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November 19, 2007

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Note, also, that it says "Congress shall make no law..." Tie that in with the ninth and tenth amendments, and I see no reason why a local municipality or even a state can be or should be Consitutionally constrained from public displays of religious faith, or even establishment. The latter worries me a bit, but I see no reason to preclude based on the language of the three amendments.

Some people say that freedom of religion implies freedom from religion. The strange thing is that freedom of speech or the press is never taken to imply freedom from speech or freedom from the press.

Right, Timbo. You also never hear about "Separation of Speech and State", or "Separation of Press and State".

Imagine if government officials were never allowed to make speeches or give press briefings....

Most would find it interesting to note that the current view of the "Establishment Clause" of the first amendment was the result of the decision of the Supreme Court in the 1947 case "Everson v. Board of Education" from an opinion presented by Associate Justice Hugo Black. Although the ruling in this case may have been correct, the application has not.

Greg, if you don't believe there should be a separation between church and state, how do you think they should be combined? What do you think they should have to do with each other? And by misinterpreting the first amendment, how do you think religion has been restricted?

Sam, Greg did not say they must or should be combined. You have to know that. He is simply saying the first amendment does not restrict religion from anything. The restriction is all on one side -- on Congress (and at the Federal level at that). Religion has obviously been restricted in numerous ways. Examples: How is using school grounds for religious meetings an establishment by CONGRESS? How does a valedictorian mentioning God in a speech constitute an establishment of religion by CONGRESS? How does praying in school constitute an establishment by CONGRESS? How does teaching ID constitute an establishment of religion by CONGRESS? Just a few. There are more. Hope that helps.

Michael, this is what Greg said:

*******
When people ask me, "Don’t you believe in separation of church and state?" I say, "No. And neither should you. Instead, I believe in the Bill of Rights."
*******

If Greg doesn't believe in separation of church and state, then he must believe in some kind of combination of church and state. Or whatever the opposite of denial of "separation" is, Greg must hold to it. I'm just curious what he thinks that entails.

Yes, your examples do help. I can see how religion is restricted in those cases, and how removing those restrictions would not amount to Congress establishing a religion. Thanks.

Sam wrote:

>If Greg doesn't believe in
>separation of church and state,
>then he must believe in some kind
>of combination of church and state.

There is a second possibility: That he believes in a Laissez-faire view of church and state.

"Some people say that freedom of religion implies freedom from religion. The strange thing is that freedom of speech or the press is never taken to imply freedom from speech or freedom from the press."

Of course it does. I have no right to compel you to read or listen to me.

"There is a second possibility: That he believes in a Laissez-faire view of church and state."

I suppose that would depend on how he votes.

"How is using school grounds for religious meetings an establishment by CONGRESS?"

"XIV - Citizen rights not to be abridged

Passed by Congress June 13, 1866. Ratified July 9, 1868

1. All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor to deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws."

It helps to read the whole thing.

"Notice, the Bill of Rights is a guarantee of freedom, and the first freedom protected - before the freedom of speech or press, by the way - is freedom of religion."

We should be careful not to assume a hierarchy of rights - the Ninth Amendment makes that clear. The way this thread is formulated is a bit strange - almost as if the imposition of a religion was the act of a government somehow divorced from the religion itself. This, of course, is absurd.

An established religion is established by the followers of that religion using the power they have by virtue of being in control of the government. Otherwise we are to believe that, say, atheists and Baptists would establish, say, Roman Catholicism as the official religion.

The Declaration and constitution were heavily influenced by Locke and thought the separation of church and state a good thing.

"The business of true religion is quite another thing. It is not instituted in order to the erecting of an external pomp, nor to the obtaining of ecclesiastical dominion, nor to the exercising of compulsive force, but to the regulating of men's lives, according to the rules of virtue and piety."

"In a word, whatsoever things are left free by law in the common occasions of life, let them remain free unto every Church in divine worship. Let no man's life, or body, or house, or estate, suffer any manner of prejudice upon these accounts. Can you allow of the Presbyterian discipline? Why should not the Episcopal also have what they like? Ecclesiastical authority, whether it be administered by the hands of a single person or many, is everywhere the same; and neither has any jurisdiction in things civil, nor any manner of power of compulsion, nor anything at all to do with riches and revenues."

