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Switch to Forum Live View Historical Significance of Church and State
7 years ago  ::  Dec 03, 2007 - 3:58PM #1
IgnatiusReilly
Posts: 2
America stands out as nation in which religion plays a large role. As The Pew Global Attitudes Project notes, “Religion is much more important to Americans than to people living in other wealthy nations. Six in ten people in the U.S. say religion plays a very important role in their lives” With this long standing commitment to religion then, why do Americans advocate the separation of church and state? Is this old tenant of the American political system still applicable today? Despite a substantially religious population, the government remains distant from church ties. America exists today as a nation run on secular principles rather than its largely Christian roots.
Although the term “Separation of Church and State” does not appear in any of the founding documents of our nation, it is an essential doctrine of American politics. Thomas Jefferson coined the phrase in his 1802 letter to the Danbury Baptists and it was drawn into common use by Supreme Court Cases in 1875 and 1947,  as well as the actions of President Grant in 1875 (Hamburger 3). Opponents of separation, often the Religious Right, contend that this doctrine is a fabrication drawn into common use over the years, citing its absence in the Constitution as evidence. In response, though, there are a number of other essential notions in the American political system that are not expressly mentioned in the Constitution. The terms “fair trial” and “religious liberty” are not found in the document, but who will argue that they do not exist as concepts within it?
     Among other arguments used to discredit the validity of separation is that Jefferson’s creation of the phrase was just an insignificant part of a letter to an insignificant group of people. In reality, as Robert Boston, Assistant Director of Communications for Americans United for Separation of Church and State, clarifies:
    “… Jefferson clearly saw the letter as an opportunity to make a major pronouncement on church and state. Before sending the missive, Jefferson had it reviewed by Levi Lincoln, his attorney general. Jefferson told Lincoln he viewed the response as a way of ‘sowing useful truths and principles among the people, which might germinate and become rooted among their political tenets.’
    At the time he wrote the letter, Jefferson was under fire from conservative religious elements who resented his strong stand for full religious liberty. Jefferson saw his response to Danbury Baptists as an opportunity to clear up his views on the church and state. Far from being a mere courtesy, the letter represented a summary of Jefferson’s thinking on the purpose and effect of the First Amendment’s religion clauses.”

    Therefore, Supreme Court support for the doctrine and numerous other examples of support of the concept aside, Separation of Church and State is clearly a fundamental rule in the foundations of our country. As such, it undoubtedly must be a visible element in today’s political environment.
    Case after case within the last sixty years has made apparent the focus on separation of church and state in American culture. Engel vs. Vitale in 1951 proved to be a landmark case in distancing religion from public institutions. In it, the parents of a New York student challenged the required daily school prayer. After rising to the Supreme Court, it was ruled that by promoting a religion, in-school prayer violated the constitution’s Establishment Clause, that is, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.”  This went on to act as a precedent for related separation of church and state cases, which occurred relatively frequently over the following 15 years.
    Despite a broad movement to dissociate religious initiatives from government activities, there remains a close relationship to this day between political parties and faith-based groups. Interestingly, with the succession of Supreme Court rulings against church associations, American politics have witnessed the rise of politically influential religious organizations.
    Over the last forty years, certain religious denominations have been commonly associated with political party preference. Evangelical Christians have been linked to the Republican Party, and groups like the Moral Majority and the Christian Coalition have been highly visible supporters of conservative initiatives. Issues such as abortion and gay marriage have helped align traditional Christian values with the aims of the Republican Party. This has caused the evangelical Christian population to become a mainstay of the Republican voting base. Republican candidates have been challenged to make policy in accordance with Christian values as a result, a clear infringement upon separation of church and state. While a political platform with a focus on eliminating abortion and gay marriage is hardly a constitutional violation, it does serve as a far more appropriate connection between religious values and public policy than laws incorporating religious ideals of years past.
    As Robert Boston writes in Why the Religious Right is Wrong about Separation of Church and State, our country was not founded as a Christian nation. Those who would argue this confuse the settlement of North America into religious colonies with the creation of a secular nation. While many of the colonies did incorporate religion into law, even Massachusetts disestablished its state church in 1833. Boston further notes that despite Benjamin Franklin’s recommendations to members of the constitutional convention, even our country’s founders did not begin sessions with prayer while drafting the nation’s founding document.
    We remain a secular nation through years of clashes and struggles for power between church and state. Clearly, there is enough support for secular government practices to sustain the wall of separation between these two dominant institutions. Despite questions of the validity, history, and implications of the separation of church and state, it has endured as a fixture of American politics and society.



