Monday, December 1, 2008

Separation of Church and State?

The separation of church and state is a concept that has seen growing popularization as of late. Many of the proposition 8 protesters have cited separation of church and state as legal justification for their cause. The ACLU continually harps on the legal wedge between the sacred and the secular and seeks to widen the gap at every opportunity (When it deals with the Christian religion anyway). The Supreme Court has made many moves toward secularism in the latter part of the twentieth century. Secularization seems to be a growing fad just about everywhere these days, and many secularists have gone as far as to try and limit religious freedoms in a country that was founded on the basis of religious freedom.

This concept of separation between church and state is severely misunderstood by most Americans today. The truth is that neither the constitution, nor any other founding document mentions anything about the separation of church and state. The Bill of rights does say: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof” But does this constitute separation of church and state? In a way it does. The early Americans had fled oppression from governments that were politically intertwined with a state church that dominated all religious activity. These state churches had become more interested in political power and vain tradition than the practice of true religion. It was for this reason that many sincere believers left their state-sponsored churches and established a new life in a new world. The makers of the constitution wanted to preserve this heritage in writing by striking out any possibility of a state sponsored church that would violate the freedom of citizens to act according to their own religious convictions.

This form of separation of church and state is nothing like the modern concept that is being propagated by secular and moral progressives. According to some, any time a person acts out their religious convictions in a voting booth they are violating the separation principle. Nothing could be further from the truth; our nation is steeped in the tradition of citizens and leaders acting out their religious beliefs in office, or with a ballot. Any true scholar of American history can see that this country been shaped by the Judeo-Christian ethic. This Christian foundation would have been impossible if the majority of Americans had a problem with church principles interacting with the government. Here are some examples that display the mindset that shaped our country:


“On my arrival in the United States, the religious aspect of the country was the first thing that struck my attention” - Alexis de Tocqueville


“Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate for the government of any other” - Jon Adams


“Of all the disposition and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports" - George Washington


"This is a religious nation… We are a Christian people.” - United States Supreme Court(The Church of The Holy Trinity Vs. The United States)


If there are people that are discontent to live in a country that has been largely shaped by Christian principles, and in which religious principles have often dominated the public square, then they are free to move to a society that has been founded solely on secularism. Russia comes to mind readily. Send me a postcard from the Kremlin, Comrade!

P.S. This only scratches the surface of the information available on Religion in American History. More to come on Founder's Friday!

26 comments:

  1. What about Locke's "A Letter Concerning Toleration"? This country might have a heavy Christian influence, but the "like it, or get out" mentality seems a bit off.

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  2. The only reason I mentioned moving to Russia was because I wanted to contrast a society whose foundations were secular and one whose foundations were christian in nature. (Maybe a subject for another article.)
    I was thinking of Madelyn Murray O'Hare's desire to move to the Soviet Union because it was highly secularized.
    American culture was very tolerant in comparison to the other cultures of the day. Catholics and Protestants could actually live in close proximity with each other without trying to kill each other. Toleration is a completely different concept today than it was in the 1600's. Toleration in the day of the founding fathers meant not burning each other at the stake (the kind of toleration I agree with.) Today, If you tell someone that their belief system is wrong, and yours is right, you're considered intolerant. I believe in civility and reason, but I do not believe all believe systems are equal.

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  3. Did the "founding fathers" make allowance for change and evolution of the government? If it's a government "of the people, by the people, for the people," and the people have changed over the last 200 years, then I would expect the government to change as the people have changed. . .

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  4. They DID make allowance for change and evolution of the government. That is why we have an ammendment process.

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  5. Hey Bob, you're the "history" guy? Try "theocrat fascist" guy!

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  6. Argue the issues. Don't start the name-calling and ad hominem attacks. Also, look up the definition of fascist.

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  7. As a follow on to my earlier comment, the fundamental "problem" most people today see with the ammendment process, is that it is hard - it would require 38 states (3/4 of 50) to ratify.

    To avoid this, we have permitted the notion of a "living constitution". Instead of leaving it to the states to decide what changes should be made, we have decided that words no longer mean what the writers intended, but their meanings evolve at the whims of whatever judge is currently presiding.

    This is actually closer to fascism than anything that could be remotely inferred from Bob's post - in that it takes power away from the people and the states & centralizes authority in the federal bench.

