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What Does ‘Separation of Church and State’ Really Mean?

The phrase from a letter by Thomas Jefferson has fueled misunderstandings about the nature of America.

by
Dr. John C. Eastman

Bio

May 13, 2013 - 11:00 am

Does the Constitution really require a strict separation of church and state? That phrase has become so commonplace that many people actually believe it is in the Constitution itself. It is not, of course. Indeed, the phrase reflects a view exactly opposite to what our nation’s Founders actually believed. For them, religion was indispensable for fostering the virtues necessary for successful self-government, and they sought to encourage it wherever they could. The Constitution’s prohibition on the “Establishment of Religion” was designed simply to prevent the federal government from creating a national religion and coercing people to support it, so that religion could flourish and individual freedom of conscience be protected. The fact is, as one Supreme Court justice famously noted, “We are a religious people, whose institutions presuppose a Supreme Being.” Watch the video and learn more.

 

Dr. John C. Eastman is the Henry Salvatori Professor of Law & Community Service at Chapman University School of Law, specializing in Constitutional Law and Legal History, and the Director of the Claremont Institute’s Center for Constitutional Jurisprudence. He also served as Dean from 2007 until 2010, when he stepped down to pursue a campaign for California Attorney General.

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"The Constitution’s prohibition on the “Establishment of Religion” was designed simply to prevent the federal government from creating a national religion and coercing people to support it..."

Since, like religion, atheism is based on faith, it follows that the federal government must be restrained by the first amendment from establishing atheism and coercing people to support it.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Freedom OF religion is a far cry, almost the opposite of, freedom FROM religion.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
We take religious freedom for granted. We forget the conditions that existed in England for over 200 years. The State had the power to try people and punish them for TREASON simply becaue they didn't worship in the State-approved fashion. Removing that power is all the Establishment Clause is about. It has nothing to do with keeping atheists and other religious minorities from feeling "left out" or "uncomfortable." That's multiculturalism - a leftist agenda that has nothing to do with the Constitution.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
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All Comments   (149)
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Separation of church and state is a bedrock principle of our Constitution much like the principles of separation of powers and checks and balances. In the Constitution, the founders did not simply say in so many words that there should be separation of powers and checks and balances; rather, they actually separated the powers of government among three branches and established checks and balances. Similarly, they did not merely say there should be separation of church and state; rather, they actually separated them by (1) establishing a secular government on the power of "We the people" (not a deity), (2) saying nothing to connect that government to god(s) or religion, (3) saying nothing to give that government power over matters of god(s) or religion, and (4), indeed, saying nothing substantive about god(s) or religion at all except in a provision precluding any religious test for public office. Given the norms of the day, the founders' avoidance of any expression in the Constitution suggesting that the government is somehow based on any religious belief was quite a remarkable and plainly intentional choice. They later buttressed this separation of government and religion with the First Amendment, which constrains the government from undertaking to establish religion or prohibit individuals from freely exercising their religions. The basic principle, thus, rests on much more than just the First Amendment.

That the phrase "separation of church and state" does not appear in the text of the Constitution assumes much importance, it seems, to some who may have once labored under the misimpression it was there and, upon learning they were mistaken, reckon they’ve discovered a smoking gun solving a Constitutional mystery. To those familiar with the Constitution, the absence of the metaphor commonly used to name one of its principles is no more consequential than the absence of other phrases (e.g., Bill of Rights, separation of powers, checks and balances, fair trial, religious liberty) used to describe other undoubted Constitutional principles.

To the extent that some nonetheless would like confirmation--in those very words--of the founders' intent to separate government and religion, Madison and Jefferson supplied it. Madison, who had a central role in drafting the Constitution and the First Amendment, confirmed that he understood them to “[s]trongly guard[] . . . the separation between Religion and Government.” Madison, Detached Memoranda (~1820). He made plain, too, that they guarded against more than just laws creating state sponsored churches or imposing a state religion. Mindful that even as new principles are proclaimed, old habits die hard and citizens and politicians could tend to entangle government and religion (e.g., “the appointment of chaplains to the two houses of Congress” and “for the army and navy” and “[r]eligious proclamations by the Executive recommending thanksgivings and fasts”), he considered the question whether these actions were “consistent with the Constitution, and with the pure principle of religious freedom” and responded: “In strictness the answer on both points must be in the negative. The Constitution of the United States forbids everything like an establishment of a national religion.”
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Read Supreme Court Justice and Constitutional Historian Joseph Stories comments that I posted a couple of posts down.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Reliance on Story's comments in his Commentaries is problematic to say the least. First, note that he offers conflicting ideas. In passages preceding those you quoted, he says this about the no-religious-test clause of the Constitution: "This clause is not introduced merely for the purpose of satisfying the scruples of many respectable persons, who feel an invincible repugnance to any religious test, or affirmation. It had a higher object; to cut off for ever every pretense of any alliance between church and state in the national government." He goes on to explain the aim was to cut off any alliance between government and any religion, Christian or other: "The framers of the constitution were fully sensible of the dangers from this source, marked out in the history of other ages and countries; and not wholly unknown to our own. . . . The Catholic and the Protestant had alternately waged the most ferocious and unrelenting warfare on each other; and Protestantism itself, at the very moment, that it was proclaiming the right Of private judgment, prescribed boundaries to that right, beyond which if any one dared to pass, he must seal his rashness with the blood of martyrdom the history of the Parent country, too, could not fail to instruct them in the uses, and the abuses of religious tests. . . . With one quotation more from [Blackstone], exemplifying the nature and objects of the English test laws, this subject may be dismissed. 'In order the better to secure the established church against perils from non-conformists of all denominations, infidels, Turks, Jews, heretics, papists, and sectaries, there are, however, two bulwarks erected, called the corporation and test-acts. . . .' It is easy to foresee, that without some prohibition of religious tests, a successful sect, in our country, might, by once possessing power, pass test-laws, which would secure to themselves a monopoly of all the offices of trust and profit, under the national government." Story then turned to the amendments and offered the seemingly contrary views you quoted.

