In a recent video for PragerU on Separation of Church and State, John Eastman dismisses the phrase as coming from the following:
It comes from one brief letter that Thomas Jefferson wrote to the Danbury Baptist Association in 1802.
At the end of a very long sentence in which Jefferson affirms his conviction that religious belief should be a private matter, and that the government should not interfere with such matters, he uses the phrase “building a wall of separation between Church & State.”
And that’s where the phrase lived, undisturbed — lost in Jefferson’s voluminous correspondence — for almost 150 years.
As for their evidence that it’s wrong:
As George Washington said in his Farewell Address, “Religion and morality are indispensable supports of our political prosperity.”
And that’s where this phrase lives, undisturbed — lost in Washington’s voluminous speeches — for almost a century.
For that matter, here’s something else that happened around the same time, as documented by Jefferson:
When the clergy addressed General Washington on his departure from the government, it was observed in their consultation that he had never on any occasion said a word to the public which showed a belief in the Christian religion and they thought they should so pen their address as to force him at length to declare publicly whether he was a Christian or not. They did so . . . He answered every article of their address particularly expect that, which he passed over without notice.
So if Washington was so religious, someone should have told the religious.
Also, while Jefferson did directly use the famous phrase, he was far from the only founding father to believe America should be secular. John Adams, one of the most religious of the founding fathers, said the following in a treaty signed in 1797:
As the government of the United States is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian Religion . . . no pretext arising from religious opinions shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries.
At another point in the video, PragerU claims the following:
When James Madison first proposed what eventually became the First Amendment, his original wording was that “no religion shall be established” by Congress. But that language was later modified after it was pointed out that this might be taken to mean that the government, including the state governments, had no interest in religion at all. The Founders did not want this.
Well that’s slightly out of character (oh, and PragerU has a source page on their website — guess which claim they don’t have a citation for) considering Madison is the same man who said this:
During almost fifteen centuries has the legal establishment of Christianity been on trail. What have been its fruits? More or less, in all places, pride and indolence in the clergy; ignorance and servility in laity; in both, superstition, bigotry, and persecution.
Fans of Shane Killian might have heard these quotes before. If so, that’s because he used them against PragerU last year when they tried to make the exact same arguments. Seriously, watch the video here if you don’t believe me:
And I only used a small selection of the quotes Killian used. Trust me, I could have gone much more in depth.
However, the fact that I didn’t need to kind of shows the issue. PragerU had made similar videos before the one Killian debunked, and they’re going to make the same videos once again. PragerU does not care about reality, they just want to make videos distorting it in hopes of it can back up their ideology.
One, however, can not help but notice the difference in quotes Killian uses vs. the quotes PragerU uses. Often times, when PragerU wants to prove a founding father was religious, they’ll find them making a vague reference towards “religion” or “God.” Yet, when someone like Shane Killian wants to prove that the founders were not religious, he finds them specifically mentioning the Christian religion or the doctrine of establishing a national religion — and he finds them bashing it.
One of the quotes mentioned on the source page of this video from James Madison is:
[T]he belief in a God All Powerful, wise and good … is essential to the moral order of the World and the happiness of men.
Oh, by the way, this is the page they linked, do a ctrl+f search for that phrase net time you got a minute and see if you can find it. I couldn’t , because PragerU lied about it being their.
However, compare that vague reference Madison made towards God to this much more explicate quote about the religion:
Religious bondage shackles and debilitates the mind and unfits it for every noble enterprise.
Okay, so we know that the founders were not for a religious society, however, does that make it bad?
Luckily, John Eastman has a number of reasons why religion is good:
Almost every cultural and ethical indicator — marriage rates
Which is highest in liberal states Nevada and Hawaii — Hawaii also has the highest amount of transgender people per capita.
Hence why the most ethical country on the planet is Niger.
the number of Americans giving to charity — has declined since God and religion have faded from American life.
And yet, the United States is still the second most charitable nation in the world per percent of GDP. Number one, for those curious, is highly secular France.
Meanwhile, children without fathers in their lives
This statement is totally useless without context. Why did these fathers leave? What counts as “in their children's lives”? How often can a father be around a child before he’s counted as being a part of the life of a child?
I should also note the “why did the father leave” question is quite important. If, say, the father is a heroine junky, is anyone going to argue that he should not be part of the life of his child?
behavioral problems in schools
Again, what counts as “behavioral problems”? Selling drugs, doing drugs, getting into fights, not doing homework, being disruptive, and much much more could all count as “behavioral problems.” Yet, they are all different offensives, caused by different circumstances, and worthy of different punishments.
and crime have gone up dramatically.
Violent crime has been going down for the past quarter century.
So your quotes are nonsense, your arguments are nonsense, and your statistics are nonsense. Sounds like a typical PragerU video.