"But those whose doctrine is peaceable and whose manners are pure and blameless ought to be upon equal terms with their fellow-subjects. Thus if solemn assemblies, observations of festivals, public worship be permitted to any one sort of professors, all these things ought to be permitted to the Presbyterians, Independents, Anabaptists, Arminians, Quakers, and others, with the same liberty. Nay, if we may openly speak the truth, and as becomes one man to another, neither Pagan nor Mahometan, nor Jew, ought to be excluded from the civil rights of the commonwealth because of his religion. The Gospel commands no such thing. The Church which "judgeth not those that are without"[9] wants it not. And the commonwealth, which embraces indifferently all men that are honest, peaceable, and industrious, requires it not. Shall we suffer a Pagan to deal and trade with us, and shall we not suffer him to pray unto and worship God? If we allow the Jews to have private houses and dwellings amongst us, why should we not allow them to have synagogues? Is their doctrine more false, their worship more abominable, or is the civil peace more endangered by their meeting in public than in their private houses? But if these things may be granted to Jews and Pagans, surely the condition of any Christians ought not to be worse than theirs in a Christian commonwealth."

One last Quote from Locke's "A Letter Concerning Toleration," written in 1689:

"It is not my business to inquire here into the original of the power or dignity of the clergy. This only I say, that, whencesoever their authority be sprung, since it is ecclesiastical, it ought to be confined within the bounds of the Church, nor can it in any manner be extended to civil affairs, because the Church itself is a thing absolutely separate and distinct from the commonwealth. The boundaries on both sides are fixed and immovable. He jumbles heaven and earth together, the things most remote and opposite, who mixes these two societies, which are in their original, end, business, and in everything perfectly distinct and infinitely different from each other. No man, therefore, with whatsoever ecclesiastical office he be dignified, can deprive another man that is not of his church and faith either of liberty or of any part of his worldly goods upon the account of that difference between them in religion."

A prohibition on establishing a state religion would seem to imply a separation of some sort. That one may disagree with this or that notion of what separation means in practice is another matter.

Just a thought:

Doesn't "shal make no law respecting an establishment of religion" imply that the religion is already established [by the people]?

Notice that the indefinite article is used. It doesn't say that Congress shall not, in effect, establish religious practices - this is a bit of a non-issue (though there is a close relation).

The point seems to be that whatever religions are practiced by the people, Congress shall make no law that favors one religion over another.

You sure know a lot about American history, Alan.

I was surprised to read that last Locke quote. His view doesn't seem to make practical sense to me - but there it is.

It probably should be noted that Locke and his philosophy were heavily influenced by Christianity.

The prominence of the freedom of religion in the first amendment is an indication of the historical reasons this nation was settled and the importance the Founders placed on this aspect of life.

Rights, received as unalienable from our creator God are all of the same stature but all depend on that creator God.

The phrase separation of church and state must be carefully defined to be used properly.

It is correct to say that "separation of church and state" does not appear in the constitution. It does appear in Jefferson's letter to the Danbury Babtists. It seems reasonable when using this phrase to refer to the historical sense in which Jefferson used it.

This sense does not correspond to the contemporary usage made by many in the public and judiciary.

It is unfortuate that it seems the actual language of the first amendment is used less often in first amendment debates than Jefferson's phrase.


As a Finn I find this American hysteria about church and state somewhat amusing. In Finland we have the ultimate combination of church and state - we have Lutherianism as state religion. Yet Finland is in the top ten most atheistic countries in the world, with very little Christian influence in politics.

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof” translation separation of church and state. One should remember who the founding fathers were. They were a group of people that remembered well the 100 years religious wars in Europe. The majority came from 3 protestant denominations. Their first concern was that one denomination could not enforce their interpretation and practice of the word of God on the others. Thus eliminating the need for religious wars in their new land. The religious wars were fought so I could have a personal relationship with God, which was not dictated by the Pharisees of any group no matter how many birds of a feather flocked together. Christians should be the first people to demand separation of church and state. Jesus told us not to chant in public just to be seen. The state is our public life. Jesus told us to give unto the state, what is the state’s. Funny how the brothers of Islam want to go where we have already been, the Islamic fundamentalists want an Islamic state, they want a Pope. The Islamic fundamentalists and the Islamic nationalists will have to fight their war, just like we did.