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  8. And now to address the previous comment (3:08AM)
    As John said, the amendment process does make the constitution a bit flexible in nature, and the founding fathers realized that the population of America would change eventually. Today, the majority of Americans still claim to follow the Christian religion. I believe that this is because Christianity is the traditional religion of America. I do not believe that Christianity is the legal religion of America (see the aforementioned Bill o' rights) And I would never force anyone living in America to subscribe to my beliefs (even though I stand by them absolutely and believe that morality can be enforced up to a point). My Blog was not proposing that America enforce Christianity on anyone, rather, it was insisting that freedom of public expression of religion be kept a part of our country, despite the activity of the ACLU, activist judges, and the propaganda of the elite media. Enforcing the views of a few on the entire populace is true fascism, and that is exactly what secularism does.

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  9. The problem with the "evolution of government" argument that seems so popular these days is the tendency to neglect due process of law. The ammendment process is a privilege allowed in our country that protects us from fascism. To allow an elite few to arbitrarily "interpret" the constitution and laws of our land through the prism of their own "enlightened" perception of the "changes" and "needs" of our society provides a great deal of power to a new class of self-proclaimed nobility we might otherwise call judges. Instead, the ammendment process allows the people to facilitate the changes that really are necessary without any one small minority having full, unchecked sway over the majority. This way, we all have a say in what goes and what doesn't. It is the beauty of the check and balance system once again.

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  10. I think the real question posed (Bob - correct me if I'm wrong) is how do the positions of the ACLU - who was notably missing while world famous plumber Joe Wurlzelbacher was being ravaged by media and government officials alike - square with the establishment clause.

    As I commented on Aaron's post last Friday, the prohibition in the 1st ammendment is addressed to Congress.

    The US constitution is silent on the issue of state justices from erecting monuments to the 10 commandments or manger scenes in the town square.

    Even if the prohibition in the establishment clause of the 1st amendment were extended to all governmental authorities in the United States, there is still the question of how such activities are tantamount to "laws regarding the establishment of religion or the free exercise thereof."

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  11. In short, I guess its all about doing things decently and in order.

    As to the separation of church and state issue, it seems to me that in a nation "for the people, by the people . . . " etc., the religious perspective of the majority of the people in that nation is going to come forth pretty obviously. After all, if the majority of the people define themselves and their values based on a Judeo-Christian ethic, then in makes sense that that moral basis ought to show up in and even be protected by the government. It would be a pretty senseless group of people who believed one thing and then set their government up to undermine their own core beliefs.

    I guess that is why I find it so ironic that our government seems so swayed by minority groups like the ACLU whose sole mission is to undermine these obvious national values. Their goal is to change government underhandedly outside of the "due process" of law. These "anti-religious" few represent a minority. They do not represent the opinions of the majority of the people. If they represented the majority, then they wouldn't have to go over the people's heads the way they do. They could just put their opinions into the form of a bill and have the people pass it in the form of an ammendment. Instead, they sneak around and take advantage of judges who do not respect our constitution or they have to seek questionable legislation to be passed as rider laws in other legislation in hopes that "We the People" won't catch on and call them out for it.

    IMHO, this is a serious offense AGAINST the freedoms of the people. These groups do not respect the "rights" of the people. They exploit the rights of the people in order to serve their own purposes. If We the People do not wake up soon to this problem and deal with it appropriately, We will find ourselves out of rights very shortly.

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  12. I'm going to start a weekly series called "Progressive Prophets" - Every week we'll talk about an "enlightened" group or person who's a real mover or shaker in the far left circles. I was going to start with George Lakoff, but maybe I'll do a piece on the ACLU first.

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  13. So, this is an issue of checks and balances. What are the checks and balances for the judiciary? Do they exist? Do they work? If not, then I think you need to argue for enforceable rules for the judges themselves rather than bemoan judicial decisions.

    If no legal way exists to force a judge to decide something based on some original intent, then the judge is truly acting within his or her legal bounds. Perhaps the forefathers missed something or maybe they intended to allow the so-called judicial activism, so we shouldn’t argue against it. . .

    BTW, I'm the one that posted at 3:08.

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  14. So you're a fan of an elite oligarchy?

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  15. Not the other anonDecember 2, 2008 at 1:38 PM

    Not a fan. Not sure if I said or implied that.

    For those that don’t like certain judicial decisions:

    *If the decision is illegal, then enforce the law to reverse the decision.
    *If the decision is inappropriate, then use a check to balance their power-grab.
    *If neither an enforceable law nor a check exists, then create them.

    BUT, according to the philosophy of some of the posters here, one needs to make sure the forefathers did not intend for that kind of authority.

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  16. And it is not within a judges legal bounds to violate the first amendment by limiting free speech and religious practice in the public square, which is what many activist judges and the secularist groups that pursue anti-religious cases seek to do.

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  17. I don't think NTOA is necessarily a fan of an elite oligarchy (he may be), but that doesn't really have bearing on his question.

