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Writer's Block: Church & State [Sep. 28th, 2008|09:38 pm]
e_moon60
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Should church and state always be separate? Why or why not? What should the nature of their relationship be?
Under our Constitution, this government is, and was intended to be secular.   Our founders had recent experience of theocracies and religious wars, and wanted no part of that.  

I support a secular government because it is the only guarantee of personal freedom from religious tyranny.    I believe a secular government is safer for all,  superior to theocracies run by imperfect humans....but other countries have a right to choose their own form of government, and if they choose a theocracy, that's their concern.  Here, from the beginning,  this nation chose a secular form, within which people could have (and do have) sincere but differing religious beliefs.



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Comments:
[User Picture]From: touchstone
2008-09-29 03:17 am (UTC)
I think that separation of church and state will, almost by definition, do a better job of protecting religious minorities than would a theocracy. That said, maybe we don't have a right to go anywhere we want and expect people to make room for our own beliefs. The world would be a better place if it worked that way, certainly, but maybe it's sufficient if the occasional society that's not welcoming of difference preserves the right of departure (not just legally, but /practically/) for those who don't fit in.
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[User Picture]From: freyaw
2008-09-29 06:04 am (UTC)
*blink* We have an official state religion? Man, the things you learn on the internet...
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[User Picture]From: pgranzeau
2008-09-29 05:26 am (UTC)
It's hard, as we are seeing in American politics, to keep church and state separate.

I believe that it was the intent of the authors of the first amendment to ensure that no laws regarding the exercise of religion, in a nation where everyone was a believer in one form or another in the Christian religion, should be passed. They probably meant that no one should be ruled ineligible for an office in the government or Congress because of his religion, something that was still true in England and in one form or another, in most European nations at the end of the 18th century. Likewise, no one would be forced to go to one church or another.

I don't believe the founding fathers intended that no one should be exposed to religion in any way.

But America has never learned to temper laws with judgment. Since we have a law, we must ensure that it is obeyed to the nth degree. Nothing religious must be permitted anywhere in the public life of the country, or in any of the states.

Except a president taking the oath of office may place his hand on a Bible and say "so help me God", regardless that it is not required by the Constitution, the words "In God we trust" may appear on coinage and currency, a pledge of allegiance can have the words "under God" inserted exactly where they do not belong, changing the intent of the pledge so that it no longer points out that no one can leave the union of states (it ought to read, ". . . one nation indivisible, under God, with liberty and justice . . ."), Congress may open each session with prayers, the Supreme Court may open with the words "God save the United States and this honorable court", or words to that effect.

Hypocrisy, thy name is America!
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[User Picture]From: touchstone
2008-09-29 11:53 am (UTC)
I believe that it was the intent of the authors of the first amendment to ensure that no laws regarding the exercise of religion, in a nation where everyone was a believer in one form or another in the Christian religion, should be passed. They probably meant that no one should be ruled ineligible for an office in the government or Congress because of his religion, something that was still true in England and in one form or another, in most European nations at the end of the 18th century. Likewise, no one would be forced to go to one church or another.

And, looking back just a little further to the 17th...that government should have no authority to dictate church doctrine or appoint church leaders.
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From: bosswriter
2008-09-29 01:20 pm (UTC)
The problem here becomes how to define separate. The radical view is to define separate as no church activity sanctioned or even any reference to God or the Bible or any of that, i.e. no Ten Commandments on courthouse walls, no 'Under God' in the pledge in schools, no prayer in school.

Since the country was founded by Christian leaders who knew the problems of the church gaining control of governement or other power they wrote the early tenants of our laws to prevent that abuse. They did not intend for any references or cooperation with the church to be prohibited, they did, after all, put 'In God We Trust" on the money and provide for freedom of religion.

Thus I believe there are certainly times when the government can and should work hand in hand with the church, especially in humanitarian efforts. The idea is to not let the church become a major influencer on policy or gain control.

Seems like at times likes we are in right now, a little more church is not a bad thing.
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[User Picture]From: galbinus_caeli
2008-09-29 03:03 pm (UTC)
Since the country was founded by Christian leaders

Hmm? Really?

Which founding fathers were pastors, deacons, or other officials in churches? This is the first I have heard such a claim.
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[User Picture]From: e_moon60
2008-09-29 06:44 pm (UTC)
Historically, not quite accurate. Among the founders, those who wrote the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, were Christians of varied beliefs (Puritans and Quakers and Roman Catholics were not the same theologically) and also atheists like Franklin, agnostics (freethinkers) and Jews. (I don't think there's any evidence of Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, Zoroastrians, or others in the main body of founders.)

The colonies had had varied levels of religious tolerance; those founded with tolerance in mind (such as Pennsylvania) and those founded with zero tolerance in mind (such as Massachusetts.) The protection for freedom of religion in the Constitution was there because former colonies whose citizens had experienced religious intolerance on both sides of the Atlantic would not agree to be part of something that might let the bigots into power.

The goal of the founders was to prevent any one group's religious views from being imposed on another. There was never any intent, or attempt, to interfere with belief itself. Initially, because the actions of the government did not impose behaviors specific to one religion, the use of some phrases from the Judeo-Christian background was inoffensive to most people and went without protest. Later, as more people were not Christian or Jewish, it became offensive to those.

What I find both alarming and amusing is the number of people who think not praying publicly on all public occasions is somehow interfering with belief. Especially when those people are Christians and supposedly have read the Gospels, where Jesus says "Don't be like those show-offs praying on the street corner and trying to impress people with how pious they are--when you pray, go into your closet and pray in secret..."

I grew up in an era when public prayers were common, and just beginning to be legally challenged. It was clear early on that the children of church-going families were not necessarily better behaved, more honest, more kind, than the children of non-church-going families. Church attendance by itself does not ensure honesty, kindness, generosity, diligence...some churches, even back then, encouraged arrogance, contempt for anyone not a member, and a niggardly refusal to help those in need who could possibly be blamed for their need. So I don't think "more church" is a good thing unless we specify which church (down to the individual--every denomination has at least some bad apples.) More honesty, kindness, generosity, yes--but those are not in a one-to-one correspondence with church-going.

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[User Picture]From: blueeowyn
2008-09-29 09:46 pm (UTC)
"In God We Trust" was not part of the Founding Fathers. http://www.ustreas.gov/education/fact-sheets/currency/in-god-we-trust.shtml states
"appeals from devout persons throughout the country, urging that the United States recognize the Deity on United States coins"
"IN GOD WE TRUST first appeared on the 1864 two-cent coin."
"The motto disappeared from the five-cent coin in 1883, and did not reappear until production of the Jefferson nickel began in 1938. "
Paper money seems to have had the phrase added in the 1960s

"Under God" was added to the pledge in 1954, I believe it was part of the "if you aren't religious you must be communist, if you are a patriot, you are religious" I sometimes wonder how some schools would react if a child were to recite "one Nation, followers of Gaia" or some other version that wasn't part of the Judeo-Christian majority
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[User Picture]From: eir_de_scania
2008-09-29 02:53 pm (UTC)
Wouldn't that be separation of churches, in plural, and state, in the US? In countries with state churches, one denomination takes the place of One True Church, and the rest, even when tolerated, had no say in government.



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[User Picture]From: e_moon60
2008-09-29 06:46 pm (UTC)
You expect linguistic accuracy in a situation of theological complexity and confusion?

You ARE an optimist.

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