By Jon Segroves and Tangelia Cannon
An illustration of how Thomas Jefferson would possibly view the court rulings that have came about as a result of his letter to the Danbury Baptists in 1802, concerning separation of church and state. This particularly deals with prayer in schools.
Angel (wearing Colonial times outfit)
Students (we had eight; some played multiple parts)
(Thomas Jefferson is upstage; He is pacing back and forth holding a candle, reading a letter. A desk with a quill pen is center stage)
Jefferson's voice: Sir, among the millions in America and Europe who rejoice
in your election to office; we embrace the first opportunity which we have enjoyed
in our collective capacity, since your Inauguration, to express our great satisfaction,
in your appointment to the chief Magistracy in the United States; And though
our mode of expression may be less courtly and pompous than what many others
clothe their addresses with, we beg you, Sir to believe, that none are more
Our sentiments are uniformly on the side of Religious Liberty;
That religion is at all times and places a matter between God and individuals;
That no man ought to suffer in name, person, or effects on account of his religious Opinions;
That the legitimate Power of civil government extends no further than to punish the man who works ill to his neighbor. But Sir our constitution of government is not specific. Our ancient charter together with the Laws made coincident therewith, were adopted on the Basis of our government, at the time of our revolution; and such had been our Laws and usage, and such still are; that Religion is considered as the first object of Legislation; and therefore what religious privileges we enjoy (as a minor part of the State) we enjoy as favors granted, and not as inalienable rights: and these favors we receive at the expense of such degrading acknowledgements, as are inconsistent with the rights of free men. It is not to be wondered at therefore; if those, who seek after power and gain under the pretense of government and Religion should reproach their fellow men should reproach their chief Magistrate, as an enemy of religion Law and good order because he will not, dare not assume the prerogatives of Jehovah and make Laws to govern the Kingdom of Christ.
Sir, we are sensible that the President of the United States, is not the national legislator, and also sensible that the national government cannot destroy the Laws of each State; but our hopes are strong that the sentiments of our beloved President, which have had such genial effect already, like the radiant beams of the Sun, will shine and prevail through all these States and all the world till Hierarchy and Tyranny be destroyed from the Earth. Sir, when we reflect on your past services, and see a glow of philanthropy and good will shining forth in a course of more than thirty years we have reason to believe that America's God has raised you up to fill the chair of State out of that good with which He bears to the Millions which you preside over. May God strengthen you for the arduous task which providence and the voice of the people have called you to sustain and support you in your Administration against all the predetermined opposition of those who wish to rise to wealth and importance on the poverty and subjection of the people.
And may the Lord preserve you safe from every evil and bring you at last to His Heavenly Kingdom through Jesus Christ our Glorious Mediator.
Signed in behalf of the Association,
Ephraim Robbins The Committee
Stephen S. Nelson
(Thomas Jefferson looks over the letter for a few seconds, then puts it down. Takes out his quill pen and starts to write at his desk.)
To messers, Nehemiah Dodge, Ephraim Robbins and Stephen S. Nelson, a committee of the Danbury Baptist association in the state of Connecticut.
The affectionate sentiments of esteem and approbation which you are so good as to express towards me, on behalf of the Danbury Baptist association, give me the highest satisfaction. My duties dictate a faithful and zealous pursuit of the interests of my constituents, and in proportion as they are persuaded of my fidelity to those duties, the discharge of them becomes more and more pleasing.
Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between Man and his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, and not opinions, 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. Adhering to this expression of the supreme will of the nation in behalf of the rights of conscience, I shall see with sincere satisfaction the progress of those sentiments which tend to restore to man all his natural rights, convinced he has no natural right in opposition to his social duties.
I reciprocate your kind prayers for the protection and blessing of the common father and creator of man, and tender you for yourselves and your religious association, assurances of my high respect and esteem.
Jan. 1. 1802.
(Jefferson looks over his letter and smiles, starts talking.)
Jefferson: It warms my soul to know there are a select few who understand what I am trying to accomplish for our great country.
(Exits stage right; Angel enters stage left and stands upstage. Jefferson re-enters.)
Jefferson: (startled) How did you get in here? I was certain I asked for no interruptions at this hour.