Second, perhaps in all his comments but at least in those concerning the First Amendment, Story appears to express his personal views rather than some conclusion drawn from evidence. He offers no evidence of the framers' intent in this regard (failing even to acknowledge that Madison had by then already vetoed two bills based on an understanding of the First Amendment contrary to Story's), and instead resorts to his personal opinion: "The promulgation of the great doctrines of religion, the being, and attributes, and providence of one Almighty God; the responsibility to him for all our actions, founded upon moral freedom and accountability; a future state of; rewards and punishments; the cultivation of all, the personal, social, and benevolent virtues;-- these never Can be a matter of indifference in any well ordered community it is, indeed difficult to conceive, how any civilized society can well exist without them. And at all events, it is impossible for; those, who believe in the truth of Christianity, as a divine revelation, to doubt, that it is the especial duty of government to foster, and encourage it among all the citizens and subjects." (Moreover, that he was wrong in supposing this "impossible" is evidenced by the fact that hardly all devout founders shared this idea.)

Third, (as should be especially appreciated by modern show-me-the-words-separation-of-church-and-state literalists), he entirely fails to explain how he reads the words "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion" to mean only "to exclude all rivalry among Christian sects" and "Christianity ought to receive encouragements from the State."

While the First Amendment undoubtedly was intended to preclude the government from establishing a national religion as Story notes, that was hardly the limit of its intended scope. The first Congress debated and rejected just such a narrow provision ("no religion shall be established by law, nor shall the equal rights of conscience be infringed") and ultimately chose the more broadly phrased prohibition now found in the Amendment. In keeping with the Amendment's terms and legislative history and other evidence, the courts have wisely interpreted it to restrict the government from taking steps that could establish religion de facto as well as de jure. Were the Amendment interpreted merely to preclude government from enacting a statute formally establishing a state church, the intent of the Amendment could easily be circumvented by government doing all sorts of things to promote this or that religion--stopping just short of cutting a ribbon to open its new church.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
The use of the radicalized notion of separation of church and state with regards to the Establishment Clause to silence the free expression of Christians within institutions is particularly disturbing. Only an Anti Christian Anti Religious bigot could love that. Of course that is exactly what they claim and fear Theocrats would do to them. Look in the mirror, I say.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
PS, Ill grant you Madison and Jefferson promoted the separation of Church and State in a more broad scope and prevailed in Virginia on that score.

PPS - I support separation of Church and State, just not it's radicalized version which seeks to deny ideas derived from religious tradiition from governance, informing legislation and policy.

The Establishment Clause is a restriction on the Federal Government and not general principle of governance....as can be ascertained by reading the letters and communications surrounding the ratification debate in the States....as well as the State Constitutions themselves.

As Story accurately states, a reading of the Establishment Clause as an intent to prostrate Christianity, is ludicrous.

Unfortunately, the Federal Government is now Leviathon....and the Constitution stands in tatters.

You should read more widely.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Still havent perused the State Constitutions of the time, I see.

May I also suggest you read letters of the various state leaders in discussing the Establishment Clause before during and after the ratification process.

Keep working on your revisionist selective historical narrative. You have the support of the Left in that endeavor.

1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I am familiar with the religious provisions of the various state constitutions of the time. Did you have a point?

While the First Amendment limited only the federal government, the Constitution was later amended to protect from infringement by states and their political subdivisions the privileges and immunities of citizenship, due process, and equal protection of the laws. The courts naturally have looked to the Bill of Rights for the important rights thus protected by the 14th Amendment and have ruled that it effectively extends the First Amendment’s guarantees vis a vis the federal government to the states and their subdivisions--hence the law does reach the city councils and public school teachers. (While the founders drafted the First Amendment to constrain the federal government, they certainly understood that later amendments could extend the Bill of Rights' constraints to state and local governments.)

It is instructive to recall that the Constitution's separation of church and state reflected, at the federal level, a "disestablishment" political movement then sweeping the country. That political movement succeeded in disestablishing all state religions by the 1830s. (Side note: A political reaction to that movement gave us the term "antidisestablishmentarianism," which amused some of us as kids.) It is worth noting, as well, that this disestablishment movement was linked to another movement, the Great Awakening. The people of the time saw separation of church and state as a boon, not a burden, to religion.

This sentiment was recorded by a famous observer of the American experiment: "On my arrival in the United States the religious aspect of the country was the first thing that struck my attention. . . . I questioned the members of all the different sects. . . . I found that they differed upon matters of detail alone, and that they all attributed the peaceful dominion of religion in their country mainly to the separation of church and state. I do not hesitate to affirm that during my stay in America, I did not meet a single individual, of the clergy or the laity, who was not of the same opinion on this point." Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America (1835).
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
As I mentioned down thread. I support the principle of Separation of Church and State (including at the State level), just not it's Extremist Radical Interpretation which seeks to silence Christians Free Expression within the institutions. I support the separation of ORGANIZATIONS, not the banishmnet of Religion from informing governance, laws, and policy. That a free people should be free to express themselves in the institutions, even if that expression derives from a religious tradition. It is ludicrous to believe that the Christians who created this country sought to banish the transmission of Christianity from one generation to the next via the school system where it was traditionally included...of course with respect to the rights of minorities to abstain from them. Freedom of religion, not prostration of the majority to the minority.

So de Tocqueville is quite right. The problem is the radicalization of the notion of Separation of Church and State, as I have outlined. This secular absolutist radicalization is tyranny and oppressive, it is intolerant of the majorities rights. There is no perfect solution, the best solution is that the Christian majority retains it's rights to express themselves inside the institutions and that minorities are tolerated (not persecuted). Minorities retain freedom of conscience, and the majority retains freedom of expression.