Works Cited:

“Among Wealthy Nations…, U.S. Stands Alone in Its Embrace of Religion.” Pew Global
Attitudes Project. As found in Everything’s an Argument, 4th ed. 2007.

Boston, Robert. Why the Religious Right is Wrong about Separation of Church and State.
Buffalo: Prometheus, 1993.

Hamburger, Philip. Separation of Church and State. Harvard, 2002.
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7 years ago  ::  Dec 03, 2007 - 3:58PM #2
IgnatiusReilly
Posts: 2
America stands out as nation in which religion plays a large role. As The Pew Global Attitudes Project notes, “Religion is much more important to Americans than to people living in other wealthy nations. Six in ten people in the U.S. say religion plays a very important role in their lives” With this long standing commitment to religion then, why do Americans advocate the separation of church and state? Is this old tenant of the American political system still applicable today? Despite a substantially religious population, the government remains distant from church ties. America exists today as a nation run on secular principles rather than its largely Christian roots.
Although the term “Separation of Church and State” does not appear in any of the founding documents of our nation, it is an essential doctrine of American politics. Thomas Jefferson coined the phrase in his 1802 letter to the Danbury Baptists and it was drawn into common use by Supreme Court Cases in 1875 and 1947,  as well as the actions of President Grant in 1875 (Hamburger 3). Opponents of separation, often the Religious Right, contend that this doctrine is a fabrication drawn into common use over the years, citing its absence in the Constitution as evidence. In response, though, there are a number of other essential notions in the American political system that are not expressly mentioned in the Constitution. The terms “fair trial” and “religious liberty” are not found in the document, but who will argue that they do not exist as concepts within it?
     Among other arguments used to discredit the validity of separation is that Jefferson’s creation of the phrase was just an insignificant part of a letter to an insignificant group of people. In reality, as Robert Boston, Assistant Director of Communications for Americans United for Separation of Church and State, clarifies:
    “… Jefferson clearly saw the letter as an opportunity to make a major pronouncement on church and state. Before sending the missive, Jefferson had it reviewed by Levi Lincoln, his attorney general. Jefferson told Lincoln he viewed the response as a way of ‘sowing useful truths and principles among the people, which might germinate and become rooted among their political tenets.’
    At the time he wrote the letter, Jefferson was under fire from conservative religious elements who resented his strong stand for full religious liberty. Jefferson saw his response to Danbury Baptists as an opportunity to clear up his views on the church and state. Far from being a mere courtesy, the letter represented a summary of Jefferson’s thinking on the purpose and effect of the First Amendment’s religion clauses.”

    Therefore, Supreme Court support for the doctrine and numerous other examples of support of the concept aside, Separation of Church and State is clearly a fundamental rule in the foundations of our country. As such, it undoubtedly must be a visible element in today’s political environment.
    Case after case within the last sixty years has made apparent the focus on separation of church and state in American culture. Engel vs. Vitale in 1951 proved to be a landmark case in distancing religion from public institutions. In it, the parents of a New York student challenged the required daily school prayer. After rising to the Supreme Court, it was ruled that by promoting a religion, in-school prayer violated the constitution’s Establishment Clause, that is, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.”  This went on to act as a precedent for related separation of church and state cases, which occurred relatively frequently over the following 15 years.
    Despite a broad movement to dissociate religious initiatives from government activities, there remains a close relationship to this day between political parties and faith-based groups. Interestingly, with the succession of Supreme Court rulings against church associations, American politics have witnessed the rise of politically influential religious organizations.
    Over the last forty years, certain religious denominations have been commonly associated with political party preference. Evangelical Christians have been linked to the Republican Party, and groups like the Moral Majority and the Christian Coalition have been highly visible supporters of conservative initiatives. Issues such as abortion and gay marriage have helped align traditional Christian values with the aims of the Republican Party. This has caused the evangelical Christian population to become a mainstay of the Republican voting base. Republican candidates have been challenged to make policy in accordance with Christian values as a result, a clear infringement upon separation of church and state. While a political platform with a focus on eliminating abortion and gay marriage is hardly a constitutional violation, it does serve as a far more appropriate connection between religious values and public policy than laws incorporating religious ideals of years past.
    As Robert Boston writes in Why the Religious Right is Wrong about Separation of Church and State, our country was not founded as a Christian nation. Those who would argue this confuse the settlement of North America into religious colonies with the creation of a secular nation. While many of the colonies did incorporate religion into law, even Massachusetts disestablished its state church in 1833. Boston further notes that despite Benjamin Franklin’s recommendations to members of the constitutional convention, even our country’s founders did not begin sessions with prayer while drafting the nation’s founding document.
    We remain a secular nation through years of clashes and struggles for power between church and state. Clearly, there is enough support for secular government practices to sustain the wall of separation between these two dominant institutions. Despite questions of the validity, history, and implications of the separation of church and state, it has endured as a fixture of American politics and society.



