6.29.2007

The Seperation of Church and State

As I did my morning reading I caught a piece over at C.U.S.S that made me start to think. Before you read this post, please pop over and read the one that inspired it:

The Blind Scalias of Justice

After reading the post I opened the comment window and began to type. When I reached my third paragraph I decided what I had to say was better done here so as not to clog the comment section with ramblings.

I agree that the men and women who are appointed to our courts are not always fair and impartial as they are supposed to be by law. I also think that that is to be expected. I do not know a single human being who does not make decisions and judgements based on their beliefs. We all do it whether we are Christian or not. I do think that the men and women appointed to our highest court tend to represent our Presidents mindset. I think that this is something that needs to be changed. In fact, I'm pretty much of the belief that if our government doesn't get a complete overhaul soon we're going to end up in the middle of our very own Second Civil War within the next twenty to fifty years....but that's a different post.

The topic that brings us here today my friends is the so called "separation of church and state" that supposedly appears in our Constitution. This is a debate that has been raging for as long as I can remember and until very recently I was on the "it's in the Constitution" side. And then I actually ran into someone who had made it part of their life's work to study the Constitution and it's framers and let me tell you , I got schooled.

Simple Fact Number 1: The phrase "Separation of Church and State" does not appear anywhere in our Constitution. It is not in the main text. It is not in the Bill of Rights. It simply isn't there.

Simple Fact Number 2: The founding fathers of this country were not trying to prevent a theocracy. They were trying to ensure that the people of this country would have the freedom to choose whatever religion they wanted.

If you read the First Amendment the wording is fairly clear:

Amendment I

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.

Now a lot of you are immediately going to go for my jugular, "It's right there Serena, it says : Congress shall make NO LAW..." And you would be right, but read it....really read it. It says that Congress won't make any laws with respect to the ESTABLISHMENT of religion or laws that would prohibit the free exercise of that religion. It does not say that Congress will define a clear line between the government and any religion.

When we get all bent out of shape because some conservative twit has done something stupid, we have to remember, he or she isn't breaking any laws. They are just being a twit. If we get angry because some asshole has tried to get a law passed that will infringe upon our basic rights, we need to stop blaming religion and start fighting back.

It's important to remember that every time we rage about "those damn Christians" they aren't the only religious group seeking and receiving preferential treatment from the government. Right now they are the loudest, but they aren't the first and they won't be the last. Even Atheists aren't above running to the courts to ask them to intervene.

Should government be separate from religion? Hell yes. Religion muddies the waters. It taints rational decisions with the murk of morality. Will it ever happen? Not until people learn to accept the flaws inherent in themselves. The search for "moral perfection" and the need to push that on others comes from the basic drive in the human species, the need to explain away the ugly and evil things that happen.

When we were cavemen it was the lightening in the sky and the sound of thunder that needed an explanation. Today it's child molesters, mother's who kill their own children, war that kills thousands, drugs that eat our children alive. People need an explanation for these things and God and the Devil provide a way to explain it. Looking inward and pointing that moral finger at ourselves would be to painful. Our society isn't ready for it yet. And so they thump their Bibles much like cavemen thumped their chests. The next time you hear that thump coming your way, stand up and thump back.

EDIT:

Below is a link to a page on the Library of Congress website. Here you will find the text of Jefferson's Letter to the Danbury Baptists. This letter contains in it the phrase "separation of church and state" and has been used to help set the precedent that is used today when a person or group has an issue that involves religion. When atheist groups sue to have social groups removed from schools based on religious function, when Jehovah's Witnesses sue to prevent teachers leading classes in the Pledge of Allegiance because it violates their religious code, when American Indians want the right to follow age old religious traditions that violate current Federal or State laws, when Christians sue to keep the ten commandments on display in a clearly secular setting. In any case where a person or group feels a local, state of federal agency has overstepped it's bounds, this is the document that has been held up to establish that our founding fathers did indeed intend a clear and lasting division between the two:

Jefferson's Letter to the Danbury Baptists

I've read this document before and did not mention it because I don't feel that it really fit the topic at hand. Jefferson clearly upholds the idea that our government should not be allowed to interfere in the establishment of a religion or the practice of a persons chosen religion, but does it say clearly that all of the founding fathers, and not Jefferson alone, felt that the men and women in our government should never use their own moral and ethical values as a guiding compass?

Where does that line blur? Would it be okay if the decisions being made matched more closely with the opinions you held? Would the religious beliefs of the person making those decisions then become less of an issue? Exactly how do you separate religion from government completely?

2 comments:

Miz UV said...

True the phrase isn't in the Constitution, but Jefferson clarified in his Danbury Baptist letter that the intent of the First Amendment was to create a wall of separation between church and state. The courts have quoted that since and it has become precedent.

Anyway, thx for listing my new blog -- hope to see you there!

viciousrumours said...

Paula,

Your welcome! Sorry it took so long, things have been crazy here. I visited the new place this morning, looks great!

I have edited the original post with a link to the Library of Congress website and the Danbury letter you mentioned. I've read the text before, and it does bring up an interesting point....

The fact remains, however, that our Constitution does not provide for a wall by which a person or persons is prohibited from voting or pushing for laws based on a belief system. Jefferson stated that HE believed such a thing was right and I believe this as well. I'm simply pointing out the falacy in the logic that we are protected by the Constitution in this matter.