Separation of Church & State

I read an article last week talking about the difference between Freedom of Worship and Freedom of Religion.


Freedom of Worship – means you have the right to worship who you believe to be god so long as you are tolerant of other people’s right to worship.


Freedom of Religion – means you have the right to practice your religion.


For most people, myself included, the difference is so subtle that most people don’t see the difference and most people don’t understand the implications on Christianity.  The difference between the two is as follows: Freedom of Worship means a Christian can show up to a church and worship Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, but the moment you walk out the door of that building you are supposed to keep your religious beliefs to yourself.  Behind this is the perspective of tolerance – you believe what you believe, let me believe what I believe, and let’s not try to convert each other.  Freedom of Religion on the other hand means a Christian can not only show up at a church and worship Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, but also practice your religion in the form of trying to share Christ with others and convert them to Christianity.


We are told in our culture that there is a Separation of Church and State, and people use this to silence Christians.  But the meaning of Separation of Church and State is different from the practice of Separation of Church and State in the 21st Century United States of America.  Originally in our country, the term was an offshoot of the phrase, “wall of separation between church and state,” as written in Thomas Jefferson‘s letter to the Danbury Baptist Association in 1802.  The Danbury Baptist Association of Danbury, Connecticut sent a letter, dated October 7, 1801, to the newly elected President Thomas Jefferson, expressing concern over the lack in their state constitution of explicit protection of religious liberty, and against a government establishment of religion (i.e., they didn’t want one denomination to become the official state church and thus not allow the Danbury Baptists to practice their religion).  So Jefferson responded by saying: “… 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.”


The original purpose of the letter was not to say we cannot practice our religion or that we only have freedom of worship or that teachers, students, and employees can’t ever talk about their religious convictions, or that Christians cannot let their religious beliefs inform their politics, especially when they run for office.  Rather, the purpose was to protect people in their practice of religion so that they would not be discriminated against.


Think about the above and then think about how far we have gone in the opposite direction.


Friends, Christian brothers and sisters, we have a mission before us – to reach West Seattle, Burien, White Center and Des Moines with the Gospel – may we do it with grace (Jesus’ method of ministering) and yet may we not be afraid for the laws of our country are on our side as we practice our religion.





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