House Speaker Mike Johnson (R) clarified the often-misunderstood concept of “separation of church and state” during a recent interview on CNBC’s “Squawk Box.”
Host Andrew Ross Sorkin questioned Johnson about the public perception of his decision to pray on the House floor after being sworn in as speaker, implying that he had violated a principle that prohibits faith from the public square.
Johnson responded by emphasizing the importance of faith in American history and tradition. He explained that the founders of the United States intended for a vibrant expression of faith in the public square, as they believed that a general moral consensus and virtue were necessary for maintaining the nation’s system of self-governance.
Lots of misleading headlines. Take a look at what I actually said here: pic.twitter.com/Vw3AHzoRvT
— Speaker Mike Johnson (@SpeakerJohnson) November 15, 2023
The speaker then addressed the misconception surrounding the separation of church and state, stating that it is a “misnomer.” Johnson explained that the phrase originated from a letter written by Thomas Jefferson and is not actually in the Constitution. Jefferson’s intent was to prevent the government from encroaching on the church, not to exclude faith from public life.
Johnson also quoted George Washington and John Adams to further illustrate the significance of faith in the nation’s founding:
- Washington: “Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports”
Adams: “Our constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other”
Johnson concluded by emphasizing the need for a vibrant expression of faith in the public square, not as an establishment of a national religion, but as a crucial part of America’s identity.
The First Amendment addresses religious liberty with two important clauses: the Establishment Clause, which states that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion,” and the Free Exercise Clause, which prohibits Congress from making a law “prohibiting the free exercise” of religion.
As Johnson explained, Jefferson believed that these clauses created a wall between church and state to protect the free exercise of religion from government interference, not to keep faith out of government.
Why It Matters
Speaker Johnson’s response to CNBC’s Sorkin is a wake-up call for those trying to remove faith from our nation’s foundation. As a conservative, I believe our country was built on religious values, and Johnson’s history lesson proves it. Separation of church and state doesn’t mean banning faith from public life; it protects churches from government interference.
Our founding fathers knew that a moral and religious people were essential for maintaining self-governance. Silencing prayer and faith in the public square only weakens our nation’s identity and disregards our history. Ignorance of our roots will only lead to the loss of the very freedoms we hold dear.
Let’s stand up for our values, just like Speaker Johnson did.
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