“I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America and to the Republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all”. Who would have thought that a paragraph such as this would change the nation’s view on religion and the way religion is recognized in the public, schools, and the state.
To first understand the meaning, issues, and arguments that surround the separation of church and state, one must know the individual groups and ideas that influence the nation and religion. Influential groups such as Separationist, Non-Preferentialist, Accommendationlists, and Theocrats have impacted corporations, churches, and the freedom of speech. First, what is the separation of church and state? It is a concept in law in which national government and state are kept separate from religious institutions.
Many believe more so the Christians that America was founded as a Christian nation. Christians also thought that America should be in the hands of Christians who can deal with moral and theological issues. The concept involved schools, courts, and regulatory commissions should also follow Christian principles. The debate over church-state separation has often focused upon the issues of government aid to schools, religious practices in public schools, and the placement of religious symbols on public property.
Looking at the bigger picture the first amendment is: respecting an establishment of religion, impeding the free exercise of religion, abridging the freedom of speech, infringing on the freedom of the press, interfering with the right to peaceably assemble, or prohibiting the petitioning for a governmental redress of grievances, strictly limits the state’s ability to endorse or support religion, but at the same time, it provides for accommodations of religion by allowing all Americans to freely practice the religion of their choice without fear of discrimination or persecution. What that means in English is the first amendment allows the support of religion to an extent, with restrictions, but it also allows Americans to practice without getting in trouble by the law or government.
So where is the separation between church and state? The separation came from one or more opinions’ about the law and how the subject religion should be tied in. The motivating issues which led to the issue “separation of church and state” were impacted by several things such as rights of the minority violated by the majority. Minorities of non-majority religions have been persecuted, socially shunned, and harassed by the majority. The state has the potential to harm or disrupt the state.
An example of this would be religious conviction may influence the state’s involvement in a war, or it can influence policies to those who stray from the churches teaching dealing with subjects such as homosexuality, and abortion decided for religious reasons, it harms those who feel they have the right to such practices. Religion may cause difficulty for debate, the reason being it is impossible to contradict arguments that usually arise from faith. This grants official status and allows politicians to use religion as an “argument from authority”.
Last, the state can harm the church. For example, the state dictates religious ceremony that the church says is wrong, or the state forces participation of religious people in some aspect of life that offends their religious convictions and offends their conscience; or the state may discriminate in the favor of the church and its members against another church and its members. A subject that ties hand and hand which each other is secularism and theocracy.
Secularism is a belief that the government should have no state religion, no legislation that favors one religion over another. A secular state has no power over churches and the church has no political power over the government. Western democratic nations place very high importance on the separation of church and state. The United States and Canada, however, have clauses in the constitution which forbid the government from favoring religion over another. At the end of the spectrum, there’s a theocracy, in which the state and state religion are inseparable, and the rule of law is based on the Bible and Koran.
In theocracies, citizens are considered members of state religion, and are subject to religious injunctions, and are required to believe and worship appropriately. Secularists do not hold that the state must be atheist. However, traditionalist religious critics consider secularism from tradition in the direction of atheism. Those who believe that the state has religious obligations, or it must be informed by religious values, often regard secularism as atheism. As far as influential groups, separationist deal with the separation of church and state from a positive standpoint on religion.
First, they argue that religion is fine as long as it does not invade the public sphere. Religion must impact only private morality; if it leaks into the public square where policymaking occurs, it is inappropriate at best. Secondly, they deny that the federal government has any power over religion whatsoever, and as a consequence, they argue that the government should not have any involvement with religious organizations whatsoever. Like many who are in disagreement the separationist may also argue that the government should not have any positive or negative power over religion, they do not conclude that the government also should not have any power over religious organizations. Next is the Accomendationists. Like the name applies, the main principle on which Accommodationists base their position is the idea that the government should “accommodate” religious needs and the desires of religious institutions whenever possible.
When it comes to the separation of church and state, there should not be quite so much separation and a bit more interaction. They believe in supporting these subjects: Government organized and encouraged prayers in public schools, Government-funded religious displays, and government preference for particular religious holidays. The Preferentialists group in a way is similar to the Accomendationalist group. Like Accommodationists, the Non-Preferentialists also oppose the recent legal trend which has emphasized stricter separation, and advocate instead of a closer relationship between religious groups and the government. They support the use of the phrase “In God We Trust” as the national motto and “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance because to them, these are such general expressions that exclude no religion. Non-Preferentialists support government encouragement of prayers in public schools, but not if the prayers are sectarian in any manner and also encourage government funding for religious schools but only if all religious schools are supported equally.
Of course, there are more than these groups that deal with the separation of church and state, but the last major group in the conflict of separation is the Theocrats. The Theocratic group perceives that God himself is recognized as the head of the state which goes against the neutral aspect among various religious groups which is supported by Non-Preferentialists, and they even oppose the more extreme views held by some Accommodationists which would allow for local communities to impose some particular religion on.
Just an idea on how people relate to the separation of the church-state and how it affects their everyday lives, polls were taken. According to statistics, 70% of Americans believe that churches should not endorse politicians; 22% favored church involvement in political campaigns; 8% had no response. When it came to “In God We Trust” in scripted on coins, 90% approved; 8% disapproved; and 2% did not have a comment. Non-denominational prayer in public school has been an issue for quite some time, this poll revealed that 78% were for; 21% were against, and 1% had no opinion on the matter.
In conclusion, the question asked was, do you agree or disagree with the separation of church and state according to the first amendment. A quick review of the 1st amendment; prohibits the making of any law respecting an establishment of religion, impeding the free exercise of religion, abridging the freedom of speech, infringing on the freedom of the press, interfering with the right to peaceably assemble, or prohibiting the petitioning for a governmental redress of grievances.
Is this not what the government did when they removed prayer from school, is this not what the government is doing now on the issue of the phrase “One Nation Under God” or the removing of “In God We Trust”. It seems that people are so influenced by what the government says that there not realize that the government is conveniently removing fundamentals America was based on. Are we reading between the lines or just agreeing with what a higher government has made their opinion on.
- http://www. scribd.com Separation of Church and State Austin Clineh ttp://www.scribd.com/doc/185292/Separation-of-Church-and-State-101-from-About-com
- http://www. theocracywatch.org Separation of Church and State Susan Jacoby June 27, 2005, http://www.theocracywatch. org/separation_church_state2.htm
- http://www. leaderu.com Church and State Don Closson and Robin Riggs http://www. leaderu.com/orgs/probe/docs/churchstate.html SEPARATION OF CHURCH AND STATE
- http://atheism.about.com Separationists and the Separation of Church and State Austin Cline http://atheism.about.com/od/churchstate101/a/separationists.htm
- http://atheism.about.com Nonpreferentialists and the Separation of Church and State Austin Cline http://atheism. about.com/od/churchstate101/a/nonpref. htm