Angel: I am a friend Thomas.
Jefferson: Thomas? (sternly) With all due respect, you are conversing with the President of the United States of America! (curious) Have our paths crossed before? I have had the pleasure of meeting a great deal of people, but you are unfamiliar to me. What is your reason for being here?
Angel: I was sent to give a message. To give you a glimpse into the coming days of America. What it will become.
Jefferson: A glimpse? Do you have information of importance regarding the sanctity of our great nation? Are we to fall in harm's way? What do you speak of?
Angel: A wall of separation Thomas. A wall you unknowingly built yourself. A wall that will stand tall and strong, long after you have left this world.
Jefferson: What? (walks over to his desk) Are you referring to my letter? This is simply a correspondence to a sectional assembly of Baptists I hold in high regard, nothing more. (turns to Angel, thinking) Long after I have left this world? Do you possess the skill of a soothsayer? Are you a sorcerer perhaps?
Angel: I have already told you Thomas, I am a friend with a message. You have been given a very special gift. A look at the future of the great nation you helped bring to life. You witnessed its rise, I am here to reveal to you how a few simple words can bring forth its fall.
Jefferson: (sternly) You dare imply the collapse of all that free men have fought and died for! Liberty and justice for all people! They would lay down their lives a hundred times over before they would let that transpire! Nonetheless, the blessings of God are upon us!
Angel: (looks up in thought) God's blessing is something no man should take lightly. You are a very intellectual person Thomas & see for yourself.
(Blackout; Desk is removed, students start entering stage left, seating in their seats; 1960s)
Jefferson: What manner of witchery is this? (turns to Angel) You ARE a conjurer of magic!
Angel: See these images with your heart Thomas, and you will know the truth.
Justin: Hey Tiffany, have you seen Gina?
Tiffany: She is in the gym helping the principal put ornaments on the Christmas tree. She should be back in a few minutes.
Justin: I hope so! I want to make sure she's still helping me rehearse my lines for the play at church before we go to the picture show.
Tiffany: Sounds like a swell time! Can I come with you?
Justin: Sure! See if Bobby wants to come and &
Teacher: (Walks in front of the class stage left) Alright class, settle down please.
Speaker: (voice comes over intercom) Good morning students! Everyone please rise as we Pledge Allegiance to our Flag. (Class stands with hands over heart and recites) Thank you. Now please stay standing for our Lord's prayer. (voice of student comes over intercom) Please bow your heads. (voice and students recite prayer; after prayer students sit down and scene freezes)
Jefferson: I see nothing immoral here! You say this is the coming reflection of our people, yet they are paying homage to the common Father and Creator of man.
Angel: Yes Thomas they are, but we have only begun this journey. There is much more to be seen. Please & (Angel points toward class again, the scene repeats &a woman and student enter stage left cross in front as the Lord's prayer is being recited)
Lady: (angrily to her son) Why didn't you tell me about this? (hurries off stage left; students follow, desk is moved to center of stage, lady and student reenter stage left) Why are those children praying? It's un-American and unconstitutional!
Counselor: I beg your pardon?
Lady: You heard me! How dare you let those children pray to God! Such a representation of hatred! As atheists, my son and I won't have any of it!
Counselor: Now see here! I will respect your point of view ma'am, but I don't appreciate your tone!
Lady: (slams hands down on desk) I don't care what you appreciate! You are violating my first amendment rights! And you are misleading those kids, the Bible ¬hing but a book of LIES!
Counselor: Ma'am you are way over the line! The children of this school have been praying to God as a group since 1905. Bible reading or the Lord's prayer must be read in the opening exercises. That is the rule whether you like it or not!
Lady: The ravings of madmen, that's what the Bible is! All you're doing is leading them like helpless little lambs to the slaughter! You should be preparing them to face problems on Earth, not for some fairyland called Heaven!
Counselor: (slowly stands up) I believe the majority of the students AND their parents would disagree with you ma'am. This is the way things work at this school, and if you want your son to attend here I suggest you get used to it! Understood?
Lady: (hastily gets up, starts to exit stage left, turns) This won't be the last time you hear from me about these prayers in school.
