Excerpts from

"Foundations for Faith and Freedom"

Chapter 2 in A Christian Manifesto by Francis A. Schaeffer

(Crossway Books, 1981)

Here Francis Schaeffer, the beloved Christian author and founder of L'Abri in Switzerland, explains the real meaning and intention of the First Amendment. The American founders never intended to limit Christian expressions! Their goal was to protect Christianity from any government interference. Many had come to America in search of freedom from state restraints.


If we are not governed by God, then we will be ruled by tyrants.”  William Penn (1644-1718)

...those who came to America from Europe came for religious purposes. As they arrived, most of them established their own individual civil governments based upon the Bible. It is, therefore, totally foreign to the basic nature of America at the time of the writing of the Constitution to argue a separation doctrine that implies a secular state.

When the First Amendment was passed it only had two purposes...


[1] ...there would be no established, national church for the united thirteen states. To say it another way: There would be no “Church of the United States.” James Madison ... said that the First Amendment to the Constitution was prompted because “the people feared one sect might obtain a preeminence, or two combine together, and establish a religion to which they would compel others to conform.” (34)


Nevertheless, a number of the individual states had state churches, and even that was not considered in conflict with the First Amendment.

“At the outbreak of the American Revolution, nine of the thirteen colonies had conferred special benefits upon one church to the exclusion of others.”


“In all but one of the thirteen states, the states taxed the people to support the preaching of the gospel and to build churches.”

[2] The second purpose of the First Amendment was the very opposite from what is being made of it today. It states expressly that government should not impede or interfere with the free practice of religion.


As Justice Douglas wrote for the majority of the Supreme Court in the United States v. Ballard case in 1944:

"The First Amendment has a dual aspect. It not only 'forestalls compulsion by law of the acceptance of any creed or the practice of any form of worship' but also 'safeguards the free exercise of the chosen form of religion.'” (35)

Today "the separation of church and state" in America is used to silence the church. When Christians speak out on issues, the hue and cry from the humanist state and media is that Christians, and all religions, are prohibited from speaking since there is a separation of church and state. The way the concept is used today is totally reversed from the original intent. ...


The consequence of the acceptance of this [distorted new] doctrine leads to the removal of religion as an influence in civil government. This fact is well illustrated by John W. Whitehead in his book The Second American Revolution. It is used today as a false political dictum in order to restrict the influence of Christian ideas. As Franky Schaeffer says in the Plan for Action:

It has been convenient and expedient for the secular humanist, the materialist, the so-called liberal, the feminist, the genetic engineer, the bureaucrat, the Supreme Court Justice, to use this arbitrary division between church and state as a ready excuse.... It is used... to subdue the opinions of that vast body of citizens who represent those with religious convictions." (36)

Ponder the following quotes by Thomas Jefferson,*  a Deist and the main author of the Declaration of Independence. The third president of the United States affirms the First Amendment decreed that the government has no power to control or quench the free expression of religion or conscience. The first set of quotes refer to legal and equal "rights".  In the second set, he shares his personal opinion, which does not favor Christianity.

"Believing that religion is a matter which lies solely between man and his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legislative powers of government reach actions only, and 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 and State." (This 1802 letter to the Danbury Baptists shows a separation designed to protect religion from government control, not silence religious expressions.)

"Religion is a subject on which I have ever been most scrupulously reserved. I have considered it as a matter between every man and his Maker in which no other, and far less the public, had a right to intermeddle." (letter to Robert Rush, 1813)

"I consider the government of the United States as interdicted by the Constitution from intermeddling in religious institutions, their doctrines, discipline, or exercises. This results not only from the provision that no law shall be made respecting the establishment or free exercise of religion, but from that also which reserves to the states the powers not delegated to the United States. Certainly, no power to prescribe any religious exercise or to assume authority in religious discipline has been delegated to the General Government. It must rest with the States, as far as it can be in any human authority." (letter to Samuel Miller, Jan. 23, 1808)

"I do not believe it is for the interest of religion to invite the civil magistrate to direct its exercises, its discipline, or its doctrines; nor of the religious societies that the general government should be invested with the power of effecting any uniformity of time or matter among them. Fasting and prayer are religious exercises. The enjoining them, an act of discipline. Every religious society has a right to determine for itself the times for these exercises and the objects proper for them according to their own particular tenets; and this right can never be safer than in their own hands where the Constitution has deposited it... Every one must act according to the dictates of his own reason, and mine tells me that civil powers alone have been given to the President of the United States, and no authority to direct the religious exercises of his constituents." (letter to Samuel Miller, Jan. 23, 1808)

"No provision in our Constitution ought to be dearer to man than that which protects the rights of conscience against the power of its public functionaries, were it possible that any of these should consider a conquest over the conscience of men either attainable or applicable to any desirable purpose." (Letters to the Methodist Episcopal Church at New London, Connecticut, Feb. 4, 1809)

"In matters of religion, I have considered that its free exercise is placed by the constitution independent of the power of the federal government. I have therefore undertaken, on no occasion, to prescribe the religious exercises suited to it; but have left them, as the constitution found them, under the direction of state or church authorities acknowledged by the several religious societies." (Jefferson's Second Inaugural Address)

"In justice, too, to our excellent Constitution, it ought to be observed, that it has not placed our religious rights under the power of any public functionary. The power, therefore, was wanting, not less than the will, to injure these rights." (Letter to the Society of the Methodist Episcopal Church at Pittsburg, Dec. 9, 1808)

"...(O)ur rulers can have no authority over such natural rights, only as we have submitted to them. The rights of conscience we never submitted, we could not submit. We are answerable for them to our God. The legitimate powers of government extend to such acts only as are injurious to others. But it does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods or no god. In neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg." (Notes on Virginia, 1785) [1]

As a Deist, Thomas Jefferson believed in the wisdom of man, not in the unchanging sovereignty of God. Like many of his personal letters, his message to William Short dated April 13, 1820, reflects the Enlightenment's hostility toward the Bible:

"Among the sayings and discourses imputed to him [Jesus] by his biographers, I find many passages of fine imagination, correct morality, and of the most lovely benevolence; and others again of so much ignorance, so much absurdity, so much untruth, charlatanism, and imposture, as to pronounce it impossible that such contradictions should have proceeded from the same being."[2]

About two weeks earlier, on January 24, he wrote the following letter to John Adams:

"The whole history of these books [the Gospels] is so defective and doubtful that it seems vain to attempt minute enquiry into it: and such tricks have been played with their text, and with the texts of other books relating to them, that we have a right, from that cause, to entertain much doubt what parts of them are genuine. In the New Testament there is internal evidence that parts of it have proceeded from an extraordinary man; and that other parts are of the fabric of very inferior minds. It is as easy to separate those parts, as to pick out diamonds from dunghills."[2]

Francis Schaeffer explained the difference between Christianity and Deism in his 1976 book, How Then Shall We Live?

"The utopian dream of the Enlightenment can be summed up by five words: reason, nature, happiness, progress, and liberty....

"If these men [who embraced the beliefs of the Enlightenment] had a religion, it was deism. The deists believed in a God who had created the world but who had no contact with it now, and who had not revealed truth to men. If there was a God, he was silent."[3]

More information here: Unalienable Rights? From God?


1. Andrew Lipscomb and Albert Bergh, The Writings of Thomas Jefferson, 20 volumes

2. Thomas Jefferson on Christianity and Religion, Compiled by Jim Walker, http://www.nobeliefs.com/jefferson.htm

3. Francis Schaeffer, How Then Shall We Live? (Fleming H. Revel Co., 1976), p.121-122.

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