Civics Question

Can somebody tell this old NCO where in the Constitution of the United States of America does it say anything about the separation of Church and State?  I ask this because I have a feeling that Sarge’s copy of the Constitution of the United States of America is missing a page or two.  Actually, since Sarge has more that one copy, they are all missing that page.  For the Constitutionaly challenged of you, my copy says nothing about the separation of Church and State.  And the first one of you that opens his pie hole and says anything remotely like “Well, Sarge, the First Amendment . . .” will be stood against a wall and be subjected to copious amounts of ridicule from Sarge and Co.  Folks, nowhere in the Constitution of the United States of America is the separation of Church and State mentioned.  According to, here is what the First Amendment says about it:

Amendment I – Freedom of Religion, Press, Expression. Ratified 12/15/1791. Note

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.

As you know, I spent 20 years in the Air Force and every so often, I was required to swear an oath to support and defend this document that is the basis of our laws.  Since I swore that oath, I thought it would be a good idea to gain an understanding of what it said and what the Founding Fathers were thinking when they wrote it.

Now, for bonus points, where does the concept of the Separation of Church and State come from?  Double points if you are under the age of 30.  Double again, if you are a product of publik skool.

Sarge, Out


4 Responses to “Civics Question”

  1. Jay Says:

    The concept of seperation of Church and State came from a letter written by Thomas Jefferson to the Danburry Baptist ensuring them that a National Religion would not be established and that their freedom of religion was secure.

    I’m 29 and a product of public school. What do I win?

  2. Sarge Says:

    Bragging rights is all that I can offer you for now. But, I do appreciate what you are doing over at

    If you have never been over there go and see what Jay and his partners are doing to imform the rest of us about what the ACLU is doing.

  3. vijtable Says:

    Sarge, I am under 30, I’m not a product of public school, but…

    While the term gained fame in the Danbury speech, the concept of separation of church and state pre-dates Jefferson by over a century. Roger Williams, a “radical” Baptist minister exiled by the Puritans of Massachusetts Bay Colony, founded Providence (Rhode Island) under the premise of separation of church and state.

    To quote Wikipedia: In 1640, another agreement was signed by thirty-nine freemen, in which they express their determination “still to hold forth liberty of conscience.” Thus a government unique in its day was created — a government that expressly provided for religious liberty and a separation between civil and ecclesiastical authority.

    To quote Williams himself: So that magistrates, as magistrates, have no power of setting up the form of church government, electing church officers, punishing with church censures, but to see that the church does her duty herein. And on the other side, the churches as churches, have no power (though as members of the commonweal they may have power) of erecting or altering forms of civil government, electing of civil officers, inflicting civil punishments (no not on persons excommunicate) as by deposing magistrates from their civil authority, or withdrawing the hearts of the people against them, to their laws…

  4. vijtable Says:

    Oh… To answer the initial question about where it says what in the Constitution.

    “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion…” The Establishment clause, as its known, is historically interpreted to mean government does not use religious justification for laws. Hence the term “rule of law”, not “rule of king” or “rule of God.” Since there is debate among Christians, let alone among religions, to the interpretation of scripture, the separation of church and state model makes sense – we are forced to use a language we all agree upon – laws must derive from “natural rights”: life, liberty, and property (Thomas Paine).

    Because of the second clause, “…or prohibiting the free exercise thereof”, I will not have to fear that government will make a preferential decision for/against a particular religious belief. Roger Williams would not be exiled according to his beliefs, says this clause.

    Combining the two – government shall not use religious justification for laws, nor be preferntial in their treatment of religions. That is separation of church and state rephrased. Looking at “original intent” will show that Madison, drafter of the Bill of Rights, meant precisely that: “separation of church and state.” He was fearful of the type of theocratic witch-hunts and preferential laws sent down by the king through recent British history.

    Sorry for the long post. I do disagree with several of your views here, but I appreciate being able to engage in a conversation with you. Thanks.

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