There is no separation of church and state

Discussion in 'Politics' started by larry9179, Jan 30, 2006.

  1. larry9179

    larry9179
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    Thomas Jefferson is quoted to have provided the reasoning for the interpretation of the separation of church and state. However, the Constitution does not provide such a separation. What the Constitution says is that U.S. Congress can make no law establishing a state (Federal) religion, nor to prohibit the free exercise thereof.

    Jefferson had absolutely nothing to do with the Constitution. He was the Declaration of Independence guy. When the Constitution was drafted and ratified, Jefferson was serving as Ambassador to France.

    What started this whole concept was a judicial distortion by Justice Hugo Black deciding in the case of Everson v. Board of Education that the First Amendment forbids any interaction between church and the government. He said that Jefferson's 'wall of separation' must be kept high and impregnable in reference to an 1802 letter by Jefferson to the Baptists in Danbury, CT. The state religion at that time was Congregationalism and they had petitioned then President Jefferson for aid in religious disestablishment, which Jefferson advocated when he was governor of Virginia. Jefferson however, as President failed to intervene on the grounds that the federal government was strictly forbidden from interfering in state matters.

    Jefferson's 'wall of separation between church and state' actually read: "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." Jefferson was right, the First Amendment clearly prohibits Congress from getting involved in the establishment of a national religion because that right was reserved for the states and the states alone.

    Jefferson also wrote in 1791 "I consider the foundation of the Constitution as laid on this ground: That 'all powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States or to the people.' Congress is the only entity restrained by the Establishment Clause; not state legislatures, local school boards or even high school football teams who wish to say a prayer before a game.

    In Article VI, Section 3 of the U.S. Constitution, it states that '...no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.' With 13 different colonies having potentially 13 different state religions, it would be impossible to agree on a religious test for federal service.

    In my state of North Carolina, our Constitution does require a test. "That no person who shall deny the being of God, or the truth of the Protestant religion, or teh Divine authority of the Old or New Testaments, or who shall hold religious principles incompatible with the freedom and safety of the state, shall be capable of holding any office, or place of trust or profit, in the civil department within this state." Several states simply required an officeholder to have a belief in God.

    Instead of basing rulings on the Constitution, the Supreme Court has often based its rulings on prior Supreme Court rulings. Over time, we've crept further and further away from the original intent of our Constitution. This is why we must elect representatives who will uphold our Constitution and appoint judges who will interpret only in light of the Constitution, rather than the agendas of previous judges.
     
  2. Scott J

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    Charles Pickering was on the radio the other day and made a good point along these lines. He said basically what you said about a judge's latitude for interpretation but added that the Amendment should only be interpretted in the context of its original intent and circumstances.

    IOW's, Did the Founders intend to prohibit people with "strongly held" personal convictions as Schummer calls them from becoming federal judges? The obvious answer is no. So if Chucky wants to apply that rule now... he needs a constitutional amendment to empower him.
     
  3. Johnv

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    That's not quite true. The phrase "separation of church and state" is the short-hand nickname for the Establishment Clause that is in Amendment I.

    Jefferson's Danbury letter states that very clearly: "...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...". Jefferson was responding to responding to, among other things, the the idea that he call for a national day of fasting, which he refused to do out of respect for Amendment I's establishment clause.
     
  4. Baptist Believer

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    Nope. That's your interpretation of the text. Here’s what it actually says:

    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.

    What the phrase “respecting an establishment of religion” means is a matter of intense debate, but you’ve started your argument on a false allegation.

    Jefferson did other things before and after the Declaration. Among them was the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom which was passed with the help of James Madison, among others. It is a clear expression of separation of church and state.

    And when the present Constitution and Bill of Rights were drafted and ratified, there were a majority of supporters who believed, like Jefferson, that church and state should be separate. That’s why Jefferson’s able synopsis of the sentiment has value.

    No it doesn't. Even if it did, as a Baptist and a Christian, I would oppose it.