Hope that helps clarify our disagreement.

1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
While some of the founders no doubt aimed to limit the federal government in this arena in order to leave it free to the states, others undoubtedly were motivated to protect individual rights in keeping with the political "disestablishment" movement then sweeping the country. There is no reason to suppose that the Amendment should be interpreted to further one aim but not the other. It may give you pause to observe that no court in the history of our nation has ever interpreted the First Amendment to mean as little as you suppose.

You speak of supporting separation of church and state at both the federal and state level, yet opposing silencing the free expression of Christians "within the [governmental, I presume] institutions and apparently letting the majority "express themselves within the institutions" while tolerating but not persecuting minorities. How you would expect that to work, I do not know.

It is important to distinguish between "individual" and "government" speech about religion. The constitutional principle of separation of church and state does not purge religion from the public square as is commonly lamented--far from it. Indeed, the First Amendment's "free exercise" clause assures that each individual is free to exercise and express his or her religious views--publicly as well as privately. The Amendment constrains only the government not to promote or otherwise take steps toward establishment of religion. As government can only act through the individuals comprising its ranks, when those individuals are performing their official duties (e.g., public school teachers instructing students in class), they effectively are the government and thus should conduct themselves in accordance with the First Amendment's constraints on government. When acting in their individual capacities, they are free to exercise their religions as they please. If their right to free exercise of religion extended even to their discharge of their official responsibilities, however, the First Amendment constraints on government establishment of religion would be eviscerated. While figuring out whether someone is speaking for the government in any particular circumstance may sometimes be difficult, making the distinction is critical.

Nor does the constitutional separation of church and state prevent citizens from making decisions based on principles derived from their religions. Moreover, the religious beliefs of government officials naturally may inform their decisions on policies. The principle, in this context, merely constrains government officials not to make decisions with the predominant purpose or primary effect of advancing religion; in other words, the predominant purpose and primary effect must be nonreligious or secular in nature. A decision coinciding with religious views is not invalid for that reason as long as it has a secular purpose and effect.

The Constitution, including particularly the First Amendment, embodies the simple, just idea that each of us should be free to exercise his or her religious views without expecting that the government will endorse or promote those views and without fearing that the government will endorse or promote the religious views of others. By keeping government and religion separate, the establishment clause serves to protect the freedom of all to exercise their religion. Reasonable people may differ, of course, on how these principles should be applied in particular situations, but the principles are hardly to be doubted. Moreover, they are good, sound principles that should be nurtured and defended, not attacked. Efforts to undercut our secular government by somehow merging or infusing it with religion should be resisted by every patriot.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Let me see if I can bring you down from lofty rhetoric to the mechanics of extremist interpretations of the Separation of Church and State on the ground.

Ill go back to the public school PA system...which can be used to promote ideas that are not derived from religious traditions, but ideas derived from religious traditions are banned. A school offiicial can promote the idea that Anthroprogenic Global Warming is an accurate understanding of the nature of our world, and promote behaviors that they believe are moral with regards to that percieved reality. Whereas advocation of behavioral standards based on religious understanding of reality are banned from being uttered under the extremist Doctrine of Separation of Church and State. This privileges non-religious speech and ideas over religious ideas. This is not a neutral position. It is an Anti-Religious position, persecution and subjugation of religious ideas. Tyranny. Thought control. Thought policing.

Hope that clarifies things for you.

I think it is good that we can have a thoughtful discussion on this.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Again, it is critical to distinguish individual from government speech about religion. If a student wants to pray or otherwise exercise or express his religion while at school, he may do so as long as he does it in a time, manner, and place that does not interfere with school programs and activities. On the other hand, if a public school wants to conduct a prayer or express some religious beliefs, it may not do so. And the school cannot circumvent this constitutional constraint by the expedient of recruiting a student to express its views under the guise of speaking merely as an individual. Courts must draw the line between individual and government speech in all sorts of circumstances; sometimes it is plain, sometimes not.

As for your juxtaposition of an idea derived from science (anthropogenic climate change) and one (just what you don't say) based on religion and opining that the non-religious idea is "privileged," that is one way, I suppose, one might perceive that the government, in keeping with the Constitution, can and does support and promote science and express ideas and views about science and cannot do the same with respect to religion. The First Amendment constrains government from promoting (or opposing) religion. If you experience that as "privileging" non-religious speech and ideas, I can only say "so be it."
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I think that it is shameful that you hide behind a radicalized notion of Separation of Church and State to do to Christians exactly what Atheists claim to fear that the religious would do to them. Silence them. You are the mirror image of what you claim to abhor.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
It should not be supposed that the government, by remaining separate from and neutral toward religion in keeping with the Constitution, somehow thereby favors atheism over theism. There is a difference between the government (1) remaining neutral in matters of religion and leaving individuals free to choose, exercise, and express their religious views without government intrusion and (2) taking sides in matters of religion and promoting one view (whether theism [in one, any, or all its various forms], atheism, or whatever) to the detriment of others. It is one thing for the government to endorse the idea that god(s) exist or, alternatively, endorse the idea that god(s) do not exist; it is quite another for the government to take no position on the matter and respect the right of each individual to freely decide for himself.

What you seem to see as the "silencing" Christians is merely the stopping of them using the government to endorse and promote their religion. BIG difference. Christians, like everyone else, remain free to express their religious beliefs loud and long--without co-opting the government to also do it for them.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Doug, the problem is that others are free to promote their beliefs and ideas where Christians are prohibited.

That is not a neutral position.

Any cockamamie idea or belief is allowed over the school PA system including endorsed by the School Administration, as long as it is not derived from traditional religious traditions.

