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Challenges to Separation of Church and State

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posted on Feb, 14 2010 @ 06:25 PM
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In the most recent New York Times Magazine by Russell Shorto there is an article detailing challenges made against the long-held distinction of separation of Church and State. The main thrust against this doctrine is coming from the Texas State Board of Education, which arguably has the most influence on what curriculums current public school textbooks will contain.

The main arguement is that the Founding Fathers were overwhelmingly Christian in both religion and in regards law and how our current legal system is based on Biblical and Mosaic Law. One of the chief advocates is Don McLeroy a Brazos County Dentist and former chairman of the Texas State Board of Education. An avowed 'Young Earth Creationist', he has constantly promoted an agenda that dictates that the Founding Fathers had not intended for there to be any separation of Church and State and continues to push to have textbooks rewritten to indicate this fact.

The Separation of Church and State can be attributed to The United State's second President, Thomas Jefferson. A strict anti-Federalist who was also a Deist. In a letter dated from 1801 addressed to him from a group of Connecticut Baptist Minsters, he was implored to offer his opinionss regarding this view. "Our constitution of government," they wrote, "is not specific" with regard to a guarantee of religious freedoms that would protect them. Jefferson responded by saying it was not the president's position to involve himself in religion and that the First Amendment's clauses meant that there was "a wall of separation between Church and State."

The clauses he specifically refered to were that government must not establish a state religion (the establishment clause) but it also must guarantee a citizen's freedom to exercise their own religion (the free-exercise clause). Christian fundamentalists will argue that this exchange demonstrates how deeply religion was invloved in our country's early days and how important it was to the revolutionary cause. Martin Marty, professor emeritus at Chicago University, argues that "The goal should be natural inclusion. You couldn't tell the story of the Pilgrims or the Puritans or the Dutch in New York without religion."

They also advocate the inclusion and teaching of the Mayflower Compact, the Fundamental Orders of Connecticut and the Virginia House of Burgesses. The Fundamental Orders of Connecticut declare that the state was founded "to maintain and preserve the liberty and purity of the Gospel of our Lord Jesus." The Mayflower compact also states that the Pilgrims voyaged to the New World was "for the Glory of God and the advancement of the Christian Faith." Cynthia Dunbar, a Texas Board member, said "This is undeniably our past, and it clearly delineates us as a nation intended to be emphatically Christian." The Reverend Peter Marshall also declares that "The guidelines in Texas were seriously deficient in bringing out the role of the Christian Faith in the founding of America."

The main point of contention is the fact that the phrase 'separation of church and state' does not appear in the Constitution, or in any other legal document. From the time Jefferson penned the response to his supporters in 1801 it did not make another appearance until 1947. Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black resurrected it for the landmark rulings in Everson v. Board of Education and McCollum v. Board of Education. These rulings made the phrase 'wall of separation' part of the American lexicon and decreed that the establishment clause applied to the Federal and State goverments as well as dictating that the government could not provide religious instruction in schools. Conservative Christians argue that this is a modern secularist invention and that there is no separation of Church and State and that it never existed in the first place. They feel that there is no legal support for disallowing the ten Comandments in public buildings or school prayer.

Steven K. Green, director of the Center for Religion, Law and Democracy at Willamette University in Salem Oregon, countered by testifying at the previous board meeting in regards Mosaic Law. He said that the Supreme Court has barred public schools from "seeking to impress upon the students the importance of particular religious values through the curriculum," and in the process said that the Founders "did not draw on Mosaic Law, as is mentioned in the standards. He reported that he had done a lengthy study seeking court cases that had instances of Mosaic law and that "The record is basically bereft."

