I try to imagine what would go through George Washington’s mind if he were to step into the 21st century. Time and again, I hear him cry, “That’s not what I meant! You’re putting words in my mouth!” In reference to the hotly debated “separation of church and state” issue, I feel our first president would want to sit down and clear things up a bit.
First off, there is no official government document by the founding fathers referring to separation of church and state. The First Amendment clearly states that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” The amendment speaks of freedom of religion, not freedom from religion, which it has become today.
Let’s think about Washington himself for a moment. While camped on a riverbank, Washington was approached by a Delaware Indian Chief who wished his youth to be educated in American schools. Washington replied: “You do well to wish to learn our arts and our ways of life and above all, the religion of Jesus Christ. These will make you a greater and happier people than you are. Congress will do everything they can to assist you in this wise intention.” It was Washington’s Speech to Delaware Indian Chiefs on May 12, 1779, in John C. Fitzpatrick, editor, The Writings of George Washington, Vol. XV (Washinton: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1932), p. 55. It was Washington’s heartfelt purpose to have children learn of God in school; and now, over two hundred years later, he is being banished from within those very walls.
America was founded on the prayers and hopes that it would be a country of freedom. The Founding Fathers wished it to be a “people-run” country, unlike the European government they fled. They wished to limit the power of the federal government and leave issues, such as religion, to the states. Thus, this would give individuals the power. The Supreme Court adhered to this constitutional principle until well into the 21st century.
The Founding Fathers set up the new American government to accommodate religious communities and expression. The very thing that is happening today with God, prayer and ultimately, hope, being removed from our public areas is the very thing our Founding Fathers wanted to prevent from happening.
After prohibiting God from our schools, the same people ask where He was after something like Columbine. God is in my heart, and no matter what laws come about no one can change that. No one can stop me from praying and talking to God; no one can steal my faith. Washington and the other Founding Fathers envisioned a country of freedom; one where they wouldn’t be repressed, where they could express their faith without fear.
And now, the United States has become the opposite of the haven they dreamed of. My freedoms as an American have come into question. The very freedom that the Founding Fathers spoke so passionately about has been ripped from our grasp by those who have no real understanding of the concept. The United States is quickly becoming that which the pilgrims fled from two hundred years ago. We, as Americans, desperately need to decipher the true meaning of freedom.