• The Heritage Network
    • Resize:
    • A
    • A
    • A
  • Donate
  • Church Over State: A Picture Says a Thousand Words

    For decades now the secular Left has constantly pressed at every opportunity to keep any semblance of religion away from anything that is somehow connected to government.  There must be a complete and unbridgeable separation of Church and State, they always say, a misreading (and misuse) of a letter Thomas Jefferson wrote in 1801.  That wall “must be high and impregnable,” the Supreme Court ruled in 1947. “We could not approve the slightest breach.”

    As a result, we can’t have prayers in public schools, at football games or graduations, and the secularists are hard bent to remove “under God” from the Pledge of Allegiance.  They have sued to remove “In God We Trust” from our currency, and to prevent prayer at presidential inaugurals.

    Yet, every once in a while, something comes along that makes obvious the absurdity of the Left’s absolutist position and reveals the centrality of faith to our humanity, personal relationships and civic life.

    Witness the photograph, taken in the Arghanab Valley of Afghanistan, which appeared on the front page of the Wall Street Journal of June 9.

    In the picture Staff Sergeant Edward Rosa, a non-commissioned officer of the United States Army, in uniform, and acting in his official capacity in a war zone, is administering over Private First-Class Jorge Obando, an enlisted soldier presumably under his authority.  Both have taken an oath of uphold and defend the Constitution of the United States.  And yet—brace yourself—the Sergeant is reading the Bible to the Private, who has been wounded.  (And to make it all the better, he is also helping him smoke a cigarette.)

    So there you have it, a picture-perfect example of the proper understanding of the separation of church and state.

    Posted in First Principles [slideshow_deploy]

    7 Responses to Church Over State: A Picture Says a Thousand Words

    1. MarkV, San Diego says:

      Great post!! We just don't hear it enough. Incidentally Jefferson's letter was in response to a letter sent to him from the Danbury Baptists of Connecticut concerned about the STATE's role in religion, not religion's role with the state!  The Danbury Baptists are asking what the State's role is in their faith.  Jefferson's response is a clarification that the STATE has NO ROLE — their religious liberties are safe from government.  Jefferson says NOTHING about religion's role in government!  This is the context in which Jefferson was writing.  If that were not the case, his entire life and life's work is in direct contradiction to the other interpreted meaning.  Thank you for reintroducing this. We need to keep hammering home the original intent of the original phrase!

    2. MarkV, San Diego says:

      Was my post of agreement considered a form of "incivility"?

    3. TimB says:

      I believe society is replete with the results of the secular Left's more then successful endeavor to remove God from public life. I'm not going to list them all here as I have no doubt any thinking individual knows the what the results are.

      It's interesting about our currency though. When it comes to our economy and the phoney currency it is based on, and when we have have elected leaders who seem to be trying their best to achieve a debt ratio equal to or surpassing that of Greece, well God is all we have left to trust in.

      My idea of separation of church and state I think is pretty well in line with what Thomas Jefferson meant. Those individuals left a situation in Europe where the government mandated what church you were going to go to. Britain said you're going to go to the Church of England. France, Italy and some others said the Roman Catholic Church. Germany. Well the Lutheran Church was their choice. Jefferson et al realized that approach wasn't going to work in the newly found country of America.

      What is equally amazing to how the Supreme Court interpreted Thomas Jefferson in their decision is they way they seem to have conveniently overlooked another important quote from history. And one we need to keep hammering home as well!

      George Washington during his farewell speech said: "Of all the dispositions and habits, which lead to political prosperity, Religion and Morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of Patriotism, who should labor to subvert these great pillars of human happiness, these firmest props of the duties of Men and Citizens. The mere Politician, equally with the pious man, ought to respect and to cherish them. A volume could not trace all their connexions with private and public felicity. Let it simply be asked, Where is the security for property, for reputation, for life, if the sense of religious obligation desert the oaths, which are the instruments of investigation in Courts of Justice? And let us with caution indulge the supposition, that morality can be maintained without religion. Whatever may be conceded to the influence of refined education on minds of peculiar structure, reason and experience both forbid us to expect, that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle."

      What else can I say? George Washington said it all. Without God or Religion as part of the public forum or people's daily lives, civilization cannot exist. Especially under the form of government that he, Thomas Jefferson and others envisioned.

    4. Raven Chukwu, London says:

      I think it's unlikely most "secularists" would find anything wrong with the situation depicted in the photograph. If the wounded soldier in question happened to be muslim for instance, presumably there would be another soldier reading the Quran over him and providing comfort. We have spiritual needs as well as biological and I think that members of the "Secular Left" (as the author chooses to call them) are well aware of this.

      The problem arises, I feel, with cases in which the State is seen to be placing its imprimatur on *one* religion, one form of religious expression or one related family of creeds (or if the state acts in such a manner as to give the impression that individuals who happen not to believe in God are somehow second-class citizens not capable of fully participating in public life). The argument against such things as (state-sponsored) public prayers and statements like "in God We Trust" is (quite apart from the Constitutional position and our attempts to divine the intents of the Founding Fathers) partially based on the fact that some people do not in fact "trust in God" or espouse creeds which make these prayers meaningful and it is not the State's business to tell them that they ought to.

      Providing "private religious services" while serving in one's official government capacity seems, as you rightly point out, perfectly acceptable (and even praiseworthy). It infringes on no ones rights and excludes no one and is, I feel, miles away from what the Secular Left refers to when it beats on the "Separation of Church and State" drum.

    5. Bertrand, Lakeland says:

      A straw man argument is an informal fallacy based on misrepresentation of an opponent's position. To "attack a straw man" is to create the illusion of having refuted a proposition by substituting a superficially similar yet weaker proposition (the "straw man"), and refuting it, without ever having actually refuted the original position.

      This author is just tearing down a straw-man of his own creation. This really has nothing to do with the actual intention of "separation of Church and State" as described through Thomas Jefferson's own words in a letter to the Danbury Baptists detailing the intent behind the Establishment Clause of the United States Constitution. This is just a picture of a man, who is wounded, receiving comfort from his personal beliefs. I don't think any "Leftist" would disagree with that. This is just a puff piece to rile up the religious. This is absolute garbage.

    6. michael j mudrak car says:

      I have always felt that our founders meant that God and religion would be a separate

      entity and the government should not control our violate its existence.But the people

      belonging to any rightful house of worship have a say in the actions of government.

      Remember our framers used the bible whenever they needed reference I feel it was

      psalm 1 that gave them the most insight.

    7. michael j mudrak car says:

      It is they who do not believe that look to their creator when on their death bed !

    Comments are subject to approval and moderation. We remind everyone that The Heritage Foundation promotes a civil society where ideas and debate flourish. Please be respectful of each other and the subjects of any criticism. While we may not always agree on policy, we should all agree that being appropriately informed is everyone's intention visiting this site. Profanity, lewdness, personal attacks, and other forms of incivility will not be tolerated. Please keep your thoughts brief and avoid ALL CAPS. While we respect your first amendment rights, we are obligated to our readers to maintain these standards. Thanks for joining the conversation.

    Big Government Is NOT the Answer

    Your tax dollars are being spent on programs that we really don't need.

    I Agree I Disagree ×

    Get Heritage In Your Inbox — FREE!

    Heritage Foundation e-mails keep you updated on the ongoing policy battles in Washington and around the country.

    ×