Separation of church and state

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The separation of church and state is a political doctrine which states that the institutions of the state or national government should be kept separate from those of religious institutions. The concept has been a topic of political debate throughout history. The term separation of mosque and state is sometimes used in context when referring to an Islamic or Muslim-majority country, separation of synagogue and state is sometimes used in context when referring to Israel, etc. These substitute terms are often used facetiously.


[edit] Overview of the principle

In the United States, separation of church and state is sometimes believed to be in the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and by legal precedents interpreting that clause, some being extremely controversial. The Establishment Clause states that, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;" However, the U.S. Supreme Court decided that the Fourteenth Amendment (one of the Reconstruction Amendments) makes the Establishment Clause and other portions of the Bill of Rights binding on state and local governments as well, although it is arguable that this restriction on state and local government existed in Article VI of the unamended Constitution and that the Fourteenth Amendment was a clarification on the limitation of government power. Many other democratic governments around the world have similar clauses in their constitutions.

The phrase "separation of church and state" does not appear in the Constitution, but rather is derived from a letter written by Thomas Jefferson to a group identifying themselves as the Danbury Baptists. In that letter, quoting the First Amendment of the United States Constitution, he writes: "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." <Ref> Template:Cite web</Ref> While Jefferson's letter is often cited by separationists to prove that the original intent of the First Amendment was complete separation of church and state, anti-separationists either consider it irrelevant or might say that it supports the idea that the original intention of the First Amendment was to guarantee religion the freedom to exist without government influence, and say that it makes no mention of government being wholly separate from all religious activity. Anti-separationists also point to the fact that Thomas Jefferson was not in America during the constitutional convention, but in France as the American ambassador. This is supported by Federal Government decisions on the matter, such as Supreme court case Vidal v. Philadelphia, as well as Federal Government's past involvement in printing Bibles, and using the Bible as a textbook in public schools.

James Madison, the principal drafter of the Bill of Rights, often wrote of "total separation of the church from the state" (1819 letter to Walsh). "Strongly guarded . . . is the separation between religion and government in the Constitution of the United States," Madison wrote, and he declared, "practical distinction between Religion and Civil Government as essential to the purity of both, and as guaranteed by the Constitution of the United States" (1811 letter to Baptist Churches). This attitude is further reflected in the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, which was originally authored by Thomas Jefferson, but championed by Madison. The Declaration guarantees that no one may be compelled to finance any religion or denomination.

... no man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship, place, or ministry whatsoever, nor shall be enforced, restrained, molested, or burthened in his body or goods, nor shall otherwise suffer on account of his religious opinions or belief; but that all men shall be free to profess, and by argument to maintain, their opinion in matters of religion, and that the same shall in no wise diminish enlarge, or affect their civil capacities. <Ref> Template:Cite web</Ref>

The belief that religious and state institutions should be separate covers a wide spectrum, ranging between one extreme which would secularize or eliminate the church, and theocracy, in which the government is an affiliate of the church. Some secularists believe that the state should be kept entirely separate from religion, and that the institutions of religion should be entirely free from governmental interference. Churches that exercise their authority completely apart from government endorsement, whose foundations are not in the state, are conventionally called "Free" churches.

A secular government does not cite a specific religious institution for the justification of its authority. However, some secular governments claim quasi-religious justifications for their powers, emphasizing the relationship mainly for ceremonial and rhetorical purposes. This is done for the general welfare and the benefit of the state, does not necessarily favor any specific religious group, and the state does not conform to any doctrine other than its own. This arrangement is called civil religion. Some secularists would allow the state to encourage religion (such as by providing exemptions from taxation, or providing funds for education and charities, including those that are "faith based"), but insist the state should not establish one religion as the state religion, require religious observance, or legislate dogma.

Some countries embrace a middle position, a compromise between secular and religious government. In these countries the state uses the powers of government to directly support a specific religious institution or established church. In Turkey, for example, despite it being an officially secular country, the Preamble of the Constitution states that "There shall be no interference whatsoever of the sacred religious feelings in State affairs and politics."<Ref> Template:Cite web</Ref> In order to control the way religion is perceived by adherents, the State pays imams' wages, and provides religious education in public schools (article 24 of that country's Constitution). The State has a Department of Religious Affairs (article 136 of the Constitution), directly under the Prime Minister bureaucratically, responsible for organizing the Muslim religion - including what will and will not be mentioned in sermons given at mosques, especially on Fridays. Such an interpretation of secularism, where religion is under strict control of the State is largely at odds with the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, and is a good example of how secularism can be applied in a variety of ways in different regions of the world.

