Ok, I’ve thought about it, and here’s what I think: First the Constitution specifically forbids any religious test (Article VI, Section 3). So, Jeff Sessions was wrong on that point. You cannot exclude any candidate for public office or government appointee on the basis of their religious beliefs (or lack thereof).
HOWEVER, “separation of church and state” is NOT found in the Constitution at all. It was a concept lifted from President Thomas Jefferson’s 1802 letter to the Danbury Baptist Church. What mudstream media fails to reveal is that the Danbury’s principle concerns involved governmental intrusion and meddling into the affairs of their church and the free exercise of their religion, hence Jefferson’s response:
“Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between Man & his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, & not opinions, 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 part of the First Amendment germane to this conversation prohibits the feds from BOTH of the following:
1. Respecting (giving preferential treatment to) an establishment (denomination) of religion. (vernacular of the day translated to modern English)
2. Prohibiting the free exercise of religion.
Between the First Amendment and Supreme Court decisions expand its scope to cover all jurisdictions throughout the United States, it is unlawful for any elected or appointed government official at the local, county, state, or federal level to either give preferential treatment of one religion over another, or prohibit the free exercise of any religion, INCLUDING RELIGIOUSLY MOTIVATED ACTIONS BY A GOVERNMENT OFFICIAL.
The only two remaining exceptions involve preeminent rights and moral decency clauses, meaning that no one, including a religiously-minded government official, can trample on the rights of others.
The greatest mistake that people make on this issue involves assuming that this “wall of separation” is two-way. Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, Thomas Jefferson, the author of the “separation of church and state” phrase, routinely opened the doors of the U.S. Treasury to churchgoers during a period of rapid population growth in our nation’s capitol. Our Founding Fathers were men of deep religious conviction. Those who moved into government service let God and God’s word, the Bible, be their guide, the same as do many members within government do today. They opened each session, if not day in prayer, and we still do this today, not only in the federal government but throughout most local, county, and state governments, as well.
Remember that the next time you unlawfully propose that courthouses and legislative bodies remove the Ten Commandments from their walls. They do not administer the Ten Commandments. They administer the law, beginning with “the supreme Law of the Land” i.e. the U.S. Constitution (Article VI, Clause 2). The Ten Commandments are there to honor both the ultimate source of the law: The Lord (U.S. Constitution), God/Creator/Supreme Judge of the World (Declaration of Independence).
Now, you may not LIKE this, but like it or not, 70.6% of all U.S. citizens remain Christians. That’s down 10% in 30 years, but it’s actually been on a slight rise over the last decade. Freedom OF religion is NOT freedom “from” religion. That is reality, and all the atheistic / agnostic railing against this reality will not change it.
By the way, both atheism and agnosticism are on a slight decline per capita in developed countries, including the United States of America. 🙂