In the most recent New York Times Magazine
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
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,
. A strict anti-Federalist who was also a
. 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.
, 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
Fundamental Orders of Connecticut
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."
, 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
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
resurrected it for the landmark rulings in
Everson v. Board of Education
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
, 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]