People like our Federal Courts and the A.C.L.U. are willing to undertake huge tasks. The matter of separation of church and state is a good example. These folks are trying to preserve our American heritage of freedom from religion. Somehow they know that the founding fathers didn’t want religion to meddle in the affairs of state. When I was a new citizen I was interested in the fact that each American lives under at least 2 constitutions. While I’m sad that many don’t know the contents of the U.S. constitution, I hope you’ll at least pay attention to your state’s constitution.
As a new American I asked why these documents existed. I was instructed that the constitution is the highest law in the United States. That made me hurry to read it. Having done so, I was greatly comforted. Right up front, the document presents you with its reason for being. This is called the preamble. I trust you cherish the words: “ to - form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our prosperity…..”
The main point of a preamble is to establish what is important to those who hold to the contents of the document. That is also where those who believe that the fathers of this nation didn’t want religion to be mixed with state matters, have their biggest headache. It’s going to be a long, hard road, but with a can-do attitude and enough complacency on the part of citizens, I think they could sanitize religion out of our state charters.
Here’s the problem: the constitutions of all 50 states contain a presumption on the part of the framers of the documents that God should be mentioned in, and play a part in public affairs. Most states have allusion to God in their preambles. In order to make the idea of a complete separation of church and state a tenet of our political life, the day must come when all 50 state constitutions are either ignored or revised.
Our state, New Jersey, has these words in the preamble: “We, the people of the State of New Jersey, grateful to Almighty God for the civil and religious liberty which He hath so long permitted us to enjoy, and looking to Him for a blessing upon our endeavors to secure and transmit the same unimpaired to succeeding generations, do ordain and establish this Constitution.” Shocking wording, or what!?
In 1947 The New Jersey constitution was carefully updated at the convention held at Rutgers University. Only 68 years ago the leaders of our state felt so strongly about including God in public affairs that they wrote one of the most God-acknowledging preambles in the history of the USA. The good thing about the Internet is that you can read the charters of all the states. Each one of them will have to be revised. It’s just silly to have them worded the way they are, and yet boldly proclaim that those who wrote them wanted no religious influence in the matters of state. Modern America is a secular nation that must be ruled with laws that consider humanity the measure of all things. Are you ready to call for a shredding of all our constitutions and letting the current politicians rewrite them?
The only other thing we could do is take a new look how our courts painted us into a corner by misrepresenting the “wall” between church and state idea. In the light of all these state constitutions there’s the strong possibility that this was supposed to be a country – not free of religion, but rather free for religion. In other words no particular church is to be allowed to dominate our politics. There are many of us who would want it no other way. The price for doing it this way is to return to making God the measure of how life should be lived. That implies prayers to seek guidance upon our laws. Most radical of all, it reintroduces the idea that we are not free to live just as we please. Like our Founders, we are invited back to the Bible that shaped their thinking.
By the way the first New Jersey constitution in 1776 stated: “That no person shall ever, within this Colony, be deprived of the inestimable privilege of worshipping Almighty God in a manner agreeable to the dictates of his own conscience; nor, under any pretense whatever, be compelled to attend any place of worship, contrary to his own faith and judgment; nor shall any person, within this Colony, ever be obliged to pay tithes, taxes or any other rates, for the purpose of building or repairing any other church or churches, place or places of worship, or for the maintenance of any minister or ministry, contrary to what he believes to be right.”
Andrew Paton of Clinton Church of the Nazarene, born in Africa, has pastored in Hunterdon County since 1997. Before that he ministered in Durban and Bedfordview, South Africa and prior to that was an officer in The Salvation Army. He has been in full time Christian leadership since 1975. He and his wife Carol have two married sons and five grandchildren.
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