The Separation of Church and State

The Christian Nationalist attack on church-state separation is really an assault on religious freedom

  Rob Boston

Americans United has been doggedly working to expose House Speaker Mike Johnson’s ties to Christian Nationalism.

Johnson, a Louisiana Republican and formerly an attorney with Alliance Defending Freedom and First Liberty Institute, Christian Nationalist legal groups that are part of the Shadow Network undermining church-state separation, has a long track record of attacking separation of church and state and promoting bogus “Christian nation” history. (Read all about it in this article and read this one about Johnson’s attempts to cover up his extreme views.)

Recently, David Key, the founding pastor of Lake Oconee Community Church in Greensboro, Ga., and a member of Americans United’s Faith Advisory Council, did us all a favor by outlining the threat Christian Nationalism poses to religious freedom.

All faiths thrive under separation

A Baptist, Key speaks powerfully as a man of faith. He reminds us that the separation of church and state is essential to allowing all faiths to thrive, including ours.”

Key provides a mini-history lesson, noting that early in his career as a minister, he served as pastor of Kiokee Baptist Church, the oldest continuing Baptist congregation in Georgia. Kiokee was founded by a Baptist pastor named Daniel Marshall 1772.

At the time, that was a bold thing to do. As Key writes, “Marshall established Kiokee after being arrested and ordered to leave Georgia for his Baptist preaching, which by law required a license issued by Georgia’s Anglican state church. Our forebears wrote separation of church and state into the U.S. Constitution to prevent such state-controlled religious discrimination from ever happening again.”

No separation = no religious freedom

Adds Key, “Southern Baptists of my tradition remember well that we could not have existed and thrived in Georgia, or anywhere in the U.S., if other religions had been able to use the power of the state to enforce their beliefs. That’s why a group of Baptist ministers joined other faith leaders to form Americans United for Separation of Church and State – where I serve as an advisory council member – over seventy-five years ago.”

To understand where we are, we must know where we have been. America’s broad measure of religious freedom, which rests on a protective wall of separation of church and state, did not simply spring into being one day. It was the result of a bitter history of persecution, violence and oppression. Christian Nationalists like Johnson either don’t understand this history or seek to cover it up.

Key reminds us of all that is at stake when Johnson and his allies assail separation of church and state: nothing less than our nation’s great tradition of religious freedom.

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