Works Cited:

“Among Wealthy Nations…, U.S. Stands Alone in Its Embrace of Religion.” Pew Global
Attitudes Project. As found in Everything’s an Argument, 4th ed. 2007.

Boston, Robert. Why the Religious Right is Wrong about Separation of Church and State.
Buffalo: Prometheus, 1993.

Hamburger, Philip. Separation of Church and State. Harvard, 2002.
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7 years ago  ::  Dec 19, 2007 - 12:07AM #3
wmgreene
Posts: 1
The following are a few paragraphs from something I plan to submit to the courts in the very near future:

148.  The Founders themselves openly described America as a Christian nation that include a constitutional prohibition against a federal establishment wherein-by religion was a matter to left solely to the individual States.  “The Ten Commandments and the Ten Amendments: A Case Study in Religious Freedom in Alabama,” William P. Gray, Jr. Alabama Law Review Volume 49 Winter 1998 Number 2, offers further insight into the Founders belief systems of the same and the historical foundations First Amendment’s Establishment Clause:

"[T]he Establishment Clause was enacted to prevent Congress from interfering with the church-state relationships that existed in 1791. Specifically, the Establishment Clause was intended to prevent Congress from interfering with the established state churches and with state efforts to accommodate religion. At the same time, the Clause disabled Congress from interfering with the states that had already disestablished their churches. In other words, the Establishment Clause was intended to embody a principle of federalism. [. Id . at 1703 (emphasis added).
[….]
Indeed, state establishments of churches were common at the time of the Revolution and the drafting and adoption of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. [. See Anson Phelps Stokes, Church and State in the United States , 427-46 (1950).] There were at least five state establishments in 1787: the Anglican Church was the state church of in Virginia until 1786; the "Christian Protestant Religion" [. The "Christian Protestant Religion" was not a denomination in the traditional sense but represented the various denominations that fell under that broad heading. See id . at 51 (listing Protestant denominations).] was the state religion in South Carolina until 1790; and the Congregational Church was the state church in Connecticut until 1818, in New Hampshire until 1819, and in Massachusetts until 1833. [. Stokes, supra note 46, at 427-46.] Massachusetts was the last state to disestablish its state church, and did not do so until forty-four years after the Establishment Clause was drafted by Congress. [. Stokes , supra note 46, at 418.]

No informed constitutional attorney or historian would argue that the First Amendment in its original form applied to anything more than "laws" passed by "Congress." Even Justice Hugo Black, a proponent of the "incorporation theory," which would apply the First Amendment to the states, admitted that "[p]rior to the adoption of the Fourteenth Amendment, the First Amendment did not apply as a restraint against the states." [. Everson v. Board of Educ., 330 U.S. 1, 13 (1947) (emphasis added).