    As I see it, NTOA's question boils down to two parts:

    1) Did the founders see the judiciary as the supreme authority in the United States? and
    2) Did they intend the words they put into the Constitution to have flexible interpretation?

    My answer to both questions would have to be "no".

    Regarding the first question - congress has the authority to remove judges:
    Article II Section 4 states "Section 4. The President, Vice President and all civil officers of the United States, shall be removed from office on impeachment for, and conviction of, treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors."
    Article III Section 1: ...The judges, both of the supreme and inferior courts, shall hold their offices during good behaviour...
    - emphasis mine.

    Regarding the second - if they did not intend the plain textual meaning of the words they penned in the constitution, then why write it at all? They could have saved themselves quite a bit of trouble by writing a single paragraph instituting the judiciary and leaving the rest up to them.

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  18. The ultimate problem is that there is a complete lack of education in terms of the events surrounding the founding of our nation - even among otherwise educated individuals.

    Our elected officials are no different. When signing the bi-partisan campaign finance reform bill, President Bush acknowledged that several parts may be unconstitutional, but figured the courts would sort it out.

    Congress and the President have become accustomed to abdicating their authority to the judiciary - we can hardly rely on them to exercise the proper checks entrusted to them.

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  19. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  20. An elite oligarchy is eventually what would occur if the Judicial branch became the most powerful branch. Judges are not groups of representatives, they are individuals who are accustomed to a certain degree of absolute power. They are not accountable to an electorate, and today they see their careers last long after the person that appointed them is out of office. Sure, many cases have been overturned, the ninth circuit court of appeals (one of the most far left courts) has had its decisions overturned about 2/3rds of the time. The problem with relying on this is that those who don't want to become victims of the courts must spend money and time fighting against the ACLU and other leftist hordes in court. Quite a pain. I do agree with NTOA that their needs to be more accountability for the judiciary. Its interesting to me that originally the judicial branch did not pull much weight in the first several years of American history. In fact, there was no official meeting place for the supreme court, they had to meet in the basement of the capitol building when they moved to the new capitol, Washington D.C., in 1800. I don't think that the founding fathers ever intended to have the Judiciary grow to this extent, simply because it goes against the principles of freedom that they stood for. When the Judicial branch grows out of proportion to the other branches, and is unrestrained, you have one person (or a few) legislating the many.

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  21. Just thought I'd take this time to mention that we here at case4theright do not believe that the founders of this country were infallible. They were Human beings. We just think that they were very gifted men who lived in a social, political, and spiritual climate that inspired them to do great things and come up with one of the greatest nations that this world has ever seen. we believe that there is alot about our government that is out of whack with what these men originally intended for our nation. Not just the judicial branch. I think its obvious that as conservatives, we'd like a smaller government altogether.

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  22. Bob is signing off the blog for the day. looking forward to some more lively debate tomorrow!

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  23. There are problems when you mix religion and state. For example, do you want prayer in public school? Well, I could see maybe people could be allowed to have silent prayers but organized prayers just wouldn’t work. Who would get to choose what is said? Most Christians couldn’t agree on what would be said in the prayer let alone anyone who was not a Christian.

    Also, I take it none of you would want a Church of America that is run by the government. I think we can agree that the way the government runs many other things this would be a recipe for disaster. Additionally, people’s participation in the church may be seen as artifical and not genuine which I sure you would not want. Therefore, the role of religion in government should be limited.

    Additionally, for those that are Christians on this blog you will not win any intellectual progressives to your world view by living suburban material lives. That sort of life seems like nothing different than everyone else. You will be seen as hypocrital and sort of funny.

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  24. We are not calling for any sort of state/religion combination, but we do not believe that our country works best when religious beliefs and principles are left at the door of public institutions. Moral codes (for many people based on religion) make us who we are. At this point, most public schools subscribe to the philosophy of secular humanism. If the schools can dictate this philosophy, why can't they bring in other philosophies? Schools that deny God's existence by teaching the theory evolution are teaching a philosophy of life to American students. No public School or other such state institution is thoroughly unbiased, these institutions are slanted by the people that run them. We are merely suggesting that these public institutions allow a discourse among philosophies and institutions instead of subscribing to just one (like secular humanism).

    As for your closing paragraph, I don't understand what you're getting at. Jesus had no problem with his disciples or other followers following secular professions and providing for their families. As far as I know, none of the authors of this blog are living materialistic lives (I guess it would depend on how you define materialistic). Do we believe in providing for our families? yes. Do we believe in Private property? yes. Do we believe that you should be able to keep what you earn? yes. All of these things are Biblical principles and are part of living "in the world, but not of it."

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  25. It is the ability of the Christian to live correctly in the real world (The same world that everybody else is living in) that will show others the way.

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