Borrowed from Baptist theologian Roger Williams, the phrase “a hedge or wall of separation between the garden of the church and the wilderness of the world” has become a well-recognized description of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution.
Officially adopted on December 15, 1791, the First Amendment prevents the government from passing any legislation that respects an establishment of religion. This means that the government can’t force a particular religion upon us, or take away our right to practice whatever religion that we choose.
Why is this so important?
Easy. The United States is a Christian country. Nearly all of our presidents and Supreme Court justices have been Christian, along with about about 70% of the general population. That’s a lot of people, right?
But, in a country as heavily populated as the United States, the percentage of the country that identifies as something other than Christian consists of a whopping 65 million people. Without the protection of the First Amendment’s Religious Clause, each of those 65 million people would likely be forced to abide by laws that respect Christianity, while potentially forcing them to contradict the standards of their own particular religions or beliefs.
The end result of this would be a complete corruption of the very ideals that stand as the foundation of the United States.
What would a world without “a wall of separation” mean for me, personally?
At this point, I consider myself to be somewhat of a religious free agent. I believe in something, most of the time; I’m just unsure of exactly what that something is. I’m sure I’ll figure it all out one day, but for now I’m just waiting for the right deity to draft me onto his or her team.
With that said, none of this uncertainty exists when it comes to my political and moral standings. I’m proudly pro-choice, a proud supporter of LGBTQ rights, and most likely a handful of other things that many would say clash with “traditional” Christian beliefs. These things aren’t just political to me. I believe they are vital parts of who I am. Without the protection of the First Amendment, I wouldn’t be me. I couldn’t be me.
And if you really simplify it all, religion is kind of like a rulebook, right? These things are good. These are bad. Don’t do these things. Do these things. These things will earn you eternal damnation. You know what I mean.
And until I decide on which version of the rules I want to play by, my political beliefs are the closest thing that I’ll have to a religion. They’ve shaped my personal list of “thou shalt nots” and lead me to discover many causes that I’m proud to crusade for.
The Religious Clause is for people like me, and I thank God, whoever he or she might be, for it.
This post reflects the views of the author, and is intended to start a conversation. Please share your thoughts in the comments below!
Or, if you’d like to hear some overall thoughts on government and politics from Christians at THRED, you can find those over here.