Alex Jones Illuminati Conspiracy Theories for example. Fine to promote those over the school PA system. But not a prayer for the student who was injured in a acident over the weekend.

The problem here Doug is that others are allowed to speak where Christians are banned. That is unequal treatment before the law. It's tyranny.

By silencing God believers, and privileging speech by God disbelievers, the government effectively endorses a position. It's OK to talk about everything but God over the PA system. No God talk allowed. All ideas not derived from a religious traditional are at least theoretically allowable over the PA system.

You see how that works, Doug? Let's suppose that ideas not derived from a religious tradition were banned from being spoken over the schools PA system. A mental experiment. Would that in your mind be a neutral position by government with regards to free expression? Hey, Atheists are free to express there Godless ideas elsewhere. There is no infringement upon their speech.

This is what you are asking me to swallow. It's painfully obvious that it's hornswaggle.

You are free to promote your beliefs, theories, and hypothesis, your worldview, your ruminations about life and humanities relationship to the universe which is not associated with a religion over the PA system and officially as a Administrator, and the religious are free to shut the f*ck up, under penalty of the law.

Sounds a treat, mate. Thanks for the show of concern for my rights and liberty.

LOL!

School Choice, Privatization, Vouchers that Follow the Child

1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
An atheist cannot use the school PA system to promote his no-god belief any more than a theist can use it to promote his god belief. And both can jabber to their hearts content about science, math, literature, etc. That evenhanded neutrality would "silence" only those who somehow insist on sharing their religious beliefs anywhere, anytime--even when acting on behalf of a government institution.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Anyways, a good way to sidestep this issue is School Choice, Vouchers that Follow the Child, and Privatization of the School System.

This would see a vast increase in Christian Schools, where Christians would be free to speak and to transmit their cultural norms and values and heritage and traditions onto their posterity. This would thwart the Left's ploy to indoctrinate Christian children in a Religion Free Zone of Public School under the Radicalized Doctrine of Separation of Chruch and State. And I fully support it. And the real kicker is that the quality of educaiton will rise as well, with a more open marketplace of competition.

That the Left and their stultifying Teachers Union will absolutely despise this new dynamic system which offers more choice and freedom (of thought) is just icing on the cake!

1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Certainly you would support this Doug. Seeing as though you arent Anti-Religious but merely a supporter of Separation of Church and State. Your aim not being the silencing of Christians in the instiutions (education system). But rather protecting the secular nature of government.

Or do you secretly relish the silencing of Christians in schools, and wish to keep it that way? You prefer the privileging of non-religious speech in government monopoly schools, and the exclusion of Christian speech. One wonders.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
As long as the public schools remain well supported and available to all, I have no problem if parents choose to send their children elsewhere where they will get religious training along with education in the three Rs and such. One possible downside is that the quality of the education children receive--and thus the way they later operate as adults--may suffer. A case in point is the recent news of a religious school teaching fifth graders that the earth is 6,000 years old and such. I suppose our society can get by if a few folks flipping burgers believe such stuff, but can you imagine if real decision makers in law, policy, medicine, etc., actually acted on the basis of such stories?
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
And the bigot raises his ugly head. Thanks for revealing yourself Doug.

The plain fact of the matter is that Christian Schools provide better education outcomes for their students than government schools. And they do so with less resources, making them more efficient.

A Catholic Education is something to pride oneself on.

You should be ashamed of yourself, but alas, bigots like you are a dime a dozen. Unfortunately, you have twisted the Separation of Chruch and State to impose your bigotry upon others, and silenced Christians in the institutions.

Our Christian society has not only gotten by, but prospered immensely under Christian rule and decision making. So much so that they are demonized by "Others" for this success.

You are an A-Class bigot. Have a good day.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Setting aside the unwarranted bigot slur, I'll just call to your attention that religion, particularly Christianity, has long flourished in the United States, more so than in most of the rest of the world, precisely because church and state are separated here. Don't look a gift horse in the mouth.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
And Ill just restate that Im a secularist, but not an Anti Religious bigot who wishes to use radical extremist interpretations of the Establishment Clause to silence those I disagree with in the schools and elsewhere in the public space and institutions, unlike Doug here.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Not just so be it. But clearly it is. And that is clearly the way you prefer it. Using an extreme interpretatio of the Establishment Clause to silence Christian speech in the instiutions.

That leaves for example Leftwing ideology free reign to propagate itself amongst the populations children in the public school system, as the majority tradition is silenced.

Atheo-Scientism is given free reign as it is not a well recognized traditional religion.

You can hide behind your lofty rhetoric, but Ive just exposed you as one who clearly supports the suppression of religious speech and the priveleging of non-religious speech. It's great when you can silence competing ideas in the marketplace via legal thuggery, heh?

There is nothing in the Constitution that compels the US Federal Government to promote science, BTW.

Im not anti-Science either. I happen to disagree with the AGW hypothesis. But the intent was to show that unproven beliefs can be promoted over the government/schools PA system, as well asadvocacy of moral behavior based on those unproven beliefs. The Atheo-Scientismist Religious understanding of the world we live in.

I get that Atheists really like this state of affairs. Im just here to make it clear to you, that people understand what is going on....even though you keep parroting the high and lofty rhetoric, that religion is served well by being silenced in the institutions. LOL!

What a hoot!

1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Efforts to undercut our secular government by somehow merging or infusing it with religion should be resisted by every patriot. - Doug

The problem with this statement is that all one has to do is to define Separation of Church and State in an extreme manner and then declare anybody who disagrees with that, as unpatriotic and an extremist Religious Theocrat who wants to oppress minorities, and impose their God upon the nation.

Christians doing what Christians have always done, praying communally at public events (like High School Football Games) isnt the first step towards theocratic tyranny, it is Christians expressing themselves freely in the public square. The majority ordering society in ways that do not ingringe upon the rights of minorities to freedom of conscience.