Counselor: If you don't like it, why don't you sue us? (lady gives cold stare, exits stage left; Counselor stays on stage and puts her face in her hands in disgust; freezes)
(Jefferson angered begins)
Jefferson: Treason! You asked me to see! My eyes behold treason! False images that will never come to pass! Our country would not allow it. If what that woman demands ever came to fruition, (to himself) I tremble to think of it.
Angel: But it will happen Thomas. Your own words, separation of church and state, will be used against you. You unintentionally built a wall so high in America, all that God can do is weep and wait from the other side. Wait until His children call on His name &those who do not will be judged.
Jefferson: (pacing, speaking to himself) This vision must never endure. The consequences would be monumental.
Angel: (starts walking downstage, at the same time Judge enters stage right and walks toward podium with a gavel in hand) Judging, quite a powerful thing wouldn't you agree Thomas. Making a final say based on the facts as you perceive them. The Bible speaks of many judgements by man through the ages. They can change the course of men's lives and the course of a nation, including the one you hold so dear.
Judge: The First Amendment has erected a wall between church and state. We could not approve the slightest breach. Everson vs. Board of Education, 1947. (gavel sounds)
It is unconstitutional to offer verbal prayers in school, regardless of denominational neutrality and voluntary participation. Engel vs. Vitale, 1962; Abington vs. Schempp, 1963; Commissioner of Education vs. School Committee of Leyden, 1971. (gavel sounds)
It is unconstitutional for a student to pray aloud over his lunch. Reed vs. van Hoven, 1965. (gavel sounds)
It is unconstitutional for a kindergarten class to ask whose birthday is celebrated by Christmas. Florey vs. Sioux Falls, 1979. (gavel sounds)
It is unconstitutional for the walls of a classroom to have the Ten Commandments on them, because it may lead the students to read them, meditate on them, respect them or obey them. Stone vs. Gramm, 1980; Ring vs. Grand Forks Public School District, 1980; Lanner vs. Wimmer, 1981. (gavel sounds; judge freezes)
Jefferson: (perplexed) Men from our great country made this so? (looks at Angel) Men from our nation will make these abominations laws?
Angel: Listen Thomas &(pauses) do you hear that?
Jefferson: (confused) What should I be hearing?
Angel: Silence Thomas, absolute silence. Christians have stayed quiet as these destructive sentences are handed down. So they continue.
Jefferson: You mean to say not even one will stand and fight for their freedom?
Angel: Oh, there are a few Thomas. The rest (looks down and pauses) are the silent majority.
Judge: (continues) It is unconstitutional for a classroom library to contain books which deal with Christianity, or for a teacher to be seen with a personal copy of the Bible at school. Roberts vs. Madigan, 1990. (gavel sounds)
Artwork may NOT be displayed in schools if it depicts something religious. Washegesic vs. Bloomingdale, 1993. (gavel sounds)
Jefferson: Be gone with this image! I wish to see it no more!
(Angel raises hand, judge exits stage left)
Angel: The America you know Thomas is founded upon truth. The America that is coming is not.
Jefferson: (turns to Angel) What could possess those who will hold high positions in our government to commit such heinous acts against their own people? Will they have no record of my life's work to look upon? A simple letter will be my lasting legacy?
Angel: Those who are blind will only see what they want to.
Jefferson: As governor of Virginia, 1779, I designated a day for public and solemn thanksgiving and prayer to Almighty God. Does this go unnoticed by future generations?
Angel: Not unnoticed Thomas - ignored. Your letter will profit those who refuse to accept the truth. How you lived your life will not.
Jefferson: (paces, pauses; turns back to Angel) A wall of separation between church and state does NOT mean a wall of separation between God and government. If this nation ever truly exiled our Almighty God, forcibly removing His laws from our lives, do you realize the implications of that action?
Angel: Yes Thomas, I do. (points slowly stage left)
(Blackout; Counselor exits and desk is removed. Students start entering stage left, making a lot of noise before taking their seats; coming future; teacher's podium is placed stage right)
Justin: Hey Tiffany, where's Gina at?
Tiffany: What do I look like, her secretary?
