Southern Religion

Pastors slammed for telling the First Amendment truth

There is a price in smear to taking a stand against revisionist history, as a group of moderate to liberal clergy – members of the Texas Faith Network – did recently.

Jonathan Saenz, , a lawyer/lobbyist for Liberty Institute (the Texas affiliate of the far-right Focus on the Family), quickly accused the group had used their press conference “to personally attack the Christian faith of some State Board of Education members.” Although he didn’t explain how that occurred, he did correctly report that they support separation of church and state. They said, for example:

“Our Founding Fathers understood that the best way to protect religious liberty in America is to keep government out of matters of faith,” said the Rev. Roger Paynter, pastor of Austin’s First Baptist Church. “But this state board appears hostile to teaching students about the importance of keeping religion and state separate, a principle long supported in my own Baptist tradition and in other faiths.”

False history is typically cited to support the Texas board’s hostility, Saenz’s and that of his allies. To wit, Dave Welch of the arch conservative Pastor Council issued a press release which, among other things, said:

“The Northwest Ordinance, passed in 1787 by the same Congress which presented the Bill of Rights for ratification, declared that ‘Religion, morality and knowledge being necessary to good government and the happiness of mankind, schools and the means of education shall forever be encouraged.’”

He’s just wrong.

The Northwest Ordinance of 1787 was passed by the Congress seated under the Articles of Confederation.

More than two years later, first federal Congress under the Constitution sent the Bill of Rights to the states for ratification. And of course included the First Amendment in the Bill of Rights — the one which forbids government from either promoting or disfavoring religion.

May 14, 2010 - Posted by | Law, Religion |


  1. My info says it wasn’t until Virginia ratified the Bill of Rights on Dec. 15th, 1791 and then 10 of the proposed 12 amendments become part of the U.S. Constitution. About 4 years after the Constitution was approved. I don’t believe the 1st Amendment has anything to do with separation of church & state but addresses the gov’t. not to declare what a religion is or is not and how to practice that religion. Some clearly tax dodging organizations masquerading as religions have been regulated by the IRS and rightly so I think.

    Comment by jack | May 15, 2010

    • Indeed, and of course the First Amendment begins, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; … .” The “no law” part of that phrase gets the wall of separation ball rolling.

      Comment by baptistplanet | May 15, 2010

  2. Rev.William Lynn was chosen,per the Constitution,as U.S. House Chaplain on May 01, 1789 continuing the tradition of the Continental Congress. One of his duties is to open every meeting of Congress. I don’t know if the U.S. Supreme Court has ever looked at this or has ever been asked to.

    Comment by jack | May 15, 2010

    • William Lynn was an interesting, extraordinarily accomplished man. His ceremonial role as chaplain of the House of Representatives is, however something of an aside here.

      Comment by baptistplanet | May 15, 2010

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