Rep. Louie Gohmert, Republican, said this week in a video promotion for a Christian television event that the separation between church and state actually means that “church plays a role in the state.”
In the roughly 7-minute video titled “History of Prayer in the U.S. Capitol,” the Texas conservative pushes an upcoming show on Christian television called “Washington – A Man of Prayer.” He mentioned how the U.S. House of Representatives first met in a building called National Statuary Hall.
“On Sundays this became the largest non-denominational Christian church in the Washington, D.C. area,” he explained. “People came in here and prayed, they sang hymns, they worshipped God. It was part of our history.”
And to prove his point that separation of church and state actually means a “one-way wall” in which religion can influence government, Gohmert cited a Congressional Research Service report finding that Thomas Jefferson, who originated the phrase, also attended services there.
“But it was to be a one-way wall, where the state would not dictate to the church,” the Texas Republican insisted. “But the church would certainly play a role in the state.”
“So, that’s a little different idea than a lot of people have about separation of church and state now,” he added. “Including some of our esteemed Supreme Court, who are not quite as familiar with our history as they probably should be.”
But as The Athens News blogger David DeWitt points out, Jefferson explained clearly in a letter explaining the Establishment Clause that the legislature should "’make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,’ thus building a wall of separation between Church & State.”