Dunbar, who is also an assistant law professor in Lynchburg, Virginia, argues that the legal practice called incorporation by reference, could legal substantiate the basis of proving there is no separation of Church and State. Alluding to a national day of thanksgiving called for by George Washington after his defeat of the British at Saratoga proves that there was a religious way of thinking by our country's founders. While at that time there was no Constitution, we did have the Declaration of Independence and thereby joins the two documents together. The Declaration refers to the Creator and grounds itself in "the Laws of Nature and Nature's God." She then estbalished "judicial construction and how you should go forward with that," i.e. how to overturn rulings against school prayer.

In defense of Christian Conservatives, the founders were rooted in Christianity, as Richard Brookhiser, a noted historian an author has demonstrated in his works. He does however, make very clear that while they were Christians they were also steeped in an 'Enlightenment rationalism' that premeated the founding of the United States and were building a country on "the laws of nature and nature's God. They didn't say, 'We put our faith in Jesus Christ.'"

Washington, in his copious writings makes reference to God, but none are Biblical. He instead refers to a 'Grand Architect', purposely avoiding Christian terms, "because it had to be a religous language that was accessible to all people."
He goes on to summarize that, "The founders were not as Christian as those poeple would like them to be, though they weren't as secularist as others would like them to be."

While we can all recognize and appreciate the founders personal viewpoints on religion and God we must also recognize that they were creating something that they felt would far outlast themselves and would have to contain and nurture future generations which is why the Consitution was parsed in the manner in which it is written and makes clear the implied separation of Church and State.









[edit on 14-2-2010 by AugustusMasonicus]




posted on Feb, 14 2010 @ 06:45 PM
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reply to post by AugustusMasonicus
 


This is a very interesting and well written OP. I intend to explore all the links when it's daylight again. Thank you for the enjoyable read.



posted on Feb, 14 2010 @ 07:09 PM
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Originally posted by jeanvaljean
This is a very interesting and well written OP. I intend to explore all the links when it's daylight again. Thank you for the enjoyable read.


Thank you for your time and I look forward to any comments you may have regarding the links I provided.



posted on Feb, 14 2010 @ 07:27 PM
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reply to post by AugustusMasonicus
 


Augustus, Thank you for your interesting post.
I am just offering a clarification with regard to Thos Jefferson's actions.
It is not clear to me from your post if you understand this point.

Unlike today, the concern from the Baptists that Jefferson was addressing was that the federal govt could outlaw or restrain specific denominations or would institute a national religion or denomination, such as the Church of England. As an example of their concern, Baptist preachers had been jailed in VA (e.g. in Culpepper and Alexandria City).



posted on Feb, 14 2010 @ 07:35 PM
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reply to post by pumpkinorange
 


Yes, I was aware of the reason the Baptist Ministers were writing to Jefferson and he made it clear to them that they should not fear persecution as the First Amendment guaranteed them the right to practice their religion freely without concern that the government would impinge upon their rights.



posted on Feb, 14 2010 @ 11:06 PM
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Sad how things have changed... Freemasons were the founders of the Republic of Texas. Masons have a history of fighting for the separation of church and state. Also, the earliest public schools in Texas met in Masonic lodges and Texas Masons helped found more than 100 schools in the last half of the 19th century.*

If fundamentalists are trying to rewrite history, claiming the formation of America was a Christian undertaking and bullying the school board to spread that message, then it's clear proof that the Masons in Texas don't hold the political clout they once did.

A sad day indeed.


[edit on 2/14/2010 by JoshNorton]



posted on Feb, 14 2010 @ 11:59 PM
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Originally posted by AugustusMasonicus
The main arguement is that the Founding Fathers were overwhelmingly Christian in both religion and in regards law and how our current legal system is based on Biblical[edit on 14-2-2010 by AugustusMasonicus]


I know you are not stating this, but may I say that Thomas Jefferson along with 2 other presidents(forgot their names) were in fact Deists, not Christians. They did not believe in Christianity and Thomas Jefferson was in fact a founding father. So they are wrong and they should do some studying on history before they speak what they do not know. A Deist, such as myself, do not believe in religion but do believe in God. We do not believe that God has spoken to anyone and all religious text is merely a humans thoughts not Gods.