149.  In their article, the Establishment Clause, The First Amendment Center also expounds upon Everson v. Board of Education of Ewing TP., 330 U.S. 1 (1947) to explain why the First Amendment is misconstrued by misconstruction of the 14th Amendment:

"For the first 150 years of our nation’s history, there were very few occasions for the courts to interpret the establishment clause because the First Amendment had not yet been applied to the states. As written, the First Amendment applied only to Congress and the federal government. In the wake of the Civil War, however, the 14th Amendment was adopted. It reads in part that “no state shall ... deprive any person of life, liberty or property without due process of law... .” In 1947 the Supreme Court held in Everson v. Board of Education that the establishment clause is one of the “liberties” protected by the due-process clause.   Establishment Clause, The First Amendment Center, 555 Pennsylvania Ave., Washington, DC 20001."

150.  Plaintiffs’ views on the subject of Liberty versus tax slavery have also been expressed by Former Presidential candidate Alan Keyes, who is also the former United States Ambassador to the United Nations Social and Economic Council, and has a Ph.D. from Harvard and also served as Assistant Secretary of State for International Organizations during the Reagan administration. Mr. Keyes has equating the U.S. tax code to slavery, regular on Free Congress Foundation's National Empowerment Television and as a favorite on the Conservative lecture circuit:

"We ought to have realized that the income tax is utterly incompatible with liberty. It is actually a form of slavery.... Under the income tax, the government takes whatever percentage of the earner's income it wants. The income tax, therefore, represents our national surrender to the government of control over all the money we earn." (Alan Keyes, 2000 Presidential candidate)

151.  In so stating, Plaintiffs are aware that the Courts have consistently has declined to take a rigid, absolutist view of the Establishment Clause, refusing to construe the Religion Clauses with a literalness that would undermine the ultimate constitutional objective as illuminated by History, and in doing so have historically rejected "ahistorical literalism," and instead has turned to history, practice, precedent, and the structure of the Constitution.  However, without emphasizing the significance of the historical Christian influence on the Framers of the Constitution, apart from the Fourteenth Amendment, and the context of the Inalienable Right of Liberty as set forth in the Declaration of Independence, and First Amendment, an individual could easily miss the original intent of the subject of Religious Freedom, and in doing so, simply follow in the footsteps of those who would force, unconditionally, a Thirteenth and/or Fourteenth Amendment interpretation upon the population in general.

Obviously there is much more, but I think this is enough to offer the idea that at least I believe there is a bit more to the Establishment Clause than meets the eye!

Blessings,
Bill
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7 years ago  ::  Jan 04, 2008 - 2:56PM #4
Beruriah33
Posts: 638
I don't think people quite get it. It's IRRELEVANT what the founding fathers intended, particularly since this sort of debate can continue ad nauseum, as they are no longer around to be asked about it. What IS relevant is how we have chosen over the course of our national history to interpret the Constitution where the Establishment Clause is concerned.
I will say this much. I would never prefer to live in a nation where states could establish official government sanctioned churches. I firmly believe history has shown us what happens when government and religion become intertwined. Not pretty at all.
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7 years ago  ::  Jan 31, 2008 - 5:58PM #5
JosephBaileyOne
Posts: 564
[QUOTE=Beruriah33;187453]I don't think people quite get it. It's IRRELEVANT what the founding fathers intended, particularly since this sort of debate can continue ad nauseum, as they are no longer around to be asked about it. What IS relevant is how we have chosen over the course of our national history to interpret the Constitution where the Establishment Clause is concerned.
I will say this much. I would never prefer to live in a nation where states could establish official government sanctioned churches. I firmly believe history has shown us what happens when government and religion become intertwined. Not pretty at all.[/QUOTE]


It is EVERYTYHING RELEVANT or one can do whatever they want with the Constitution and live with the chaos of a Third World nation.

What has been forgotten in this debate, by all sides, is that this idea of separation of church and state was meant to keep government OUT of your religion and to keep it from using religion as a weapon against you-the CITIZEN.  So yeah, the founding writers intent is very relevant.  The Religious Right does not see that when government gets the power because its citizens thinks it all about God, then government is God.  The Liberal Left does not see that religion is a critically important gift from God and keeping the government at bay allows for them to be religious or secular.  The entire concept of separation of church and state is predicated upon keeping governmental powers at bay in the arena of religion and not knowing that means that it can be twisted like we have witnessed for years now.  So, I recommend that we all get RELEVANT on what the writers intent was on this subject before we lose our religious freedoms to worship God Almighty we each one sees fit.
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7 years ago  ::  Jan 31, 2008 - 6:07PM #6
Sacrificialgoddess
Posts: 9,496

JosephBaileyOne wrote:

It is EVERYTYHING RELEVANT or one can do whatever they want with the Constitution and live with the chaos of a Third World nation.