This is use of the principle of Separation of Church and State for tyrannical silencing of those whom you disagree with. This should be very clear.

Tyranny of the minority is not morally superior to tyranny of the majority. Utilitarianist principles would suggest that their is little harm to the minority in having to listen to Christians pray, while their is much greater harm to silencing the speech of the majority, because a minority doesnt like to be bothered by those mutterings.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
The separation of church and state does not silence individuals from expressing their religious beliefs. It does constrain government not to promote (or oppose) religion. If by "tyrannical silencing" you mean that the majority cannot enlist the government to promote its religious views, you are quite right to observe that the First Amendment does just that--as it should. I hardly regard that as the "tyranny of the minority." Under our Constitution, our government has no business promoting religion REGARDLESS of whether 1% or 99% wish it to do so.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
No Doug, Im saying that Christians are prevented from speaking freely inside the institutions. As eveidenced by the universal banning of prayers over the PA systems at High School games. This is traditional Christian behavior. The government isnt promoting Christianity. The government is silencing Christians, by refusing them the use of government facilities. Again someone promoting Green Energy for example would not be disallowed from use of the PA system. There speech would not be infringed. Christian speech is infringed.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
The constitutional principle of separation of church and state does not purge religion from the public square as is commonly lamented--far from it. = Doug

While I agree that should be the case, we can clearly see that Christian speech is being threatened in public schools. Where Christians are dissallowed from public speech at graduation ceremonies and football games and morning intercom announcements.

None of these infringe upon non-Christian rights to freedom of conscience. They are suppression of Christian speech under the radicalized extremist Doctrine of Separation of Church and State.

The Separation of Church and State is not about keeping Government and Religion separate as you claim here

"By keeping government and religion separate, the establishment clause serves to protect the freedom of all to exercise their religion. "

Which contradicts what you claim up post...

"Nor does the constitutional separation of church and state prevent citizens from making decisions based on principles derived from their religions. Moreover, the religious beliefs of government officials naturally may inform their decisions on policies."

You can see that you have developed a very ill defined slippery slope with which to target Christians Freedom of Conscience and Expression. Theyre mere participation in governance then becomes a constant legal battle where those whom dislike religion in general and Christianity in particular can harass Christians and the Government entities where they work with lawsuits for the purpose of creating a chilling effect on Christian speech and informing of legislation and policy, (policy of lawsuit avoidance trumps other considerations).

So I hope you can see the ugly side of this radicalization of Separation of Church and State. As I said, Im not against the Separation of Church and State. I am a secularist. However New Atheists and Minorities have conspired to use the principle as a hammer to infringe upon the rights of Christians in a Christian majority country created by Christians to infringe upon Christian fundamental rights. An abuse of the principle, via it's radicalized interpretation, to use it as a legal battering ram to bully institutions into policies which infringe upon the rights of Christians (for the purpose of expensive lawsuit avoidance). Lawfare, as the term has been coined for this tactic.

Minorities instead of seeking the perfect, should be happy with the good. They may have to listen endlessly to Christians drone on, but they retain the freedom of conscience. They can get a good education in a Christian school (Catholic for example) and still retain their non-Catholic religious or atheist belief system. This is tolerance in the classic sense....meaning the lack of legal proscription. The new definition of tolerance is government legal and material aid to minorities, which are in turn intolerant of the majority. The whole system has been turned on it's head.

The proper order of things is for the majority to get on with setting the standards of society to suit them, whilst remaining tolerant of minorities....and not ordering societies institutions to suit minorities whilst being intolerant of the majority to do so. Which is what we are seeing, not just at the Religious Level, but racial, ethnic, sex, and so on level.

1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I think that the constitutional separation of church and state does not do much of what you think it does. Wake Forest University has published a short, objective Q&A primer on the current law of separation of church and state–as applied by the courts rather than as caricatured in the blogosphere. I commend it to you. http://tiny.cc/6nnnx
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Thanks for the link. Perhaps you would peruse Supreme Court Justice William Rhenquists opinons with regards to the Establishment Clause. I highly recommend them.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Im very familiar with the state of the law. And the endless lawsuits being brought against school districts and towns of modest means under the Doctrine of Separation of Chruch and State for the purpose of bankrupting these entitites, and thus intimidating other towns and school districts into pre-emptive self censorship.

This isnt the least bit funny Doug. I hope you dont find enjoyment out of this infringment upon Christians fundamental rights to free expression.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
The point is that the Establishment Clause in the First Amendment to the Bill of Rights is merely a Federalist Provision, not a general principle of governance. Those calls were to be reserved for the states, which clearly made those calls, as we can see in the State Constitutions of the time.

You are purposely ignoring the larger context to make selective points with regards to the US Constituion. The States were the primary sovereigns.

We can talk about the Federal Usurpation of Power that resulted from the unconstitutional and mroally reprehensible actions of the Lincoln Administration....with regards to making war on what he considered citizens of the US, and other egregious violations of the US Constition....and the fundamental transformation of the Republic at that point, with the US government expanding it's power vis a vis the states, and the change in which were the primary sovereigns, the States of the Federal Government. But that has nothing to do with the Founding Fathers and the original intent of the Establishment Clause...which you were eagerly making false assertions about...and which you were challenged on.

Hope that clears things up for you.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Look to the State Constitutions that preceded the US Constitution, where you will find references to the Christian God and Jesus. The US was to be a very limited government, essentially a defense pact. The States were the primary sovereigns.

The US was a loose confederation of Christian states (primary sovereigns).


1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
When I was in college I took a philosophy survey class. It was a brief introduction into every major religion since recorded history began. What caught me off guard was that one of those religions included was communism.

