First Amendment-Seperation of Church and State

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

The First Amendment is often thrown around when the issue of Church and State are brought to the center of discussion.  The highlighted passage above is perhaps the most controversial in the modern debate concerning the separation of Church and State, and is what the focus of this post will be on.   This is called the Establishment Clause (EC).

On one side of the debate there are those that decry the use of the First Amendment barring the presence of religious symbols and buildings on publicly held land.  Good examples are those that wish for the ten commandments to be present in judiciary buildings or those that advocate a religious building on federal colleges and parks.  Proponents here claim that the EC is not designed to deter the use of religious ideals on government, but to deter government from private practice of religion and that protection only.  A good example is someone wishes to practice Christianity in their home.  Government has no right to interfere! It’s right there in the amendment!  However, if the ten commandments were engraved in stone at his local city hall he would not and could not object, he feels his practice of religion is not being infringed.

But, what if he was not Christian? What if he felt that he was being judged not based on the law of the land, but by the laws engraved on that stone in the city hall? Furthermore, what if he held the view that by enforcing the ten commandments in a public area, the non-Christian felt that this prohibited the free exercise of his non-religion? After all, Justice David Souter, writing for the majority, concluded that “government should not prefer one religion to another, or religion to irreligion.” (Wikipedia).  So how can we argue for the inclusion of one religious ideology and not another? Or any at all?

The other side of this issue holds that the EC stands for the complete separation of Church and State and neither side has any business dabbling in the other.  Things like stone engravings in public buildings down to “In God We Trust” on our coins are an affront to the very nature of the First Amendment.  What does it matter, you may ask?  Well I happen to agree with the latter group on this issue and I will tell you why it matters.

It matters because our country is founded on the ideas of Freedom and Representative Government.  If my government is to ensure freedom for all of the citizens in my country then it has a duty to ensure that no one religion is preferred over another.  To those of us that do not believe in a theist god, this idea of “trusting in him” whenever we use currency is a part of state sanctioned religiosity that is completely incompatible not only with the First Amendment, but the Constitution itself.  Regardless of religiosity or lack thereof, by supporting theism in a government capacity is the antithesis of what a free republic is founded on because it raises up one group of Americans over another by legitimizing their claims on morality and way of life.  Basically, if one were to make a Constitution drafted in such a way to protect all citizens, the First Amendment shouldn’t even be necessary-it is a GIVEN that you cannot raise on group above another simply because they happen to be a part of a specific club.

If we are to live in a truly free and just republic we must remove the sanctity of religion as being outside the realm of the First Amendment and the Establishment Clause. The separation of Church and State are inherently necessary in order to best represent peoples of all different creeds, races, and ethnicities.  Anything less is disingenuous to the tenants this country was founded on and is harmful to the progression of our country as a Great Nation.  So please, the next time someone advocates against removing religious symbols on public lands, remind them that in order to represent everyone to the best of the Constitution, we must have a neutral government in the matters of religiosity.  We cannot hold up one group over another whether it be Christians and Muslims, theists and non theists, or scientologists and pastafarians if we are to live in a free society.

Jason K.

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20 comments on “First Amendment-Seperation of Church and State

  1. Mike says:

    Jason, please tell me, do you believe in your unalienable right to expect “separation of Church and State?”

  2. jastiger says:

    I think in order to have a Democratic Republic we must have separation of Church and State.

  3. Mike says:

    You did answer my question – do you believe in YOUR unalienable right to expect the so-called “separation of church and state?”

    We are, or least are supposed to be a Constitutional Republic.

  4. Jay says:

    What a weird question. Do you have an unalienable right to expect something? Of course you do! You have an unalienable right right to expect whatever you want (though you may not get it). Expecting something deals with thought, and you have a right to think whatever you want!

    But I doubt that’s what you meant, despite your phrasing. Did you mean: is the separation of church and state an unalienable right?
    If so, how are you defining separation of church and state? Are you referring to the establishment clause or the free expression clause, or both?

    I’d say the free expression clause deals with an “unalienable right,” most definitely. The establishment clause, however, is more of a constitutional rule for Congress, isn’t it? Congress is not allowed to do this, or that — I’m not sure I’d call that an unalienable right. But maybe it is, since it tries to keep government neutral with regards to religion. But then again, I’m no constitutional scholar.

    What’s your view on the subject, Mike? You seem to be hinting that you do not view your definition of separation of church and state as a right.

  5. Mike says:

    I find it interesting that Jason won’t touch that question with a ten foot pole, but thank you Jay for being honest.

    There was no cryptic reasoning in my question, it was just a simple question since Jason chose to run to the Constitution of the these United States, and establish a “right.” Now Jay admits that his “right” of the so-called “separation of church and state” is unalienable.