Alan, are you suggesting that religious meetings held in school classrooms (after hours) is somehow abridging your freedoms? I don't see how that is so. Maybe I'm misunderstanding your point.

And why do people get so offended if someone mentions God in a speech? Are we that thin-skinned a nation? As a Christian, if someone mentions Allah in prayer, I'm not going to be offended.

Solrev, Christians should be for non-interference of government in the religious sector if that is what is meant by "separation of church and state". But Christians have a right to participate in and influence government just like the rest of society. So the separation wall is a one-way wall sort of like a one-way mirror. Again, this issue is much simpler to digest if we stick to the non-establishment language of the Constitution as William eludes to.

Christians have every right to influence public policy just as atheists, Mormons, and Muslims do. (Or gun owners or gun haters or any other group that can round up enough of their friends to constitute a majority.) That's how democracy works.

Everyone takes their belief system into the voting booth and votes their conscience. Secularists are no different.

>>Christians should be the first people to demand separation of church and state.

I do--in exactly the sense the Constitution does: The state can't establish a denomination, or tell me how to worship, or take away people's rights because they have a different religion. Those are the things Alan's quotes are about (e.g., see the conclusion of Locke's argument to see his point), and all of these things are reflected in the First Amendment.

However, William is exactly right when he says that the phrase "separation of church and state" has come to mean something completely different--that is, that Christian citizens should not influence the political process through arguments and through their votes according to what they think is true about the world simply because they are religious. This is exactly what Locke was warning us *against* because its goal is to deprive another man of his rights to participate in the political process upon the account of the difference between them in their beliefs.

"separation of church and state" has come to mean something completely different--that is, that Christian citizens should not influence the political process through arguments and through their votes according to what they think is true about the world simply because they are religious.

How could that be true in a democracy where at least 70% of the citizens profess a belief in some form of Christianity? In a democracy 70% of the citizens can not do anything but influence the political process. Extreme minorities on both sides seem to have defined a debate, when in fact there is no real debate. When the government tries to enforce the separation of church and state as policy through court decisions, it often appears in terms of what Christians can not do. What these decisions are really about is what the majority can not do.

The idea of clear thinking is what I've always gotten from what Greg K. publishes.

The language of the Constitution did not create the current notion of separation, a Supreme Court ruling created it.

Stating what is written in the First Amendment is not advocacy of any position. So let's give credit where credit is due regarding the idea of separation of church and state and that credit is to the Supreme Court.

Judge Posner has an interesting discussion on the nature of judicial decisions, some of which is apropos to the First:

http://www.harvardlawreview.org/issues/119/Nov05/Posner05FTX.pdf

(copy to here)

(BTW, has STR, ever considered eliminating the frames?)

Always amazes me the dishonesty of folks like Koukl.

An "established church" or religion is one officially recognized by the government and supported as a national institution.

If church and state were not separate, it "stands to reason" that the state would be supporting the church, and hence it would be, in the legal sense, established.

So next time Koukl or some of the autodidacts who treat him respectfully ask about separation of church and state, just repeat what I just wrote above.

Mumon, you probably just read the post too quickly, but you missed Greg's point. He argues against the "separation of church and state" *in the sense that it has come to be understood.* But he DOES support it in the sense given in the Bill of Rights--that is, that the government should not establish a church or regulate worship.

That kind of separation stated in the Constitution is very different from the kind he's arguing against that says Christians should not be allowed to influence the state through the normal political process open to all citizens.

As Greg put it explicity in the post above, "The Constitutional language is 'non-establishment,' not separation. There’s a difference."

Hopefully that clears things up for you.


"Note, also, that it says "Congress shall make no law..." Tie that in with the ninth and tenth amendments, and I see no reason why a local municipality or even a state can be or should be Consitutionally constrained from public displays of religious faith, or even establishment. "


They weren't up until the Civil War. As a result of the post-Civil War amendments which required that no state deprive a person of liberty it was found that most of the Bill of Rights was 'incorporated' to include all levels of gov't.