A theocracy exists when a religion establishes the government and religious law is applied to state policy under the direct authority of the religious institution. In a theocracy, the courts or officials of the religion direct policies of the civil government.

The separation of church and state is similar to the concept of freedom of religion, but the two concepts are not the same. For example, the citizens in a country with a state church may have complete freedom of religion. And citizens in a country without a state church may or may not enjoy the freedom to practice their religion. In the United States, the structure and wording of the First Amendment with both the Establishment Clause and the Free Exercise Clause, demonstrates this difference. Both clauses have evolved an important body of case law from the U.S. Supreme Court as well as lower federal courts.

While many states or nations permit freedom of religious belief, no country allows completely unrestricted freedom of religious practice. National laws, when they reflect important or fundamental governmental interests, may prohibit certain acts which some citizens may claim represent the free exercise of their religious belief.

In the United States, state laws can prohibit practices such as bigamy, sex with children, human and occasionally animal sacrifice, use of drugs, or other criminal acts, even if citizens claim the practices are part of their religious belief system. However, the federal courts give close scrutiny to any state or local laws that impinge upon the bona fide exercise of religious practices. The courts ensure that genuine and important religious rights are not impeded, and that questionable practices are limited only to the extent necessary. The courts usually demand that any laws restricting religious practices must demonstrate a fundamental or "compelling" state interest, such as protecting citizens from bodily harm. See Free Exercise Clause for further discussion.

[edit] History

[edit] Ancient

Jesus Christ is sometimes credited with the invention of the separation of church and state when he advised his followers, "Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's, and unto God the things that are God's." (Matthew 22:21) <Ref> Template:Cite web</Ref> In most ancient cultures, the political ruler was also the highest religious leader and sometimes considered divine. Under republican government, religious officials were appointed just like political ones.

Ancient Israel was different in as much the King and the priesthood were separate and limited to their respective spheres of authority and responsibility, though interferences did happen as well. Later, under foreign supremacy, the high priest also held the highest civil authority in an autonomous theocracy.

Roman emperors were considered divine and also occupied the highest religious office. This was challenged by Christians who acknowledged the Emperor's political authority but refused to participate in the state's religion or to recognize the emperor's divinity. Because of this, Christians were considered enemies of the state and adherence to Christianity was punishable by death (e.g., Justin Martyr under Marcus Aurelius). At various times, this resulted in violent persecutions until the Edict of Milan in 313. The Roman Empire formally became Christian by edict of Theodosius I in 380.

[edit] Medieval

Main article: Separation of church and state (medieval)

In the West, the separation of church and state during the medieval period saw monarchs who ruled by divine right and papal authorities who claimed to wield God's earthly authority. This unresolved contradiction in ultimate control of the state led to power struggles and crises of leadership that resulted in a number of important events in the development of the west.

In the Eastern Roman Empire, also known as the Byzantine Empire, the Emperor had supreme power over the church and controlled its highest representative, the Patriarch of Constantinople. Eastern Orthodoxy was the state religion. When the Ottomans conquered Constantinople (now Istanbul), the Emperor was killed. The position of head of the Orthodox Church was given to Gennadius II Scholarius by the conquering Islamic Ottoman ruler, Sultan Mehmed II, who continued to practice the right of the Roman Emperor to appoint the head of the Eastern Orthodox Church.

[edit] Modern

Countries in the modern world have varying degrees of separation of church and state; some countries are stricter than others in disallowing church influence on the state. In some countries, however, the two institutions are heavily interconnected.

[edit] Secularism and theocracy

Secularism in government is a policy of avoiding or reducing entanglement between civil and religious institutions, ranging from reducing ties to a state church to promoting the secularization of public discourse.

