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21 January 2009

The Role of Government: Separation of Church and State

The Proper Role of Government, by Ezra Taft Benson
-- read the full text.
My commentary as I study his article:
Part I (Foundational Principles, Origin of Rights)
Part II (Separation of Church and State)
Part III (Source of Governmental Power)
Part IV (Powers of a Proper Government)
Part V (Government = Force)
Part VI (The US Constitution)
Part VII (Local Government)
Part VIII (Legalized Plunder)

I support the doctrine of separation of church and state as traditionally interpreted to prohibit the establishment of an official national religion. But I am opposed to the doctrine of separation of church and state as currently interpreted to divorce government from any formal recognition of God. The current trend strikes a potentially fatal blow at the concept of the divine origin of our rights, and unlocks the door for an easy entry of future tyranny. If Americans should ever come to believe that their rights and freedoms are instituted among men by politicians and bureaucrats, then they will no longer carry the proud inheritance of their forefathers, but will grovel before their masters seeking favors and dispensations – a throwback to the Feudal System of the Dark Ages. We must ever keep in mind the inspired words of Thomas Jefferson, as found in the Declaration of Independence:

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed." (P.P.N. S., p.519)

Since God created man with certain unalienable rights, and man, in turn, created government to help secure and safeguard those rights, it follows that man is superior to the creature which he created. Man is superior to government and should remain master over it, not the other way around. Even the non-believer can appreciate the logic of this relationship.

Summary: Separation of church and state means that the government doesn't tell us what to believe; NOT that the government is Godless. Allowing our government to become Godless brings us to the brink of tyranny.

Commentary: I blogged about this already, actually, after reading an interesting article on Townhall.com. It's not that the Founders intended to banish God from public life - if that was the case then why would it be self-evident that we are "endowed by [our] Creator" with certain rights? To completely banish God from public life, as some are trying to do, would likely horrify our Founding Fathers! Not only is this not our tradition, it's a very unsteady foundation for "unalienable" rights. The phrase "separation of church and state" is not even in the Constitution, and though the First Amendment does forbid the government to establish a religion this is balanced by requiring the government to uphold the free exercise of the people's religion. The meaning of the phrase "separation of church and state" can be traced to events much more recent in origin: a 1947 Supreme Court decision that actually drew on a letter written by Thomas Jefferson, rather than the Constitution, to begin placing unconstitutional limits on the free expression of American faith.

There is lots more to come on this: President Benson had a lot to say on the matter. But I can only digest it in small chunks, so I'll post part two and another day, and likely continue with more parts after that! The full text of his paper is available here.

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