Nah, the Constitution is tight enough that that's unlikely to happen.

Dark Energy. It can be found in the observable Universe. Found in ratios of 75% more than any other substance. Dark Energy. It can be found in religious extremists, in cheerleaders. To come to the conclusion that Dark signifies mean and malevolent would define 75% of the Universe as an evil force. Alternatively, to think that some cheerleaders don't have razors in their snatch is to be foolishly unarmed.

-- Tori Amos
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7 years ago  ::  Jan 31, 2008 - 6:07PM #7
Sacrificialgoddess
Posts: 9,496

JosephBaileyOne wrote:

It is EVERYTYHING RELEVANT or one can do whatever they want with the Constitution and live with the chaos of a Third World nation.





Nah, the Constitution is tight enough that that's unlikely to happen.

Dark Energy. It can be found in the observable Universe. Found in ratios of 75% more than any other substance. Dark Energy. It can be found in religious extremists, in cheerleaders. To come to the conclusion that Dark signifies mean and malevolent would define 75% of the Universe as an evil force. Alternatively, to think that some cheerleaders don't have razors in their snatch is to be foolishly unarmed.

-- Tori Amos
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7 years ago  ::  Feb 01, 2008 - 9:06AM #8
davelaw40
Posts: 19,669
Republican candidates have been challenged to make policy in accordance with Christian values as a result, a clear infringement upon separation of church and state.

I don't think so; the definition is much narrower than you would duppose; which church establishment is being favored by one party trying to reflect Christian values? As long as its a party and individual lawmakers and Not the legislative bodyitself with this stated purpose-I don't think thereis an issue.
Non Quis, Sed Quid
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7 years ago  ::  Feb 03, 2008 - 9:20PM #9
TPaine
Posts: 9,380
[QUOTE=davelaw40;256570]Republican candidates have been challenged to make policy in accordance with Christian values as a result, a clear infringement upon separation of church and state.

I don't think so; the definition is much narrower than you would duppose; which church establishment is being favored by one party trying to reflect Christian values? As long as its a party and individual lawmakers and Not the legislative bodyitself with this stated purpose-I don't think thereis an issue.[/QUOTE]

I agree with you, Dave. Much as I dislike the idea of lowering Jefferson's wall of separation, I believe that Article VI, section 3 which forbids religious tests for office applies to Christians as well as other religions. It's only when laws are passed that infringe upon the religious freedom of any sect, or legislation to establish one sect as the preferred religion is passed, that there is a clear violation of the Constitution.

"All national institutions of churches, whether Jewish, Christian, or Turkish, appear to me no other than human inventions set up to terrify and enslave mankind, and monopolize power and profit."... Thomas Paine
"The genius of the Constitution rests not in any static meaning it might have had in a world that is dead and gone, but in the adaptability of its great principles to cope with current problems and current needs." -- Justice William Brennan: Speech to the Text and Teaching Symposium at Georgetown University (October 12, 1985)
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7 years ago  ::  Feb 05, 2008 - 5:37AM #10
crowmd
Posts: 3
I agree,nothing scares me more than a joining of church and state.Many things will happen, science being the first to be muzzled.You don't have to look far too see what will happen,it's happening under this administration already. The clamp down on free speach for one.Try giving an anti-war rally and see what happens.
The clamp-down on the medical society when they try to prevent social diseases for our youth and women,despite all the scientific data to the contrary that prevention works.Not to mention War,Torture,Killing in the name of a deity.There's no such thing as peace at the end of a barrel of a gun.And torture is NOT a Family value.
All things done under BUSH and many,many more.So you have a quasi-religious world leader of this country already and look what it's done to us and the rest of the world.Nothing can be more frightening than a world leader who thinks some deity is talking to him and telling him to do things in the name of god who quite literally has his finger on the button.
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