Church & State ~ For Ted Levine (Short Conversation Series)

I was at Salt Creek performing my Tuesday ritual: $3 beers — $7.95 burger. After some friends left I bellied up to the bar for one more beer. As I was in the midst of this final beer I noticed a gentleman coming in and sitting two chairs down from me. I noticed him because he had a laptop with him, and this meant that — as per my custom, I would hand him a “business” card [“hobby” card] on the way out. I also noticed people seemed to recognize this computer wielding older gentleman in a way that made me think he was in the movie business.  Which isn’t too far fetched for our valley.

One of the regulars to Salt Creek who was seated between myself and the gentleman the post is about got up to leave. As he did, he informed me of a newer TV series where this “computer guy” was a principle character. (I thought to myself that this explained the reactions when he entered.) So I used the wash room, grabbed my magazines off the bar and handed my card over to the “principle character” while giving a quick introduction to perk the interest of a perspective new reader. I did make the statement that my “seat compatriot” told me he was in TV, I apologized and told him I don’t watch much TV at all (feeling bad that I should have known him/his character), he humorously said he didn’t either.

And to his credit after looking the card over asked a question that out of the hundreds of cards I have given out, no one has thought to ask.

His question may have been genuine. It may have been a test of my knowledge (who would want to visit a site run by a dumb-ass?). It may have been a rebuke of sorts asked for no reason than to challenge me with a wall of understanding about a subject one thinks they already know the answer to. Whatever the motivation was, I was impressed with the thoughtfulness of it as it was based on my card (to the right).

He asked:

  • “What are your thoughts or position on the separation of church and state?”

It was a gift. I love history, especially American history. So I responded (as best as I can recall, minus the fourth beer slur):

“Well, the phrase ‘separation of church and state‘ was only used by Jefferson in a letter[s] to the Danbury Baptists, so to really understand this use of the phrase one should learn about the issue being discussed between Jefferson and these Baptists. Our federal government payed for Bibles to be printed, and used the Bible in public schools. …. So the Founders had a different view of the matter than the general media, pop-culture, and the Supreme Court has since 1946*. The authors of the Constitution, after they wrote and/or ratified the First Amendment, went back to their respective states and started to write the constitutions for the original states. They mentioned in them that you could not serve in the state government without taking an oath of belief in Jesus Christ. Again, the Founders had a very different view of the matter than we do, and they wrote much on the matter that is worth reading, as they were prodigious writers.”

[*I meant to say 1942, and while this isn’t directly related to the First Amendment, it was a watershed case, Wickard v. Filburn, that the Court “realized,” and over-reaching decisions became the norm using no precedence whatsoever. I would have hit a home-run if I didn’t mess the date up.]

That was it. Short, sweet, he was probably not wanting much attention, I was headed out. He asked a great question, and in the time allotted, I hit a triple. On my way out to meet the wife after her workout I noticed quite a few film trucks were parked outside which previously had not been there. I also referenced Ted — the computer wielding/principle character — via IMDb, and I cannot wait to tell the guys in the shop… as… a quote from a movie he was in is used quite often in our “in-house” banter: “It rubs the lotion on its skin or else it gets the hose again.”

So, Ted, if you are reading this, below is my paper on the subject that will back more of what I said, JUST in case you had never heard this before, it is worth reading. Blessings to you and yours.

Separation of Church and State by Papa Giorgio