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Last October, Bill Lee, governor of Tennessee, declared October 10 as a “day of prayer, humility, and fasting” for the state. Government officials calling for a day of prayer has a long tradition in America, dating all the way back to our first president, George Washington.
Of course, these days that kind of proclamation never goes unchallenged, and that is certainly what happened in this case. No sooner had it been proclaimed, the leaders of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, Dan Barker and Annie Laurie Gaylor, wrote an op-ed in the Knoxville News Sentinel calling the proclamation “inappropriate” and a “disservice to the Constitution – and his citizens.” This organization is well known for opposing, and even bringing lawsuits against, political figures or entities that express any kind of religious belief in the public square.
Of course, issuing that kind of proclamation is not unconstitutional as they claim. In fact, that sort of thing has been upheld numerous times by the U.S. Supreme Court. But that does not deter these folks. And sadly, it is not just militant Atheist organizations that believe this way. There are actually a large number of people in America that are misinformed in the same way. They believe that any “religious” expression in the public square violates the “separation of church and state.” As it turns out, there are a couple of major problems with their objection.
First, there is no such thing as “separation of church and state” in the U.S. Constitution. What we have is the Establishment Clause as it is expressed in the Constitution’s First Amendment. This clause prohibits the federal government from establishing a state church. It has nothing to do with whether or not individuals are allowed to express their beliefs in the public square, whether they are in public service or not.
The other problem is that, in spite of the fact that most Atheists believe they do not have any religious beliefs, Atheism is, itself, a religious belief. It is founded upon a naturalistic worldview – which is a religious belief system. The underlying presuppositions of Naturalism are based on faith in the notion that the natural universe is all that exists – so there is no God. It is a religious belief because there is no way to empirically verify that it is true. In effect, what these people are demanding is that the beliefs that the U.S. Constitution was established upon (the beliefs of biblical Theism) be changed to a different belief foundation (Naturalism).
With naturalistic beliefs as the foundational principle, the leaders of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, and those who believe like them, are attempting to change the beliefs that underlie the U.S. Constitution. They are demanding a different set of underlying beliefs that allow them to interpret it in a different way. With a naturalistic interpretation, they can simply deem a call to prayer unconstitutional.Bottom line though, Naturalism represents neither the actual structure of reality, nor the concepts expressed in America’s founding documents. The sooner Christians, as a whole, recognize this truth and make sure their political representatives also understand it, the sooner sanity can return to American society.
Freddy Davis is the president of MarketFaith Ministries. He is the author of numerous books and has a background as an international missionary, pastor, radio host, worldview trainer, and entrepreneur. Freddy is a graduate of Florida State University with a BS in Communication, and holds MDiv and DMin degrees from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. He is a popular speaker, particularly on the topic of worldview and its practical implications for the Christian life. He lives in Tallahassee, FL, with his wife Deborah.
You may also contact Freddy at Leadership Speakers Bureau to schedule him for speaking or leadership engagements.
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