    I guess you don't know this, but Baptists have historically led the fight for separation of church and state. It is only in recent years as Baptists have forgotten their heritage and have fallen prey to revisionist historians like David Barton, that Baptists have started lobbying to have everyone's religious freedoms disminished. :(
     
  5. larry9179

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    John, you didn't read my entire post. Jefferson's response to that Danberry letter was to tell them that he, as a federal employee could do nothing to establish - or in their case - disestablish any state religion. The Constitution - which Jefferson had nothing to do with, prohibits the federal government from stepping onto the rights of the states to choose which religion their people wanted. Once Jefferson's letter to the Danbury Baptists is understood in the context of his reasoning regarding the federal government's limited role in affairs of the states, it becomes quite clear that he never intended to extract religion from public life. Jefferson actually attended a religious service the same day he wrote that letter to the Danbury Baptists.

    Taken with Jefferson's other writings, and more importantly with writings of the actual framers of the Constitution, it is painfully obvious that the American people are being deprived of the very rights provided them under the First Amendment.

    Jefferson also said, "The God who gave us life gave us liberty at the same time; the hand of force may destroy, but cannot disjoin them." He also said, "If ever there was a holy war, it was that which saved our liberties and gave us independence." in reference to the Revolutionary War which he regarded as a war ordained by God. Jefferson was not anti-religious and neither were the Constitutions framers.
     
  6. elijah_lives

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    How is the alleged "separation of church and state" phrase relevant? If it came from a correspondence without force of law, how can it legitimately apply to a decision of law? In other words, did the early Republic ratify the Constitution, or a letter by Jefferson? This is why I believe that arguing for such a separation is intellectually-dishonest. It also contradicts the second half of the establishment clause...
     
  7. Johnv

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    I did. Your premise is still incorrect. Jefferson's Danbury letter is self evident.
    No one says differently. He was, however, in support of Amendment I as a wall of separation between church and state as prescribed by the Amendment's establishment clause.

    This does not make him, or anyone who concurrs, anti-religious.
     
  8. Baptist Believer

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    It is from the pen of one of the leading spokesmen of the “religious freedom” movement that was being pushed by Baptists, Methodists, and other “New Light” groups that had been persecuted by the religious majorities of the colonies.

    It helps clarify original intent. To see how it was used, look up the text of the Supreme Court cases on the Internet (I believe most of them are finally available). It is not the only guide that was used, but it nicely summarizes the witness of history and the writings of the side that prevailed when they were drafting the First Amendment. It’s easy to find writings from certain Constitutional framers and influential politicians that disagree with separation of church and state, but they were on the side that did not prevail. (It’s too easy to forget that there were winning and losing sides in the Constitutional convention and we have to read widely and carefully to get the whole picture.)

    It would be intellectually dishonest if that is all that we had, without a context of well-documented history and a wealth of writings from founders on both sides of the debate.

    No contradiction at all unless you need the U.S. government to tell you when and what to pray, what doctrines you must assent to, and what church you must support with your tax money (even if you don’t approve of it).

    Freedom of religion requires the possibility of freedom from religion.

    Historically, Baptists have affirmed “a free church in a free state”. Government should stay out of the church’s business (promotion/regulation of the gospel and religious practice) and churches should not try to use the power of the state for their agenda.
     
  9. elijah_lives

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    Yet, in the community in which my children were raised, the school district lost a lawsuit concerning the right to publicly pray in that school. This is not freedom.
     
  10. RockRambler

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    Wouldn't Article VI, Section 8 back up what Larry said about the NC Constitution?

    Although its not enforced, and there was plenty of discussion about it when I was a lobbyist in the NC Legislature; everyone agreed it would never hold up to a court case.
     
  11. Baptist Believer

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    “a lawsuit concerning the right to publicly pray in that school”

    Without an exact description of the facts of the case, I can’t easily respond to your allegation that your religious freedom has been restricted.

