O'Reilly ignored First Amendment, misrepresented Jefferson's position

››› ››› JULIE MILLICAN

In his December 14 nationally syndicated column, " 'Tis the Season," Bill O'Reilly wrote that the "separation of church and state argument" is "bogus" because it "does not appear anywhere in the Constitution." O'Reilly continued, baselessly asserting that "[i]f Thomas Jefferson were alive today, he would mock these secular fools and then retire to his Virginia estate for Christmas dinner." In fact, Jefferson wrote a famous letter in 1802 in which he declared his support for "a wall of eternal separation between Church & State" and expressed his "reverence" for the First Amendment to the Constitution, which mandates that "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof."

Additionally, Jefferson made numerous other statements of support for the principle of the separation of church and state. For example:

  • In a letter to Samuel Miller, Jefferson wrote: "I consider the government of the United States as interdicted by the Constitution from intermeddling with 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."
  • Also to Miller, Jefferson wrote: "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. ... Everyone 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."
  • Jefferson also believed in keeping religion out of public schools, as noted in his statements during the passage of the Elementary School Act of 1817: "Ministers of the Gospel are excluded [from serving as Visitors of the county Elementary Schools] to avoid jealousy from the other sects, were the public education committed to the ministers of a particular one; and with more reason than in the case of their exclusion from the legislative and executive functions. ... No religious reading, instruction or exercise, shall be prescribed or practiced [in the elementary schools] inconsistent with the tenets of any religious sect or denomination."

From O'Reilly's December 14 column:

Well, the Supreme Court punted. The justices were supposed to decide weeks ago whether or not to hear a blatant example of anti-Christian bias in New York City. But still no decision.

The case concerns a policy by the New York City public schools to allow displays of the Star and Crescent flag for Ramadan and the Menorah for Hanukkah, but to ban the Nativity scene at Christmas time. The decision makes no legal sense, as the federal courts have previously ruled that so-called "religious" displays can appear on public property, as long as there is no preference given to one religion over another.

[...]

But no, the Supreme Court justices are now on their Christmas break, and have left the country adrift once again. The anti-Christmas forces are still clinging to the bogus separation of church and state argument that does not appear anywhere in the Constitution. If Thomas Jefferson were alive today, he would mock these secular fools and then retire to his Virginia estate for Christmas dinner.

Posted In
Education, Religion in Schools
Person
Bill O'Reilly
Stories/Interests
Religion, Separation of Church and State
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