??It is said that there are two subjects that do not mix -- religion and politics. In fact, the idea of the separation of church and state is, at times, a volatile issue. But, like oil and water, history proves that the two entities do not mix.

??It is said that there are two subjects that do not mix -- religion and politics. In fact, the idea of the separation of church and state is, at times, a volatile issue. But, like oil and water, history proves that the two entities do not mix.


?Those who are against separation are usually fundamentalist Christians who believe that all of the founding fathers of the United States were "born again" and that their primary influence was the Bible. The late Rev. Jerry Falwell said, "The idea that religion and politics don't mix was invented by the devil to keep Christians from running their own country."


Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, Thomas Paine, John Locke, Rev. Roger Williams, and the Danbury Baptists must be leading the devil's army, because they, and many others, argued strongly for the separation of church and state.


As president, Jefferson, who was greatly influenced by Locke, a British philosopher, responded to the Danbury Baptists’ concerns about governmental interference: "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."


??In "A Letter Concerning Toleration," Locke wrote, "The care of souls cannot belong to the civil magistrate, because his power consists only in outward force; but true and saving religion consists in the inward persuasion of the mind, without which nothing can be acceptable to God. And such is the nature of the understanding, that it cannot be compelled to the belief of anything by outward force. Confiscation of estate, imprisonment, torments, nothing of that nature can have any such efficacy as to make men change the inward judgment that they have framed of things."


Williams, founder of what is now Rhode Island, set forth not only the idea of separation of church and state in his “Bloody Tenet of Persecution,” but also total tolerance by the state for non-believers of all kinds. Williams, like Locke, greatly influenced the thinking of our founders.


??Religion must not forced upon anyone, especially by the government. Locke said that God is not pleased when people are forced to believe in a religious system, with their property or even their lives threatened.??


This is what the argument is about. Jefferson wrote of a "wall separating church and state" with good reason. The burnings, hangings, and beheadings, all in the name of either the Protestant Christ or the Catholic Christ, depending on who was in charge on any given day, were historically fresh to Jefferson and his contemporaries. Our founders believed not only that the church must be protected from the state, but that the state must be protected from the church.


When Christians say that they want church and state mixed, what do they want the nation to do? Persecute anyone who does not believe? Do they want the government rather than God influencing the message?


If this were a Christian nation, would Christians use their power to subjugate those who do not believe in the same way or not at all? Sadly, I think they would. Look at any church that is controlled by one family or an individual. These people use subtle, yet vicious, measures to control a church, often to the detriment of Christ's message. What would they do if they had power over a country? I believe the answer is found in the statement, "absolute power absolutely corrupts."??


The next time you are tempted to think that the separation of church and state is a bad thing, check your history books and the writings of our nation's founders. The reasons are there. Don't blindly trust others to explain them to you. Do your own research, and do your own thinking. It will help you tremendously.


Alicia Gossman-Steeves writes for the La Junta Tribune-Democrat in La Junta, Colo.