There are automatic entanglements between the institutions, inasmuch as the religious institution, and its adherents, are members of civil society. Secularism requires the primacy of civil laws within its jurisdictions; but some policies provide for protections of religious expression, in order not to unnecessarily conflict with the claims of religion over the public lives of its adherents. Most forms of secularism propose policies guided by an interest in the free exercise of religion, and freedom also for lack of religion, for the sake of assuring equal protection under the same laws. But to the extent that religion cannot be a strictly private matter, some policies defined as "free exercise of religion" are, in terms of a religion which mandates a public duty for its adherents, restrictive of their religion in certain respects.

Some political philosophies, such as Marxism, generally hold the belief that any religious influence in a state or society is a negative thing. In nations that have officially embraced such beliefs, such as the former Eastern European Communist Bloc countries, the religious institution was made subject to the secular state, in the public interest. Freedom to worship was subject to licensure and other restrictions, and the doctrine of the church was monitored to assure conformity to secular law, and inoffensiveness to the official public philosophy. In the Western democracies, it is generally agreed that such a policy is not conducive to freedom of religion.

The French version of secularism is called laïcité. This model of a secularist state protects the religious institutions from some types of interference by the state, but public religious expression is also limited. The intention is to protect the public power from the influences of the religious institution, as these might be mediated through the decisions of its adherents, especially in public office (see anti-clericism). Religious perspectives which contain no idea of public responsibility, or which hold religious opinion to be irrelevant to politics, will be less impinged upon by this type of secularization of public discourse.

Though the goal of a secularist state is to be religiously neutral, when the expression of religious opinion is excluded from the public sphere it is repressive of some aspects of religion. Ostensibly, it is equally repressive toward all religions in order to be equally protective of all from interference by others.

Many Western democratic nations place a high importance on the separation of the institutions of church and state. Some nations, such as the United States of America, Australia and Canada, even have specific clauses in their constitutions which are widely interpreted as forbidding the government from favoring one religion over another.

Other democracies, such as the United Kingdom, have a constitutionally established state religion, but are inclusive of citizens of other faiths. In countries like these, the head of government or head of state or other high-ranking official figures may be legally required to be a member of a given faith. Powers to appoint high-ranking members of the state churches are also often still vested in the worldly governments. These powers may be slightly anachronistic or superficial, however, and disguise the true level of religious freedom the nation possesses.

The opposite end of the spectrum from secularization is a theocracy, in which the state is founded upon the institution of religion, and the rule of law is based on the dictates of a religious court. Examples include ancient Israel, Saudi Arabia, the Vatican and Iran. In such countries state affairs are managed by religious authority, or at least by its consent. In theocracies, the degree to which those who are not members of the official religion are to be protected is decided by professors of the official religion, and ordinarily the civil rights, or restrictions of rights of the unfavored group, are defined in terms of the official religion.

[edit] Enactment

Separation of church and state occurs in different ways:

  • legal separation
  • voluntary separation, such as by churches teaching that religious ceremony should be confined to either the church or the home.

Some countries of the world have a stable separation between church and state, while other countries are in a state of political unrest over the separation. The 1905 French law on the separation of church and state started considerable controversy and even riots.

Separation of church and state is a notion related to, but separate from, freedom of religion. There are many countries with an official religion, such as the United Kingdom or Norway, where freedom of religion is guaranteed. Conversely, it is possible for a country not to have an official religion, or a set of official religions, yet to discriminate against atheists or members of religions outside of the mainstream. For instance, while the United States does not officially advance any particular religion, proponents of atheism were persecuted in many US jurisdictions in the 19th century.

There are different interpretations of the notion of separation of church and state:

  • one sees this separation from a legal and financial point of view: the State should not establish nor fund religious activities, and may even be prohibited from funding non-religious activities affiliated to religious organizations;
  • another sees this separation in keeping motivations of public policies out of the religious beliefs, preventing interference from state authorities into religious affairs. In this way every person may worship whoever and however they desire.
  • another sees this separation in keeping religious beliefs out of the motivations of public policies, preventing interference from religious authorities into state affairs, and disapproving of political leaders expressing religious preferences in the course of their duties.

For instance, France is legally prohibited from funding religious activities (except for Alsace-Moselle and military chaplains), but funds some private religious schools for their non-religious activities as long as they apply the national curriculum and do not discriminate on grounds of religion; yet religious motivations are usually kept out of the political process.