Justin: Uh, Ms. Attitude, it was simple question. Have you seen her?
Tiffany: (disgusted) Well since I won't get peace 'til you know - she is in the gym hanging trinkets on the secular holiday tree. Is there anything else?
Justin: Yeah, how about I beat you senseless?
Tiffany: Touch me and I'll sue you and your parents out of house and home! (argues as teacher comes in)
Teacher: Alright guys, cut it out. (students ignore) I said be quiet! (students ignore again) SHUT IT, NOW! (slams book on stand; class quiets) Thank you!
Speaker: (voice comes over intercom) Good morning! Everyone please rise as we Pledge Allegiance to our Flag. (pledge is said while only Angela says under God) Now please pause for a moment of personal reflection. (students act up) Thank you!
Teacher: (moves center stage) Angela can you come here please? (Angela walks over to teacher) Angela this will be my third and last warning to you. Using hate speech in this classroom will not be tolerated. Do you understand?
Angela: Ms. Smith, under God is not hate speech! Don't I have a right to my beliefs too?
Teacher: In the privacy of your home or personal place of worship, yes you do! In this classroom however, you will respect the rules. Is that clear?
Angela: Yes, but ...
Teacher: (angrily) Is that clear!?
Angela: (sheepishly) Yes ma'am. (goes back to seat)
Teacher: Good! (to class) Now as you know, we will be going to the gym in just a few moments for the Winter Greetings social interaction, but before we do did anyone do what I asked and study Chapter 2: Where we come from: The Basis of Evolution? (students stay quiet) Always good to know you did what I asked! Well, we'll continue this later. Everyone quietly head to the gym.
(students get up loud and raucous and exit stage left; Angela stays, Megan turns and sees her, goes back and sits next to her)
Megan: Angela, you are really asking for it. Everyone in the neighborhood has already blacklisted your parents. Do you want the same thing to happen to you?
Angela: Megan, what is so wrong with my family's belief in Jesus Christ?
Megan: Oh nothing, except that He DOESN'T EXIST! I mean c'mon Angela, look around you. Society is pretty sophisticated now. We don't need dependence on mythical creatures.
Angela: He's real to me Megan! He lives in my heart and nothing will change that! Why can't you and others see that?
Megan: (stands up) I see trees. I see people. I see all kinds of things. No God, sorry. Just think about it, okay Angela. You keep it up publicly, you'll be professing your love of this Christ behind bars. See ya in the gym. (exits stage left)
(Angela sits quiets, starts gathering her things; gunshots and screams ring out)
Megan: (runs in stage left) Angela ... GUN! (shot from behind, falls silent; Angela drops to her knees, screams terrified)
Trish: (enters stage left swinging a gun; she has a blank stare) Well, well, well, if it isn't the perfect (turns to Angela) little Christian girl. (Trish moves toward her, Angela starts moving away from her stage left) Why, weren't you the one that proclaimed your love for God in front of the whole church (what little that was) last month? If you're so precious to this man you call Jesus, then why hasn't he sent His angels to surround and guard you? He's got the powers right? How can you believe? I mean your eyesight is good isn't it? Thousands of people suffer in this world. Many commit suicide just to get rid of all the pain that they face daily. Well, I have another solution. Kill all those that made me hurt.
Angela: (crying) But, Why?
Trish: Why you ask? Because I hate you! I hate each and every one of you. Every one of you had a part of my life, whether you knew me or not. What was it, last Monday, you the 'Jesus freak' of our school, you say you believe in God, yet I've seen you putting people down. You think you're perfect, but while you're trying to put the presence of God into everyone's lives, you're turning them little fools away. You hypocrite! You say one thing, but you act a totally different way.
Angela: What? How can you say that? I have never, in my life, acted in such a way.
Trish: SHUT UP!! I know what I saw. You carry your Bible like a shield against the world. You tell people about your Lord. The way you won't leave them alone about it, I'm surprised you've saved anybody, at the rate you're going. Well don't worry at least John, Becca, Sue, and Megan (kicks Megan) are in this glorious place you call Heaven right now.
Angela: Trish, if you don't believe in God and never have, why do you go to church every Sunday.
