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ARE CHRISTIANS WHO TEACH AGAINST OTHER FAITHS BIGOTS?
June 17, 2018
Christians have been called various derogatory names for teaching against other faiths, denominations, and religions. They have also been called various derogatory names for teaching against various activities that they believe to be "sins." But, is it fair and accurate to accuse Christians of bigotry for teaching against those who disagree with them religiously? We will explore that question in this article.
The First Amendment
First of all, Christians are guaranteed the freedom to practice our religion freely and to express our religious convictions freely. The First Amendment to the Constitution clearly spell out those freedoms. The First Amendment in what is known as the "Bill of Rights" does more than set forth the freedoms of people of faith, but to others as well:
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.
Notice what the Amendment guarantees:
Notice that the First Amendment (as all the first ten amendments, the Bill of Rights) were designed to protect us from the Government, not to protect the government from us. So, the Amendment's two clauses specifically relating to religion (the Establishment Clause and the Free Exercise Clause) were not designed to force the exclusion of anything religious from the Government, its property, its military, schools, etc. It was designed to keep the Government from interfering with our rights to practice our religion.. and to express our religion, including teaching our beliefs to others.
"But," you may ask, "what about 'separation of church and state?'" It was not included in any part of the Constitution, the Declaration of Independence, nor in any law passed by Congress! That is right. Then where did it come from? The origin of this phrase can be traced back to an 1802 letter written by Thomas Jefferson to the Danbury Baptist Association. Kevin Cain, J.D., writes in Deconstructing the Establishment Clause (Apologetics Press):
The Danbury Baptist Association of Connecticut wrote a letter to President Thomas Jefferson expressing concern over their lack of state constitutional protection of religious liberty and against a government establishment of religion. Specifically, the Danbury Baptists stated in their letter to President Jefferson, “Our Sentiments are uniformly on the side of Religious Liberty—That Religion is at all times and places a matter between God and individuals—That no man ought to suffer in name, person, or effects on account of his religious Opinions—That the legitimate Power of civil government extends no further than to punish the man who works ill to his neighbor.”1.
The Danbury Baptists were concerned that a religious majority might establish a state religion at the expense of the liberties of religious minorities."2.
Here is Jefferson's response in its context:
Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between Man & his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only,& not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should "make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof," thus building a wall of separation between Church & State. Adhering to this expression of the supreme will of the nation in behalf of the rights of conscience, I shall see with sincere satisfaction the progress of those sentiments which tend to restore to man all his natural rights, convinced he has no natural right in opposition to his social duties (Jefferson's Wall of Separation Letter, (Usconstitution.net). .
Notice that Jefferson uses the phrases, "religion is a matter which lies solely between Man & his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship," the legitimate powers of government reach actions only,& not opinions,"Adhering to this expression of the supreme will of the nation in behalf of the rights of conscience," and, "natural rights," all references to the rights of the American people. So, the phrase, "wall of separation of church and state," refers to the rights of the American people to worship and serve God as they please, without being forced to adhere to a state religion by the government or being told what they can say and do religiously or where they can say and do it.(Continued on page 2).
1.Danbury Baptist Association’s Letter to Thomas Jefferson (1801), October 7, [On-line], http://www.stephenjaygould.org/ctrl/dba_jefferson.html"↩
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