[edit] Advocacy

[edit] Religious arguments for separation

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Some religious believers, including Jews, Christians and Muslims, support the separation of church and state in the belief that it protects their religion from the coercive power of government. That is to say, the state might harm the church. For example, the state may force on the church a system of ethical principles that compromises the freedom of the church to frame its own teachings. As the state is supported by taxation, the taxes support ideas or practices that offend religious convictions and conscience (for instance, State Shinto in Japan).

Some Baptists support separation also, and hold the assertion that separation of church and state does not mean separation of God and state. In particular, many radical Anabaptist movements, sensitised by the persecution they suffered under both Protestant and Catholic authorities, held that the state should not interfere in religious affairs and vice-versa. The earliest well-known formal plea for separation of church and state, called Religious Peace: or, a Plea for Liberty of Conscience, was written to King James of England by a London citizen named Leonard Busher, whom Dr. William Whitsitt identified as an Anabaptist. In 1868, the renowned Baptist pastor Charles Haddon Spurgeon perhaps best summed up the Baptist stand on church-state separation thusly (from The Inquisition, 1868 The Sword and The Trowel):

Is it not proven beyond all dispute that there is no limit to the enormities which men will commit when they are once persuaded that they are keepers of other men's consciences? To spread religion by any means, and to crush heresy by all means is the practical inference from the doctrine that one man may control another's religion. Given the duty of a state to foster some one form of faith, and by the sure inductions of our nature slowly but certainly persecution will occur. To prevent for ever the possibility of Papists roasting Protestants, Anglicans hanging Romish priests, and Puritans flogging Quakers, let every form of state-churchism be utterly abolished, and the remembrance of the long curse which it has cast upon the world be blotted out for ever.

Since the 5th century, the Coptic Church has advocated separation of church and state. Most Unitarian Universalists advocate separation of church and state.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has long held to the doctrine of separation of church and state due to the long antagonism local and state governments have had towards their faith. Mormon writings have affirmed "[n]o domination of the state by the church; No church interference with the functions of the state; No state interference with the functions of the church, or with the free exercise of religion; The absolute freedom of the individual from the domination of ecclesiastical authority in political affairs; The equality of all churches before the law." <Ref> Template:Cite web</Ref> <Ref> Template:Cite web</Ref> Historically, the Roman Catholic Church enforced the view, within its domains and jurisdictions, that all Christians must recognize the authority of the pope and submit themselves to the discipline of the Church's doctrines. Combined with political power, the view of papal supremacy or, the denial of it by Protestant princes, led to persecution, wars, and forced emigration during the Protestant Reformation. Similarly, in England, Scotland and Ireland, Protestants and Catholics who refused to acknowledge the authority of the bishops of the state church, were denied by the state the freedom to worship as their conscience dictated, resulting in wars and bloody persecution, leading many to emigrate to the Americas, and elsewhere. Once there, many of the early settlers sought to establish their colonies on principles of religious liberty combined with ideals of public godliness. However, some like Roger Williams found reason to object to those principles as framed by the leaders of Boston, Massachusetts, because the laws of the colony included matters, as he saw it, of concern exclusively to the church - issues of the "first table" of the Law of Moses, as he distinguished them - which punished false worship, idolatry, blasphemy, and Sabbath-breaking. Rogers saw this as an establishment of religion, and an infringement on the liberty of the soul.

American Catholics, some suffering discrimination from mainstream, majority Protestants, eventually came to see the separation of church and state as a positive development (in contrast to the long standing Church tradition). The work of Jesuit priest and theologian John Courtney Murray in the 1960's was significant as he developed a theological justification of the separation view based upon St. Thomas Aquinas's observation that there existed a necessary distinction between morality and civil law; that the latter is limited in its capacity in cultivating moral character through criminal prohibitions. As Murray said:"it is not the function of civil law to prescribe everything that is morally right and to forbid everything that is morally wrong." Murray Memo to Cardinal Cushing (1965), Archives of the Archdiocese of Boston.