Trish: You know ...That's a very good question. Besides the fact that my mom is evil. I guess I was looking for answers. I needed something to believe in. I was going through a hard time in my life. My parents' divorce was messy. I felt as if it was all my fault. I tried covering everything with drugs. It didn't work.
Angela: Did you ever see a counselor?
Trish: (says nothing, picks up a chair and carefully throws it across the stage)
Angela: I'm just trying to help.
Trish: You can't help now. Everything is already done.
Angela: How can you not believe in God?
Trish: When I was 13, my older brother was in a car accident. He was paralyzed from the waist down. Three years later, my parents decide to split because they kept blaming each other for the accident. After that, I went into a depression that was deeper than anything I had ever been through. I turned to drugs and then to your &God. But, if God existed, don't you think he would have saved me. (starts screaming at God; pacing wildly) Huh, God wouldn't you have SAVED me! At least before I turned to my last resort. (to Angela) If God existed ANGELA, everything would be different.
Angela: I'm sorry Trish. I don't know what to tell you, except it was all in his plan.
Trish: HIS PLAN?? So was his plan for me to live a life full of pain, to live with love one minute, and for the next to not know any, to watch my brother live in pain and grief, just because Scott Smith felt like driving drunk that night? His plan for me was to be raped at 14 and turn to drugs at the age of 15? If that's his plan for me, where the heck is your plan? Did he plan for all these kids to die today, not counting you YET?
Angela: No. That was a choice you made when you walked out of your house this morning with that loaded gun in your bag. This is the effect of choices you've made in your past.
Trish: So you're saying that I chose to live the life that I led, that I chose for my brother to be paralyzed and my parents to constantly fight.
Angela: What I am saying is that killing everyone that ever was a part of your life wasn't the only way you could have handled yourself. That was a choice you made.
Trish: Choices. I guess you're right. They do affect a person's life. You chose to put your heart in the church and live for God every day of your life. Well & I guess it's way too bad for you. That, that wasn't my choice. You wanna know my choice?
(evil smile, raises gun and points it at Angela)
Angela: No, Trish! Please don't! Please, no! (starts crying hysterically)
Trish: Why? Just think, at least you'll get to see your precious God. Tell God I said hey! (gun goes off) It is finished God, are you satisfied?! (raises gun to temple, pulls trigger, falls silent)
Jefferson: (light centers on only him, grieving) Enough of these images, I can bare no more.
Angel: The glimpse had to be shown Thomas. Light can still pierce through the darkness of what you have been witness to. There is still time, but it grows very short.
Jefferson: She was merely a child. Such hatred has never before crossed my path, nor could my greatest imaginations conceive it. I have been an innocent observer of all this, innocent in my intentions for our great country. I am deeply grieved.
Angel: There have been and will be many innocent people persecuted for their belief. Grieve for your nation, but not for them. Blood has been shed for your freedom, blood has also been shed for theirs.
Jefferson: There is only one thing needed to do. I will destroy the letter. The only way what I have been spectator to will occur is if I allow it to exist. I dare not! I have heard your words and taken them to heart. Take me to my chambers at once.
Angel: I will take you back to your chambers Thomas, but when we return you will not remember anything about what you have been shown. (pauses, looks up) The glimpse is almost over now.
Jefferson: (perplexed) What? Why would you display these visions to me if I can do nothing about them? I would never have written that letter had I known the indescribable consequences. You had to know this already. Friend, you have brought a powerful message, it needs to known to as many ears that will listen. Why won't you let me hinder it from happening?
Angel: Because Thomas, (pauses) The message wasn't for you. (pauses, both turn to the audience; blackout)
(A patriotic song of your choice is played, finish)
(Suggestion: What we did for the finish was had one side of our team come out in 1960's dress and the other in present day dress. While the song was playing (Accapella's If There Were No God) we walked side by side each holding one of the Ten Commandments. Once everyone came out, Jefferson and the Angel (wearing an Angel outfit) came out standing by the American and Christian flag. It was a very powerful moment.)
Copyright Jon Segroves and Tangelia Cannon, all rights reserved.
This script may be used free of charge, provided no charge is made for entrance. In return, the authors would like to be told of any performance. They may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org