the Anglican Church of England (which, after the war, became the Episcopal Church of America).

            In fact, most of the thirteen states at one time had their own official churches/establishments of religion and five of the thirteen had their own at the time the First Amendment was ratified. When James Madison was writing the Constitution, no mention of a guarantee of religious liberty was at first included because he feared that states such as Massachusetts and Virginia, with their strong state churches, would otherwise not accept the Constitution. However, he was persuaded to include the “no religious test” clause of Article VI. The Bill of Rights, Amendment I, which he later supported, provided the final corrective to the situation. The last of the state religions was disestablished in 1833. They were disestablished not by the Supreme Court but by the states’ own free will. The states voluntarily gave up their establishments of religion in the name of freedom of conscience.

            As yet another proof that our Founders recognized God as the ultimate authority for our government and our society, consider the symbolism of the reverse of the Great Seal of the United States. It shows a 13-step pyramid representing the 13 original states, placed under what the designer described as “the Eye of Providence.” The Latin words Annuit Coeptis, meaning “He [God] has favored our undertakings,” float above the scene. The seal was approved after six years of deliberation over various designs. Secretary of Congress Charles Thomson reported to the Congress that “The Eye over & the Motto allude to the many signal interpositions of providence in favour of the American cause.”

            If the doctrine of separation of church and state had been intended by the Founders to keep God and religion out of government, does it seem reasonable that such direct references to deity would have been approved for the official signature of our nation? Of course not!

            Thomas Jefferson saw that clearly when he wrote in Notes on the State of Virginia, “And can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are of the gift of God?” Likewise James Madison: “The belief in God All Powerful wise and good, is so essential to the moral order of the World and to the happiness of man, that arguments which enforce it cannot be drawn from too many sources…” Benjamin Franklin agreed: “Man will ultimately be governed by God or by tyrants.”

            All were implicitly echoing the statement by William Penn, founder of Pennsylvania, a century earlier: “Unless we are governed by God, we will be governed by tyrants.”

            The Declaration of Independence makes clear that God, not government, is the source of our freedom, our sovereignty, our equality, our rights, our justice and our human dignity. They are preexisting in us, before there ever was any government. So the Constitution does not grant any of that; it simply guarantees them for us and prevents government from interfering with it.

            Therefore it is perfectly legal, constitutional and (in the view of our Founders and Framers) right for citizens to publicly express their religion via prayers and symbols such as the cross, menorah, and others. That includes the military; one of George Washington’s first acts when he became Commander of the Continental Army in 1775 was to create the Chaplain Corps for the benefit of his citizen-soldiers. At the same time, Congress itself often held church services in the Capitol and also has had a chaplain since 1774.

            Read more: http://www.americanthinker. com/2014/04/church_and_state_vs_god_and_state.html#ixzz3rGTW1pFb

      • gizmo23

        It would have meaning if the state followed the Bible

      • Elie Challita

        Would you support the state of Michigan making the Koran the state book?

        • afchief

          If the people of the state vote for it.

          • Elie Challita

            Oh well, you’re still misguided, but at least you get points for consistency

  • acontraryview

    Apparently Mississippi lawmakers have time to waste.

    • Bob Johnson

      And taxpayer money to burn.

  • TheKingOfRhye

    If I was from Mississippi, this would be another one of those kind of things that I’d be opposed to, but not really ‘up in arms’ about at all. I mean, really, who even remembers what their official state this-or-that is, unless you’re a kid in school, and you know it’s gonna come up on a test?

  • Bob Johnson

    Catholic Bible or Protestant Bible? The British, “King James” or “New American”?

    That’s the slovenly way in which these Acts are always drawn. However, cheer up, it’ll be all right. I’ll have it altered next session. – The Mikado