[edit] Secular arguments for separation

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People desire the legal separation of church and state in order to keep superstition out of government. For example, many atheists, agnostics and freethinkers believe it inappropriate for government to be controlled by a religion.

The church might harm the state. For example, religious conviction might cause the state to become involved in a disastrous war, or to remain pacifist when force is necessary for the preservation of the state. It may also influence public policies in a manner detrimental to those who do not follow all the church's teachings.

It is frequently believed that the founding fathers wanted them completely separate, pointing to such statements like those made by Thomas Jefferson. Note that the founding fathers broadly espoused key principles of the Age of Enlightenment, specifically their support for Rationalist philosophy and Empiricism. These doctrines hold that truth can best be discovered through the application of reason and rational processes rather than faith or superstition, and thus rationality and science rather than faith or religious doctrine should serve as the basis for government policy-making.

The United States Supreme Court held in Lemon v. Kurtzman <ref> 403 U.S. 602 (Text of opinion in Lemon v. Kurtzman from</ref> that state action must have a secular purpose, which neither advances nor inhibits religion: "The Establishment Clause forbids the enactment of any law 'respecting an establishment of religion.' The Court has applied a three-pronged test to determine whether legislation comports with the Establishment Clause. First, the legislature must have adopted the law with a secular purpose. Second, the statute's principal or primary effect must be one that neither advances nor inhibits religion. Third, the statute must not result in an excessive entanglement of government with religion."

When the Louisiana state legislature passed a law requiring public school biology teachers to give Creationism and evolution equal time in the classroom, the United States Supreme Court ruled that the law was unconstitutional because it was intended to advance a particular religion, and did not serve the secular purpose of improved scientific education.<ref> 482 U.S. 578 (Text of opinion in Edwards v. Aguillard from</ref> See also, Creation and evolution in public education.

Religious texts such as the Ten Commandments cannot be displayed in public buildings for the purpose of converting people to a religion. That is, religious people cannot display religious symbols on public property with the purpose of advocating their religion. There are still many exceptions to the general rule. <ref> 449 U.S. 39 (Text of opinion in Stone v. Graham from</ref>

[edit] Religious arguments against separation

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Part of the series on

Church-state separation

People who advocate Dominionism

R. J. Rushdoony
Greg Bahnsen
Gary North
Gary DeMar
Kenneth Gentry
David Chilton
D. James Kennedy
Marvin Olasky
Paul Weyrich

Dominionist groups

Chalcedon Foundation
Family Research Council
National Religious Broadcasters
Eagle Forum
Free Congress Foundation

People who influence Dominionism

Abraham Kuyper
John Cotton
Francis Schaeffer

People who define and track Dominionism

Chip Berlet
Edmund Morgan
Political Research Assoc

Financiers of Dominionism

Howard Ahmanson Jr

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Religious opponents of secular government hold that while the state should not establish a particular state religion or require religious observance because of the dangers noted above, it still must be infused with the ethics and values of their religion if it is to operate "properly", and needs to encourage ethical and beneficial religious belief, both inside and outside of government. These persons argue that the teachings of religion are the basis of law and civil society, and that a society which discourages the promulgation of those beliefs cannot function. Further, these groups argue that religious groups ought to be involved in politics, to assure that laws are passed which reflect what they perceive as universal truths as revealed through their religion. Some, such as the Christian Voice and the Christian Coalition, have become highly and vocally involved in promoting what they believe to be Christian values in government.

The Catholic Church's 1983 Code of Canon law, while not laying down general rules about relations between Church and State, considers that a religious and moral education in harmony with the conscience of the pupils' parents is an integral part of education, and obliges Catholics to try to secure its inclusion: "Christ's faithful are to strive to secure that in the civil society the laws which regulate the formation of the young also provide a religious and moral education in the schools that is in accord with the conscience of the parents" (canon 799) <Ref> Template:Cite web</Ref> Other religious persons argue that the State ought to maintain an established church.

Islam holds that political life can only function properly within the context of Islamic law. To such believers, since God's law is universally true and beneficial to all people, any state law or action opposed to God's law would be harmful to the citizens, and displeasing to God. Many Muslims consider the Western concept of separation of Church and State to be rebellion against God's law. There is a contemporary debate in Islam whether obedience to Islamic law is ultimately compatible with the Western secular pattern, which separates religion from civic life.

