‘Wall of Separation’ called challenge to freedom

June 4, 2014

dreis1cropBryan College formally opened its 83rd academic year September 5, with a challenge from the featured speaker to understand and protect First Amendment religious freedoms guarantees.

Dr. Daniel Dreisbach, left, and
Dr. Sephen Livesay President Dr. Stephen Livesay welcomed students and told them that wisdom helps them succeed. As Ecclesiastes 10:10 says, the college’s goal is to help students “sharpen their blades” as they grow in wisdom.

Academic Vice President Bradford Sample likened the students to modern pioneers who are exploring “helping to craft the culture. We will push you to do more than you thought you can do. When you leave this place, we want you to be men and women of God who aren’t overwhelmed by the obstacles you will face.”

Convocation speaker Dr. Daniel Dreisbach, professor in the Department of Justice, Law and Society in the American University School of Public Affairs in Washington, D.C., focused his remarks on the idea of “a wall of separation between church and state.”

He challenged the contemporary understanding of Thomas Jefferson’s metaphor based on a plain reading of the First Amendment and the Founders’ understanding of the value of religion. “America’s founders believed education along with virtue were the foundations for self-government,” he said.

He said the wall metaphor distorts the meaning of the Establishment Clause because a wall restricts parties on both sides. The Establishment Clause, however, restricts only government. “Replacing the First Amendment’s words with ‘wall’ immediately restricts religion. Thus, I submit, it exceeds the restrictions of the First Amendment. It dangerously provides government power over religion. The government has proceeded to define what a church is and, ultimately, the duties of churches.

“The First Amendment began with a restriction on government only. Now government is in a position of telling churches what they can and cannot do. The ‘wall of separation’ has been used to silence churches and all too seldom to restrict government.”

Dr. Driesbach charged that “the capacity for self-government is undermined when religious expression is restricted from the public marketplace. No wall of separation should stop you from doing what our God mandates. As people of faith, I believe we have the duty to defend vigorously the liberties our God and our forefathers gave us.”