Thinking about that for a moment, I realized it not only belonged as a religion, but should be listed at the top as the one single greatest failures in all of human history.

So actually, we at this time DO have a national religion enforceable by law:

Communism.

Kudos to the BHO administration and his fellow 80+ communist in Congress.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Essentially the government should recuse itself from all matters concerning religion or the absence of religion. It should neither forbid nor promote either. That's what Thom. Jefferson was saying.

As for the Bill of Rights, it prevents the government from establishing a government religion or preferring one faith over another.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
The Federal Government.

It makes no pretense to a general principle of governance, it is merely a federalism provision....a restriction on the Federal Government. The issue is left to the individual states.

And further clarification on the issue of preferring one faith over another. Ill let the esteemed Constitutional historian and Supreme Court Justice Joseph Story speak...

"Probably, at the time of the adoption of the Constitution, and of the [First] Amendment...the general, if not the universal, sentiment in America was, that Christianity ought to receive encouragement from the State so far as was not incompatible with the private rights of conscience and the freedom of religious worship. Any attempt to level all religions, and to make it a matter of state policy to hold all in utter indifference, would have created universal disapprobation, if not universal indignation."

"The real object of the First Amendment was not to countenance, much less to advance Mohammedanism, or Judaism, or infidelity, by prostrating Christianity, but to exclude all rivalry among Christian sects and to prevent any national ecclesiastical patronage of the national government".

http://www.catholiceducation.org/articles/politics/pg0040.html

Hope that helps.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
You are correct. I spoke in too general of terms.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
The science upon which Atheists build their belief system called Scientism, has unproven (and perhaps unprovable) assumptions at it's core.

Marcelo Gleiser may shed some light on the situation for the Atheo-Scientismists amongst us.

Listen on the Link.....Interview of Marcelo Gleiser in regards to the Lawrence Krauss kerfluffle....on the radio program To the Best of our Knowledge on NPR.

http://www.ttbook.org/book/lawrence-krauss-marcelo-gleiser-something-nothing
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Starts about halfway mark, if you find Lawrence Krauss insufferable.
1 year ago
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You fail to appreciate that religion can only exist if the state tolerates it. Religion is not the one endowed with the inalienable rights, it's man and man foregathers in nation-states the sole purpose of which is the safeguarding of these rights. Only one of these is freedom of religion. To paraphrase Job: the state has given and the state can take away.

In addition you also seem to think that god and religion are the same thing, but I don't even want to go there. Get it right!
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
It seems to me that it depends what you mean. Religion, it seems to me, is the expression of the joint and several human needs for spirituality, communion with like minded/souled people, ritual and life stage transitional forms. As such, it is almost the essence of the "pursuit of happiness " (an inalienable right), but also with a physical and institutional requirement (churches, clergy, cemetaries, tax status), given by the state. Obviously, god, or God, or Jehovah, or the Creator of the Universe, and religion, Catholicism, Judaism, Hindism, are NOT the same thing. Duh??? How moronic can a statement be?
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I support the seperation of Church and State, meaning the organizational separation of these 2 institutions. But not this radical notion of separation of religion and governance/government. Religion informs policy making and legislation, people are free to express themselves inside the institutions of government with religious speech. The silencing of Christian speech (whom make up the overwhelmingly vast majority of the population) inside the institutions (schools for example) is oppressive tyranny.

But alas....the radicalization of this notion that religion in general and Christianity in particular should be silenced and banished from the public sphere/square is the current Leftwing Zeitgeist. Radical secularism pushed by the Leftist Materialists, and Atheo-Scientismists.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I think it depends on when and where you grew up. I grew up in the 1950s in a middle-class suburb of a large Midwestern city. It was about 20-25% Jewish. There was never any question about "silencing of Christian speech" (that I remember) because the issue never came up. We each went our own ways on Saturday or Sunday and we all got along. There were some Christmas plays and carols. I remember, I brought a movie that my Dad had from his job about Israel and the development there. The next day after school, walking home, I met Sandy Stein, who told me "you're not a real Jew". I remember I told my 7th grade teacher, Miss Dellasandro, that the during the Middle Ages, the Catholic priests kept people ignorant by keeping them from reading the holy texts. In other words, I was a little sh*t.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Yes, the vast majority of American Jewry is gung ho about silencing Christians in the institutions and public sphere. And they love to criticize Christian organizations. Of course now Israel is under the same sort of "scrutiny." Enjoy!

Down with the Jewish State, up with the Multicultural Democratic Wonderland of Equality and Diversity!

LOL!
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
How can this argument and this PhD be taken seriously when incorrectly quoting the Declaration of Independence? If Dr. Eastman doesn't know the difference between 'inalienable' and 'unalienable' he should't be teaching, and especially not teaching Law!
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
There's a common theme that seems to come up in the comment thread of every post that has anything at all to do with religion, and I'm doing my honest best to make you all see it. Basically, I'm stunned by the scorn and hatred that shows through in the comments by theists (well, stunned and also a little amused at the irony of all the hate coming from the purported servants of a loving god).

I think the basic problem is that you people don't understand atheism, and every time an actual atheist like me or Random tries to explain it you tell us we're wrong, as if we don't understand our own beliefs. You have this idea fixed in your minds that every atheist is Dawkins, and we can't seem to make you understand that that belief is every bit as wrong as thinking every Jew is Schumer or, for that matter, that every Christian is Obama.

Not every atheist is your enemy. We're not all socialist, multiculturalist nihilists dead set on tearing down your Christmas trees. Some of us are in favor of small, Constitutionally limited government. A lot of us are fiscally conservative and pro-free market. We support gun rights. We oppose Obamacare, including its infringement on religion. Some of us (like me) are even pro-life / anti-abortion.

You should stop trying so hard to alienate people who share so many of your basic values, even if we do arrive at those values from a different direction.