    What does that mean? It means that he can’t make up his mind. That is, if course, if Jay agrees with those on this site. On one hand he demands no governmental support of religion anywhere, but on the other hand he demands it because it is an “unalienable right.”

    What is an “unalienable right?” and where does it come from Jason and Jay? Our founding fathers tell us in the preamble of the Constitution. Each of us are endowed with these rights by OUR CREATOR! These rights can only come from GOD! The One and only TRUE GOD of the Bible. So, if you are going to be consistent with your arguments, you had better throw the Constitution to the side and come up with some other reason for not wanting religion – because in essence, you don’t have any rights. Except of course for the ones that you make up yourself (Situationism, Utilitarianism, Nihilism, etc.).

    By the way, separation of church and state – there is no such animal spoken about in the Constitution. It was simply made up by the progressives to destroy our nation.

    • zntneo says:

      Or you could look at naturalized inalienable rights as being given by the fact that we are born that we are sentient autonomous beings and not coming from god.

  6. jastiger says:

    It’s not that I won’t touch it, its that I’ve been out of town:)

    First of all, even if what you say is true Mike, none of that has anything to do with The Bible or a Christian deity. It could be the Muslim god, Flying Spaghetti Monster, or some deistic being. No where does it say Jesus, Mary, Bible, or any other reference to a Christian deity.

    Second of all, I am not sure what you mean with the unalienable right. I think Jay put it pretty well, you can expect whatever you want, but that doesn’t mean it’s going to happen. I believe if we are to have a true democratic republic we are forced to have no government hand in religion. To put government intervention into religion is to favor or disfavor one group over another, a direct contradiction to a representative democracy based on equality and equal protection under the law.

    That is what the Constitution is built upon, equal protection for every man living as an American Citizen. Furthermore, I just quoted the Amendment verbatim, and you are going to tell me “progressive” made it up to destroy our nation. It’s in the Constitution. Where was it made up?

  7. Mike says:

    NO WHERE does the Constitution say “separation of church and State.” It’s not in there. It’s an invention of progressives.

    • zntneo says:

      NO WHERE does the constitution say we have the right to vote either. Furthermore, was Jefferson one of those progressives? hes the one who talks about the wall of separation of church and state

  8. Mike says:

    As for God giving us our rights, the founding fathers did not have in mind any other God, but the REAL God of the Bible. The Creator.

    BTW – Mary is not God, a god, or deity, she was simply a woman – a human being.

  9. jastiger says:

    I meant they made no reference to any Christian figures. None.

    Also, what part of that first amendment and entire first post do you not see?

    Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion.

    That wasn’t put in 20 years ago.

    • Mike says:

      Correct – that is a far cry from “separation of church and state.” All it means that the government shall not establish a state religion, like England did. Like there shall not be a Church of the United States that everyone must attend. That was the intent of the founders, not that religion shall not be recognized.

  10. jastiger says:

    No, it means that in order to have equal protection under the law we cannot create laws and enforce the Constitution on the basis of a certain religion, specifically Christianity.

    • Mike says:

      Jason, don’t accept the common talking points of the progressives. Just stop and think – use some common sense. Why did Europeans come to America? ANS; To flee religious persecution from the Catholic Church and the Church of England.

      They also came to America so that they could worship freely without fear of a government established religion.

      HENCE: Article 1 – Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of relgion.

      In other words, Congress is not allowed to form a religous denomination and require every citizen to be a member. That’s what England did, and pretty much Rome as well. But that clause NEVER stated that religion is not to be mentioned.

  11. jastiger says:

    It can be mentioned, and is mentioned. But no law shall be made concerning it. The President and Congress can talk all they like about religion, but they cannot legislate any law in regard to it. What is so hard to understand about that?

  12. Dan Reed says:

    In regards to a quote from your blog post, “First Amendment – Seperation of Church and State”, “[what if] the non-Christian felt that this prohibited the free exercise of his non-religion?”

    First of all, “non-Christian”, seriously? Why not non-Buddhist, or non-Islamic, or better yet, Atheist?

    Secondly, if you’re going to use supporting documentation from Wikipedia….don’t….just…don’t.

    It is my belief that any non-religion should in fact be considered a religion itself, especially considering that atheists commonly state that all other religions are false, and that only they hold the real truth. I also see many atheists going out of their way to put down the views of the religious, upholding only their views as morally superior….remind you of something? (Christian Fundamentalists by chance?)

    It is sad that Atheists can’t spend more time being a support for their fellow, and less time attacking those that choose to have differing points of view.

    Then again, in the sense of the word Religion I take this definition from wikipedia…just for you!! “A religion is a set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe, especially when considered as the creation of a supernatural agency or agencies, usually involving devotional and ritual observances, and often containing a moral code governing the conduct of human affairs.”