Another view is that the state should provide a default religion for the large number of citizens who wish to identify themselves as religious believers without actively choosing between the various alternatives. A slightly more extreme version of this is that the state should determine (or at least have the power to determine) the doctrine and structure of the state religion - this is the position in England, and has links to ideas underlying Erastianism. There need not be obligation on individuals to follow the state in religion in such cases.

Some religious organizations in America believe that prayer in the schools will improve the morals of American children, and maintain that the inability of public school officials to conduct prayers in school does not protect religion but rather harms religion. Though multiple United States courts, including the United States Supreme Court, have concluded that such activity is unconstitutional, argue that the courts' interpretation of the separation of church and state is incorrect, and rely upon a strict interpretation of the First Amendment while ignoring the equal protection clause.

[edit] Arguments against "separation of church and state" claimed to be based on American history

One of the most common arguments against separation of church and state in the United States is that the original settlers of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, the Puritans, desired a level of unity between church and state and that the early history of the country is an explicitly Christian history.

Puritan groups were among the first settlers of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. They emigrated from Britain (from 1630 to the early 1640s) in order to create a society where religious precepts would be followed by all, because they would be strictly enforced by law. Many others also emigrated to Massachusetts and Virginia during that time who did not share the Puritan's vision. The Puritans' utopian vision was of a Christian theocracy that would "purify" what they saw as a corrupt Church of England. Their founder John Winthrop referred to this vision as a "City upon a Hill" that would be a model of moral authority to the world. They believed in a merging of religious and state authority. They established a theocracy in Massachusetts ruled by clergy members and established religious courts that strictly enforced Puritan religious dogma through the rule of law.

This argument that many of the original settlers of America intended no separation between church and state ignores the fact that the Puritans and their descendents made up only a small fraction of the settlers of the America's original 13 colonies. In fact, many of the founders of the other American colonies chose to settle those lands because they were being persecuted for their religious beliefs by the Puritans of Massachusetts!

The colonies of Rhode Island, New Hampshire, New Jersey,Pennsylvania, among others were all founded by immigrants to the New World who were persecuted for their beliefs by the Puritans upon their arrival in Massachusetts. These colonies were founded as safe havens for the practice of any religion - out of reach of Puritan legal/religious authorities in the Massachusetts colonies.

Other colonies, such as Virginia, were not founded by religious groups, nor for any religious reasons at all, but entirely as economic ventures. Even in Massachusetts, not everyone emigrated there for religious reasons. The Puritan theocracy eventually lost the support of the people. They were driven from power in Massachusetts nearly a century before the ratification of the U.S. Constitution established the United States government as a secular republic.

[edit] Views on the intentions of America's Founding Fathers

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Modern-day adherents to the pre-Constitutional view that church and state should not be kept separate often point out that several of the "founding fathers" indicated that they wished for the church to have an active role in the government, but did not want the government to interfere in the business of the church. Particularly, they point to:

  • Patrick Henry, who once said: "It cannot be emphasized too strongly or too often that this great nation was founded not by religionists but by Christians, not on religions but on the Gospel of Jesus Christ" (although this quote is often used to support these views, there is no evidence that Patrick Henry ever said this).
  • John Jay, the first Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, said: "Americans should select and prefer Christians as their rulers."
  • The opening of every session of Congress has opened with a prayer by a preacher paid from the government's budget since 1777
  • The Senate's importation of bibles into the United States, as a necessary commodity, after the bible supply was interrupted due to the War of 1812/American War.
  • The requirement that public school teachers profess Christianity during the country's first 100 years

However, this evidence for the true intent of America's Founding Fathers (i.e. the authors of the U.S. Constitution, not the Puritan colonial leaders ousted from government almost a century before the USA was founded) is discreditted even by the words of the Constitution itself. Neither Jesus nor God are mentioned anywhere in it. This is no doubt intentional—as colonists still remembered the horrors of the Puritan theocracy in Massachusetts less than a century before.

The Establishment Clause in the First Amendment of the Constitution says: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religionand further on, Article VI states, "no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States."