1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Dear SilverAge: I am a theist who doesn't hate atheists. One of my heroines, Ayn Rand, was an atheist. My best friend is an agnostic. There are some atheists out there who ridicule and deride belief in G-d, such as Jim Harrishmuck. They are just as wrong as theists who ridicule and vilify atheists. Since I believe that G-d is loving, I believe that he/she loves atheists, including you, as much as he/she loves theists. I do believe that religious symbols and events that are privately funded but are displayed on public property do not constitute a violation of the first amendment. I believe the constitution prohibits the government from endorsing one particular religion, but it doesn't prohibit the government from endorsing the concept of religion.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
As long as government treats all religions with the same level of respect, I believe it has fulfilled the establishment clause of the first amendment. When I say religions, I'm including Atheism. I believe that Atheism is a religion, just like Judaism or Christianity and therefore is entitled to the same protections as any other. I, of course, disagree with Atheism, just like I disagree with Christianity, but Atheists have the same rights as all other practitioners.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
If you disagree with SilverAge, you are a hater.

Criticizing Atheism and Atheists is hatred. Criticizing Islam and Muslims is hatred and Islamophobia.

Criticizing Black Americans is expressing hatred and racism.

On the flip side, criticizing Christians is Christianophobia and hatred. Criticizing Europeandom and it's institutions is bigotry and racism.

1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I think you'd have a point if the scorn and hatred weren't A)purely a reflection and B) turning the other cheek has nothing to do with accepting actual harm or a violation of rights--it is about not responding with violence to insults.

If you agree with Random, you are as wrong as he, Atheism is plainly as baseless a faith as any, empirically speaking.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I like and appreciate good atheists like you. If, for example, atheists believe in and accept the natural/moral laws in our Declaration of Independence, then our notion of social justice is identical; only our belief in the origin of the universe is at odds, and judgment of that, of course, will and should be left to the Creator Himself. I for one believe good atheists will not be excluded from Heaven - because in my understanding of theology the final judgment will occur after our deaths - there will be an opportunity to accept God.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
There's a common theme amongst atheists that every disagreement with their conclusions is derived from hate and scorn. Take Random for instance. There is no bigger hatemonger on this board and it is completely consistent in its motive - really a one trick pony of militant Christian bigotry. If you don't believe me, take a perusal of the board in virtually any thread where there is a discussion of religion.

Using Random in your defense of love would be akin to using Obama in defense of competence.

However like you, I am amused that my so called superior intellects seem to be so insecure in their most deeply held tenets when challenged. And I am baffled when these superior intellects can't grasp that true love must first be grounded in truth.

This reputation that preceded your arrival of atheism's militancy didn't just happen in a vacuum Silverage.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I don't think every disagreement comes from hate and scorn, no. I think YOUR disagreement comes from hate and scorn. I have a co-worker here who's devoutly Catholic and he's never once called me morally bankrupt. My boss is a Jew who makes no attempt to hold me responsible for the outrages commited by Nazis and Communists. My best friends are atheists, but I have dozens of theists in my life and none of them ever question my integrity, morality or honor because my beliefs have a different wellspring than theirs. No, for that treatment I have to come here.

I'm telling you, there are a lot more people like me walking around than you seem to want to believe. And I'm serious when I say that the faithful among you need to stop working so hard to drive us away. And that's not some BS "concern trolling", it's sincere, because as I keep trying to tell you I share most of your policy preferences. Keep up this "atheists are morally bankrupt mass-murderers" act, keep making us feel like you want nothing to do with us, and you're liable to end up worshipping your god during the Clinton Administration in 2016.

1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Has nothing to do with hate or scorn. It has to do with setting the record straight and being truthful. I am indifferent to you.

I have met many a friendly atheist in my time that I hold no ill will towards - some I am sure on this board. Believe as you must. I won't try to convince you of the most obvious. And I did not call you morally bankrupt. You're twisting words once again. That seems to be a habit with you.

I did say random is a poor choice for you to be using to justify your arguments. Random is a garden variety bigot and completely unedifying.

What I did say is the historical record of atheistic governments is morally bankrupt. I stand by that....

Do you deny the historical record?
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
"You're twisting words once again. That seems to be a habit with you."

You keep trying to steal rhetorical bases. Sorry, no sale. If twisting words is a habit of mine, give me an example. Hell, if it's a habit give me two examples, that should be easy enough. Before you try though look further down this very board:

Me: "Atheists in denial about what, exactly?"
You (knowing I'm an atheist): "The clear proof of the moral bankruptcy of atheism, followed by the denial of atheistic governed history of the 20th century..."

If you're telling me that you didn't intend to call me, personally, morally bankrupt I'll take you at your word. But you can't say that me taking it as such was an unreasonable interpretation, nor can you say I'm "twisting your words".
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
If America is dumb enough to elect Clinton as President, that will be neither my fault nor my problem. You can stop with the tacit threat of a Clinton Presidency if I don't cater to your whims.

But if it would help smooth things over, I'm sorry you find me hateful. That was not the intent.

1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Europe is full of state supported religious institutions.
And Europe is far more secular the US.

The Middle East is full of state supported religious institutions.
And they are full of primitive bloody minded savages.

The wall between church and state in the US has obviously been of great benefit to both.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
The best comment on this article so far. Absolutely. Apparently Church and State are not good for each other, they do best when they each keep a respectful distance from each other. In fact, when on occasion they come together to help each other, it's beautiful. When the cops patrol a funeral procession or when the clergy preside over a military funeral
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
"The Constitution’s prohibition on the “Establishment of Religion” was designed simply to prevent the federal government from creating a national religion and coercing people to support it..."