posted on Feb, 15 2010 @ 04:29 AM
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this is similar to another thread about taxing citizens like they do in the eu for churches.i think america needs to be harder on churches; they have too much power in america that is not checked. they should not be able to run llc or non profits or conduct any business that accepts or sells products; they should be fined for any act of attempting to acquire wealth as an institution within america.if there is a challenge to the state in its separation from church it is because persons within the state grew comfort in their church practices and allowed it to happen.some stuff slips through the cracks; but thats because churches have too much resources as a church; and as a church they are not limited to defined roles such as "person" in law stipulations.churches as a non person but "entity" within america are tax free in all their dealings; america can be in debt just because of churches. but if you check out that link; you come to the realization that the distinction of separation lies in the descending/ascending forms of governance in america; which is an entirely different but related topic.
are true masons and people who hold knowledge of eastern stars to be stewards of this knowledge by grandfathership/grandmothership and should outsiders who glean this be forced to reside in their churches and not be welcomed in "masonic" temples/halls.



posted on Feb, 15 2010 @ 08:10 AM
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Originally posted by Misoir
I know you are not stating this, but may I say that Thomas Jefferson along with 2 other presidents(forgot their names) were in fact Deists, not Christians. They did not believe in Christianity and Thomas Jefferson was in fact a founding father. So they are wrong and they should do some studying on history before they speak what they do not know.


While there were several Deists among the Founding Fathers and others who had some Deistic tendancies or beliefs the main religion was Christianity in one form or another. They did however recognize that they needed to convey their standpoint that we all had God-given rights and they used language which purposely avoided putting one religion over another. Hence the reason you never see Jesus mentioned by name despite the fact that many of the founders were devout Christians.

I do agree that they should educate themselves and there are other egregious issues and examples brought up in the article that are non-religious in nature as the Texas School Board methodically rewrites the curriculum. A perfect example is Bill Martin Jr., author of numerous children's books such as Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?. The Texas School Board removed him from the curriculum because they, in a flurry of amendments, confused him with Bill Martin, Professor of Philosophy at DePaul University and author of Ethical Marxism. Many of the members are most certainly allwoing their personal views to interfere with their responsibilities to the children of Texas and, to a larger degree, the rest of the nation that follows Texas' lead.



posted on Feb, 15 2010 @ 08:14 AM
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Originally posted by JoshNorton
Sad how things have changed... Freemasons were the founders of the Republic of Texas. Masons have a history of fighting for the separation of church and state.


This very thought crossed my mind while reading some of George Washington's personal correspondence. He was always mindful to describe God in very broad terms, and ones that would be familiar to Masons, refering to God as the 'Grand/Great Architect' or 'The Creator'. I honestly think that this was intentional as he did not want to push his personal view on religion. Washington is recognized for many accomplishments, both great and sublime, this must be counted among them.





[edit on 15-2-2010 by AugustusMasonicus]



posted on Feb, 15 2010 @ 08:22 AM
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What you miss though is that the separation of church and state...while not literally enshrined in the Constitution is in the Bill of Rights...AND it is patterned after the Virginia Bill of Rights which was written by Jefferson...and the reason it was included in it is that (and I find this so ironic) the Baptists of Virginia requested it because they were afraid that if it was not the Episcopalians; who were the dominate sect in Virginia at the time, would use the powers of the state to discriminate against them and force them out.

[edit on 2/15/2010 by iMacFanatic]



posted on Feb, 15 2010 @ 08:32 AM
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Originally posted by iMacFanatic
What you miss though is...the Baptists of Virginia requested it because they were afraid that if it was not the Episcopalians; who were the dominate sect in Virginia at the time, would use the powers of the state to discriminate against them and force them out.