Among the framers of the U.S. Constitution there were actually remarkably few devout religious men. Only one signatory was a former member of the clergy, and even he had given up that profession 20 years before to become a government administrator. The collected writings of most of America's Founding Fathers show that these were men who were far more concerned with secular pursuits, than religious ones. Most were worldly, well-educated men; they were lawyers, businessmen, soldiers, diplomats, and scientists.

The model they chose for American government came not from the Puritans, but from the example of the (pagan) ancient Romans & Greeks. The ideas of the Constitution's framers on civil liberties and human rights come primarily from Enlightenment-era English and French philosophers of the 1600s and 1700s (many of whom were well-known religious skeptics). The American Constitution was drafted mostly by colonial attorneys trained in the British legal system. The Bill of Rights comes from English Law.

Washington, Franklin, Jefferson were Freemasons and Deists (meaning they denied the divinity of Jesus). Jefferson even wrote his own edited version of the Bible, which specifically deleted all references to Jesus as god. Other prominent leaders of the American Revolution such as Thomas Paine and Ethan Allen were even more vocal about their Deism.

Although it is claimed that Washington was a deist and thus denied the divinity of Jesus, he has been quoted as saying "You do well to wish to learn our arts and our ways of life and above all, the religion of Jesus Christ. These will make you a greater and happier people than you are. Congress will do everything they can to assist you in this wise intention." This was in a speech to the Delaware Indian Chiefs on May 12, 1779.<Ref> Template:Cite web</Ref>

The Treaty of Tripoli, written during the administration of President George Washington, signed by President John Adams and unanimously approved by the Senate in 1797, stated, "The Government of the United States is not in any sense founded on the Christian religion."

The idea (often repeated by members of the Religious Right today) that Constitutional guarantees of religious freedom means only freedom to worship, and not also freedom from religious intrusion in the affairs of government (and government-sponsored public programs), is not supported by the evidence - at least, not if one interprets establishment of religion broadly as any activity that might establish a particular religious preference, or bias, by the government in favor of one particular religious views over anyone other.

Religious leaders in the 1780s opposed ratification of the U.S. Constitution because of its clearly-stated religious neutrality in the Establishment Clause, but this view was not widely held. With the deep regional religious difference among the original 13 American colonies (e.g. between Puritan Boston & Quaker Philadelphia), it is doubtful that any guarantee other than complete religious neutrality would have been ratified as the basis for a new federal government.

Historical arguments against strict interpretation of the Establishment Clause - claiming that the framers of the Constitution "intended America to be a Christian nation" - are not supported in the historical context of who, when, where, and why the Constitution created this strict separation of church and state are considered.

[edit] Secular arguments against separation

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Non-believers, like Charles Maurras of France, thought that the influence of the Catholic Church was necessary for the continuation of their country and their political objectives.

Some secularists, while favoring separation of church and state in general, believe that religion has a good effect on people's conduct and that the state has a stake in supporting this role of religion. Similarly, there are those who believe that state displays of religious symbols are acceptable so long as they are not meant to advocate any one religion over another.

[edit] References


[edit] See also

[edit] External links

[edit] International Separation of church and state

[edit] American court battles over separation

  • 1947, first case concerning separation of church and state; supporting busing for children to private religious schools and declaring that states were required to provide the same guarantees of religious freedom as the federal government
  • 1948, banning religious instruction in public schools
  • 1952, allowing religious instruction off school property during regular school hours
  • 1962, banning teacher-led prayer from public schools
  • 1963, banning Bible-reading and the recital of the Lord's Prayer in public schools
  • 1973, allowing state funding for textbooks and teachers' salaries in religious schools; creating the Lemon test
  • 1987, declared the Creation Act invalid, which had mandated the teaching of Creation if Evolution was taught
  • 1989, banning religious displays depicting only one religion
  • 1992, banning prayers given by clergy as a part of an official public school graduation ceremony.

[edit] American activism in favor of separation

[edit] Origins of the phrase

[edit] Islamic activism in favor of separation

[edit] Religion and politics

es:Separación Iglesia-Estado fr:Rapports entre États et religions he:הפרדת הדת מהמדינה nl:Scheiding van kerk en staat ja:政教分離原則 pl:Rozdział państwa od kościoła zh:世俗主義

Separation of church and state

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