True Separation of Church and State

There’s a lot of viewpoints and interpretations of what “separation of church and state” actually mean.  A little neglected piece of national history regarding this is found in a book entitled, On This Day, a devotional relating colourful stories of people and events in church history.  An excerpt from the Oct 14th entry reads:

“[Issac Bachus] is best known as a champion of religious liberty.  From the beginning of his ministry. Backus fought doggedly for separation of church and state in the American colonies.  When he entered his ministry, a tax in Massachusetts supported the ‘state church’–the Congregational Church in New England.  Backus refused to pay it, was imprisoned, and when released, mounted a tireless campaign to abolish the state-supported church system.

In 1774, when the First Continental Congress met in Philadelphia, Backus was there, lobbying the representatives.  On October 14, 1774, he and his fellow ministers arranged a meeting with the Massachusetts representatives to the Congress and presented a petition requesting full religious liberty.  The politicians were irritated. John Adams insisted that taxes collected to support the Congregational Church did not impinge on the freedom of other religious groups, and he ended the four-hour meeting saying, “Gentlemen, if you mean to try to effect a change in Massachusetts laws repecting religion, you may as well attempt to change the course of the sun in the heavens!’

Backus determined to take his petitions to John Hancock, then before the entire Continental Congress, but John Adams was always working to frustrate his efforts.  Yet his ideas took root, and 27 years after Backus’ death, the last state church in Massachusetts was finally disestablished.  More than any other man, Isaac Backus is credited with formulating and publicizing the evangelical position of church and state that ultimately prevailed in America.”  1

Throughout the roots of our nation’s history are those who fought to protect the church from the State.  How deceptive that now this concept is communicated that the State should be ‘protected’ from the Church, or wrongfully, freedom from religion, rather than freedom of religion!

But Peter and the other apostles answered and said: ‘We ought to obey God rather than men.  The God of our Fathers raised up Jesus whom you murdered by hanging on a tree. Him God has exalted to His right hand to be Prince and Saviour, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins.” Acts 5:29-31 NKJV

1.  Robert J. Morgan. This One Day.  (Nashville:  Thomas Nelson, 1997).  Oct 14th entry.

4 thoughts on “True Separation of Church and State

  1. Great post. I had not previously heard of this man, but would love to have met him. God fully intends we have freedom to practice our relationship with Him. Thank God we live in a nation that, at least for now, grants us liberty to attend church, raise our hearts and hands in worship and pray in public. We are truly blessed.

  2. Thanks for the comments! Yes, everyday I thank the Lord for our freedoms..and I long to pray more for our brothers and sisters who don’t share the same liberty as we. Hopefully, I can gather my thoughts together, even while on vacation, to share some inspiring true-life accounts from believers in more restricted nations. We may have to learn from them someday.

    In the meantime, we can keep them in our prayers!


  3. I have a post up about James Madison’s views on the separation of church and state that may interest you.

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