Since, like religion, atheism is based on faith, it follows that the federal government must be restrained by the first amendment from establishing atheism and coercing people to support it.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
While the First Amendment undoubtedly was intended to preclude the government from establishing a national religion as you note, that was hardly the limit of its intended scope. The first Congress debated and rejected just such a narrow provision (“no religion shall be established by law, nor shall the equal rights of conscience be infringed”) and ultimately chose the more broadly phrased prohibition now found in the Amendment. During his presidency, Madison vetoed two bills, neither of which would form a national religion or compel observance of any religion, on the ground that they were contrary to the establishment clause. While some in Congress expressed surprise that the Constitution prohibited Congress from incorporating a church in the town of Alexandria in the District of Columbia or granting land to a church in the Mississippi Territory, Congress upheld both vetoes. Separation of church and state is hardly a new invention of modern courts. In keeping with the Amendment’s terms and legislative history and other evidence, the courts have wisely interpreted it to restrict the government from taking steps that could establish religion de facto as well as de jure. Were the Amendment interpreted merely to preclude government from enacting a statute formally establishing a state church, the intent of the Amendment could easily be circumvented by government doing all sorts of things to promote this or that religion–stopping just short of cutting a ribbon to open its new church.

Also, it should not be supposed that the government, by remaining separate from and neutral toward religion in keeping with the Constitution, somehow thereby favors atheism over theism. There is a difference between the government (1) remaining neutral in matters of religion and leaving individuals free to choose, exercise, and express their religious views without government intrusion and (2) taking sides in matters of religion and promoting one view (whether theism [in one, any, or all its various forms], atheism, or whatever) to the detriment of others. It is one thing for the government to endorse the idea that god(s) exist or, alternatively, endorse the idea that god(s) do not exist; it is quite another for the government to take no position on the matter and respect the right of each individual to freely decide for himself.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Science is the process of determining the behavior of matter (the universe) using observation, testing (controlled observation), and reason; with reason defined as the ability to observe, comprehend and accept self-evident truth.

[Reason is] “the discovery of the certainty or probability of such propositions or truths, which the mind arrives at by deduction made from such ideas, as it has got by the use of its natural faculties; viz, by the use of sensation or reflection.” John Locke

Faith is any belief undiscoverable by science, which is to say any belief based on that which is unobservable and un-testable, which is to say any belief beyond the discovery of reason and science.

“Where revelation comes into its own is where reason cannot reach. Where we have few or no ideas for reason to contradict or confirm, this is the proper matters for faith… that Part of the Angels rebelled against GOD, and thereby lost their first happy state: and that the dead shall rise, and live again: These and the like, being beyond the discovery of reason, are purely matters of faith; with which reason has nothing to do.” John Locke

We know from the law of conservation of energy that without outside force neither mass nor energy can create its self, nor can mass or energy be destroyed; the sum of mass and energy is always constant in any closed system, including the universe it’s self. Mass can be converted into energy, and visa-versa, i.e.: mass and energy are limited to interchangeability (E = MC2), but according to the law of conservation of energy only nothing can come from nothing. According to the most fundamental law of science, a self-created universe is an un-scientific belief – an irrational belief.

“The law of conservation of energy, first formulated in the nineteenth century, is a law of physics. It states that the total amount of energy in an isolated system remains constant over time. The total energy is said to be conserved over time. For an isolated system, this law means that energy can change its location within the system, and that it can change form within the system, for instance chemical energy can become kinetic energy, but that energy can be neither created nor destroyed.”

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Conservation_of_energy

It is self-evident that if the universe was not created by God, then, since it did not create its self, and since it cannot be destroyed, it must be eternal in time, both in the past and in the future – possibly an infinite series of Big Bangs - or a universe in rotation around an eternally old ultra-massive black hole at its center. So, we are left with either an eternal un-created God, with no beginning and no end, who created our finite universe with a Big Bang (religion), or we have an eternal un-created universe with no beginning and no end (atheism). Since faith is any belief based on that which is unobservable, such as belief in God, and since no one was or could be present to observe the beginning of a Universe with no beginning, belief in an eternal un-created universe (atheism) is based on faith.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
"Since, like religion, atheism is based on faith..."

For the life of me I can't figure out why theists love to make that assertion. From dictionary.com: "faith-belief that is not based on proof". There is no proof that there's a god and so I do not believe there is a god. Refusing to accept religious teachings at face value isn't faith, anymore than refusing to believe in bigfoot or the Loch Ness Monster is faith. Or to put it yet another way, if I tell you that I'm a mulit-billionaire posting this from my solid gold yacht with Kate Upton sitting on my lap it would NOT be an act of faith to disbelieve me. It'd be entirely rational to want some proof before you bought into that.

If god appeared before me and did something to prove he existed I'd believe in him. Or if any of the major religions could empirically prove their case I'd believe in them.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Lack of proof for an opposing theory does not constitute proof of your theory - just because no one can present the Creator in no way means that you have proven there is no Creator.
As such, your belief that there is no Creator is, by definition, based on faith without proof.

This of course is the greatest pretense of Atheism - that it is not faith-based religion.
And let us be clear, it DOES represent a belief in the divine existence; just look at the name - "a-theism" - the construction is inherently in respect to theism, not to something else. Perhaps if atheists exclusively identified as secularists they would have grounds to deny they were a "religion", but then we still hit an obstacle when we understand that ALL ideologies, secular AND religious, are still inherently based purely on "faith", with the only difference being between who and what the faith is in.

And of course that all leads directly to the issues most people have with Atheists these days. They are intolerant "religious" (belief) fanatics, who are quick to denounce other religions by association but react violently when the same standard is applied to them by way of the great Marxist genocides of the last century.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
It really comes down to a simple question. Do we trust our Founders interpretation that they all clearly signed on - everyone one of them - with respect to who ordains our rights?

Or do we believe randomengineer and its interpretation of there is no need for God?

Whew...what a contest.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
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