    Atheism. “A set of beliefs concering the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe.” -Check.
    “Especially [but not solely] when considered as the creation of a supernatural agency or agencies, usually involving devotional and ritual observances, and often containing a moral code governing the conduct of human affairs” -Check. (see Atheists Prayer below..)

    “Our brains, which art in our heads,
    treasured be thy name.
    Thy reasoning come.
    Thy best you can do be done
    on earth as it is.
    Give us this day new
    insight to help us resolve conflicts and
    ease pain.
    And lead us not
    into supernatural explanations;
    deliver us from denial of logic.
    For thine is the kingdom of reason,
    and even though thy powers are limited,
    and you’re not always glorious
    you are the best evolutionary adaptation
    we have for helping this earth now and
    forever and ever.
    So be it.”

    I am Agnostic if you were wondering, and all I know is that I don’t know. I do know on the other hand, that strict Atheists can be just as bad as Christian Fundamentalists, and if you think otherwise, you truly are a hypocrite. Stick with the expositional blog posts, less “watch me whine and cry because I’m not getting exactly what I want”.

    • jastiger says:

      You’re right, why not non-Buddhist or non-Muslim? I acknowledge that I do use one religion often, and I have repeatedly said on this blog that I will usually speak to Christianity because it is the one religion most of us that would read the blog are familiar with. So I take your point and agree, then ask you to read the posts with a bit more of a discerning eye.

      The idea that you equate a “non-belief” in god as a religion shows just how much you have ignored the type of writing that has been here. Let me put it to you this way, do you believe in Santa Clause? There are tons of kiddos that do, and they would have their world view shaken to its core if you came in on Christmas morning and yelled at him “There is no Santa and no toys for you!” Now, does this mean you have a systematic belief system that you go through every day in an attempt to get rid of Santa? Do you go to bed at night and pray to the “not-Santa” entity? No, of course you don’t. You don’t believe in Santa because such a being is physically impossible, not because you hate the people that believe in him. Furthermore, you would be forced to admit that a belief in Santa is harmful to a person that wants to get along in our society-imagine if your college classmates still believed in him! Now imagine they can vote!

      I am not sure where you got the definition of atheism there because it seems an awful lot like someone who was trying to straw-man a point of view would do. Atheism itself is not a religion, it is simply the position of non belief. Just like your position on Santa Clause, that doesn’t mean you “automatically” know exactly where all the toys come from. You may have a good idea based on your life experiences and the observation of parents buying their children the gifts. This doesn’t mean that you belong to the religion of “non-Santa”, it means you have thought about it and come to your own conclusions.

      Furthermore, now that I’m turning this into a blog post, I would argue that any moral theory that is grounded in reality and science is far superior to any kind of divine command morality that any person can concoct. This leaves room for horrendous moral theories, however, none so horrendous as those that can be created from a religion. In a truly cohesive, logical, and scientific morality that places Humanity above the individual there is no room for this kind of extremism that we see from religious fanatics. The key is the rational part, we’re working on that:)

      Also, as to your last paragraph, I consider agnosticism a form of atheism.

      Atheist means “a” or “not” theist. Even having the neutral position of not believing in a theist being makes you an atheism by definition. It does not mean you have a belief structure or morality or belief in super natural like the silly prayer you posted claims. I appreciate your post and I respect your position so far as you see fit to defend it, however, I would encourage you to do a bit more research and read some of the other posts and responses here. I think every argument you’ve brought up has been answered in previous posts and replies.

      Sorry for being lazy this week on the post, but this got long winded. Hope it spurs more conversation:)

      • Dan Reed says:

        Thank you for your response. I didn’t intend to make you write another blog post! =) I call myself agnostic because there is one thing about Atheism that I cannot bring myself to do, and that is yelling at the kids and telling them Santa(as you put it) no longer exists… I have read many of the posts here and have really enjoyed many of them.

        The ones I do have a problem with are those that seem to have the sole purpose of attacking religion. I agree with many of the things you say, but what right do we have to sit on our throne and pronounce to those that believe in “Santa”, and in fact even use that as their crutch – that “Santa” does not exist? I know I won’t change anyones mind, but this is the problem I see in most Atheist rants today. Offer up the positive, be a support for other Atheists or even the curious believers, and explain the who, what, and why like you do in many of your posts. What is that saying, “You can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar”? It seems to me that Atheists are always trying to persuade people – maybe it is just me. I know it can be easier to persuade people using flattery and polite arguments instead of taking a more confrontational approach, and more often than not coming across as conceited.

        It is my belief that we as human beings are going through an awakening….at least I did. I do know that more and more people are shedding the crutch, and many of those shedding that crutch may still need a helping hand, not a negative – bash all religion rhetoric in my opinion.

  13. yuiru says:

    Why is the mentioning of religion so threating to people?
    Why is it so terrible a piece of metal or wall mentions God? Why are people even focusing on this? C’mon BIGGER problems are in place!

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