Michael
"The restriction is all on one side -- on Congress (and at the Federal level at that). Religion has obviously been restricted in numerous ways. Examples: How is using school grounds for religious meetings an establishment by CONGRESS? How does a valedictorian mentioning God in a speech constitute an establishment of religion by CONGRESS? How does praying in school constitute an establishment by CONGRESS? How does teaching ID constitute an establishment of religion by CONGRESS? Just a few. There are more. Hope that helps."

See above regarding Congress, hopefully after researching 'incorporation' you will stop ranting about it.

Religion has not been restricted in any way. While people can debate the minute details, the general idea is pretty simple. Gov't cannot take sides with religion. If gov't allows one religion to use a school room to hold a meeting it needs to allow all religions (as well as non-religions) equal access. If it is unpractical to do that then the room should not be made available at taxpayer expense. A valedictorian speech would depend upon what degree is he speaking as an individual and to what degree is he speaking as a state authority. Since he is mostly an individual he should be allowed to speak what he wants provided other valedictorians are likewise given equal freedom to craft their own speeches.

Sam
"Right, Timbo. You also never hear about "Separation of Speech and State", or "Separation of Press and State".
Imagine if government officials were never allowed to make speeches or give press briefings...."

Nice try, no one ever said gov't officials aren't allowed to talk to religious people. I never, for example, heard of anyone seriously objecting when the President speaks to the Pope, or Billy Graham or the Dali Lama (or at least if they were objecting it had to do with policy disagreements rather than the Constitutional right of the President to do that).

On the other hand, I've never heard of the gov't handing over its printing presses to favored newspapers or giving broadcast licenses based political views of the press which is a little bit more like what combinging press and state would look like. When such ideas are floated they are usually meet with a great deal of hostility. Even public radio/tv (which I suspect you would use as a counter-example) is kept at arms length for actual content control by the gov't.

Amy:

So then you would agree that "faith based funding" is a violation of the establishment clause, right, because it a) recognizes a religious sect to whom the faith based funding is directed, and b) supports it in the most obvious way, with cold hard cash?

Boonton
Umm...been following the debate on media concentration? Non-separation of press and state isn't so far off. There's a reason folks in the progressive blogosphere refer to "journalists" at the Washington Post and Time as "stenographers."

But in fact, it is indeed only religion that is singled out in the first amendment as being verboten to respect an "establishment."

I don't see anything wrong in principle with the government giving money to effective religious programs that are helping the poor with their physical needs--but only if the government does not impose religious restrictions on the program or discriminate between religions when offering the funding. Either one of those things would involve government control of religion which is strictly prohibited.

In reality, though, most faith-based organizations don't WANT to receive money from the government because they want to avoid even the possibility of being tampered with. And I don't feel great about my money being spent to fund programs run by religious organizations I disagree with. In the end, I'd rather see the government take less of my money in taxes so I can donate even more to the charities I know are doing an excellent job of helping people.

Amy,

I don't think there's any objection when gov't gives money to a religious organization for providing a non-religious service. For example, say you have a soup kitchen and the gov't gives the kitchen some surplus food. The gov't is not supplying the food to the religion but to the secular activity of giving out food to the hungry.

Even if you disagreed with the religion it seems hard to object to helping them pass out meals to the hungry. But suppose the group mixed religion in more with their social activity. Suppose that instead of giving meals to the hungry they were holding two hour seminars on their theology and those who attended would get a small plate of cookies and bottled water. If the gov't happened to have a stockpile of surplus cookies could it give it to that group?

I don't think so, in the second case it seems more like gov't is violating establishment by suppling direct support to the organization's efforts to spread its religion while in the first case gov't is simply helping a group that it has a shared goal with that is not itself sectarian.

This does create a dicy situation when you have groups that operate between these two extremes. You have to make a judgement call to decide how much of a group's activity is religious and how much is non-religious. Naturally popular religions and groups will have vocal advocates who will get very loud but this is why you have a judicial system that is supposed to be somewhat insulated from public opinion.

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