Please see my comments above to Pumpkinorange, I am well aware of the exchange that took place between the Baptists and Jefferson and what their main issue was at that time. The Constitution, I feel, adequately addressed the issues of government sponsored religion and the State would have ultimately ruled (if this came to a court decision) in favor of the Baptists.



posted on Feb, 15 2010 @ 08:34 AM
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reply to post by AugustusMasonicus
 

The founding fathers were no fools and unlike most Americans today, they knew their history. They knew what could happen with the powers of church and state went hand in hand. After all the 30 years war had been waged in Europe during the early years of the colonies (1618/1648) and had all but devastated central Europe...and it was fought primarily over Religion. There was the St. Bartholomew Day massacre in which powers behind the french throne tried to exterminate all of the protestants in the realm...and oc course there was the English Civil War...the dictatorship of Cormwell and the forcing out of all religious elements that did not conform to the dictates of state...many of whom fled to America and proceeded to play out the same struggles in the colonies. After all the founders of most of the (at least northeastern colonies) had fled other colonies in search of religious freedom denied them elsewhere.

In short they understood that the power of church and state combined could tear the new nation apart should one faith or the other gain the upper hand so they deemed it necessary in a divers nation to keep them apart.

This argument held true then and it holds true today.



posted on Feb, 15 2010 @ 08:38 AM
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Originally posted by iMacFanatic
In short they understood that the power of church and state combined could tear the new nation apart should one faith or the other gain the upper hand so they deemed it necessary in a divers nation to keep them apart.

This argument held true then and it holds true today.


I agree, this is why it is so disturbing to see revisionist history and the legal chicanery, such as incoporation by reference, that some people are willing to employ to further their own agenda. State sponsored religion is a very dangerous entity and there a numerous examples of its affect on the populace scattered throughout history.



posted on Feb, 15 2010 @ 09:04 AM
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Mind you I am not opposed to religion or matters of faith but I don't wanna see any religion; including my own, gain political power. Too much evil has been done in God's name when the two have been joined.

[edit on 2/15/2010 by iMacFanatic]



posted on Feb, 15 2010 @ 09:06 AM
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The separation of church and state is as necessary a concept as is the concept that it is wrong to rape, murder, enslave, and perform human sacrifices. It is unfortunate enough that its 2010 and folks haven't discovered yet that the Bible is just a collection of older MYTHS gathered together to allow easy acceptance in the earlier days of this new version. What was well known at the time to be FICTION, has developed into being a true story with actual characters that are believed to have actually existed. This type of madness needs to be limited to the minds of the foolish only, and eliminated completely from every where else.



posted on Feb, 15 2010 @ 09:15 AM
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reply to post by pplrnuts
 

Sometimes what you refer to as fiction is more true than the truth.

The purpose of myth ( a widely misused and misunderstood term) is to serve as a metaphor of the human condition and to facilitate by simile spiritual growth.

What you should be referring to are legends which are rooted in folk histories not myth.



posted on Feb, 15 2010 @ 09:18 AM
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BTW this definition of myth:


The purpose of myth ( a widely misused and misunderstood term) is to serve as a metaphor of the human condition and to facilitate by simile spiritual growth.


is precisely why is is a mistake to take religion literally. When say the Bible is taken literally as opposed to metaphorically the many layers of meaning are lost and the faith and consequently the believers become that much poorer for it.



posted on Feb, 15 2010 @ 09:21 AM
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Originally posted by pplrnuts
This type of madness needs to be limited to the minds of the foolish only, and eliminated completely from every where else.


I think this viewpoint is the polar opposite, yet oddly similar, of what I described in my Original Post. I do not feel that these persons views are any less valid then my own, I just do not want them becoming part of a state-sponsored religion and given as fact to the school children of the United States just as assuredly they do not want mine becoming part of a state mandated dogma.



posted on Feb, 15 2010 @ 09:27 AM
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While I do not consider religions or matters of faith and spirituality madness...I do consider all fanaticism, political and religious...including the fanaticism of (some) atheists...a form of insanity.




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