    When I hear allegations like this it is usually in reference to losing a lawsuit where someone wanted to lead a group in prayer at a school-sponsored event, using one or all of the following:

    * official classroom time
    * official assembly time under the jurisdiction and responsibility of the school
    (which includes football games and graduation ceremonies)

    There is no law (or violation of the principle of separation of church and state) against ‘publicly praying’ in schools unless it is during official class times or serves to disrupt and infringe on the rights of others. If a student wants to pray before eating during lunch, wants to pray with friends before or after school unofficially or with an officially-recognized group, or wants to pray between classes in a way that does not hinder others (such as blocking a doorway or surrounding an unwilling person), they have the right to pray. Certainly there are a number of highly-publicized incidents involving school officials who don’t know or understand the law, but those cases won’t hold up in court.
     
  12. Scott J

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    That's not quite true. The phrase "separation of church and state" is the short-hand nickname for the Establishment Clause that is in Amendment I.

    Jefferson's Danbury letter states that very clearly: "...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...". Jefferson was responding to responding to, among other things, the the idea that he call for a national day of fasting, which he refused to do out of respect for Amendment I's establishment clause.
    </font>[/QUOTE]Yes. Still, this has to do with gov't establishing religion and not religion acting in government discourse.

    Of course at this time, separation of church and state was also all but synonomous with separation of education and state. The paradigm said that churches, families, and communities were responsible for educating children since education necessarily involve indoctrination. They were afraid that government would use education to enslave the people... boy did they have it alot more right than those who protest religious involvement in education now.
     
  13. elijah_lives

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    unless is the qualifier that trashes one's freedom to pray. In this case, a girl spontaneously led a prayer during a graduation ceremony; one student (anonymously) sued with support from the ACLU. The school district was unable to raise enough funds to contest the lawsuit.

    I repeat, this is not freedom. It infringed on that girl's right to pray, the 2d half of the establishment clause we trample on.
     
  14. Scott J

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    If the unconstitutional public schools were not in operation with the unconstitutional involvement of the federal gov't... then this would be a moot issue with regard to schools and school based activities.

    Furthermore, if our gov't were anything like what the size and scope it was designed to be... religion in gov't wouldn't be worth the effort to argue about it.
     
  15. go2church

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    David Barton and his bunch strike again! It's too bad that such a large group of so-called Baptist folk are willing to throw away one of the most important pillars of historic Baptist distinctiveness.
     
  16. Scott J

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    Care to explain? I didn't see anyone say that gov't should get in the businesses the founders were responding to like compulsory membership and baptism, taxes to support sectarian churches, oppression of dissenters, imprisonment of preachers, suppression of conscience, and so on.

    In fact, just the opposite. If we must have public schools then all religious views should be allowed or else the state has made a de facto choice of humanism as the state religion.

    Yes folks, morning prayer could get a little long once the mike is opened to everyone... but at least then gov't wouldn't be suppressing free speech or the free practice of faith.
     
  17. Johnv

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    Although its not enforced, and there was plenty of discussion about it when I was a lobbyist in the NC Legislature; everyone agreed it would never hold up to a court case. </font>[/QUOTE]The Constitution forbids any sort of religious test for public office. Therefore, this statute is unconstitutional.
     
  18. Johnv

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    Yes, and no. It has to do not just with the government establishing religion, but with the government respecting an establishment of religion. Even if the government bends over backwards so as not to establish religion, it is still in violation if it respects a relious establishment.
     
  19. Johnv

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    While I agree with you, we must be cognisant of two things:

    1 - regarding the free excercise clause (the second half of the establishment clause you refer to). Just as free speech is limited to the point at which another person's freedoms are affected, the free excercise of religion is limited to the point at which another person's freedoms are affected. (yelling "fire" in a crowded theater is a good example of the Amendment I limitations).

    2 - If this girl had spontaneously led buddhist chanting, or calling upon the name of Mohammed, would we still hold to the same position that her rights were being curtailed? Or would we be holding to the idea that she infringed upon the rights of other students who did not share her belief?
     
  20. Daisy

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    I don't understand what the basis of the suit was if, as you say, it was a one-time, totally spontaneous prayer by a single student. It's not as though it were pre-approved and vetted by the school administration. Do you know which school board this was or the case number?

    That's odd because the ACLU generally supports individuals' rights to prayer just as it generally opposes the States imposing prayer on individuals.
     

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