Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The wall of separation

Yes, correct, the phrase, “separation of church and state” is not in the Constitution.

The phrase, “right to privacy” doesn’t exist in the Constitution either. “The right to a fair trial”, “separation of powers,” “state’s rights” and “federalism” aren’t in the document as well. Who would deny that we don’t have a right to privacy or a right to a fair trial. All of these expressions are metaphors used to explain constitutional principals.

Politicians often create glib expressions and statements to support their point of view. One of the newest is “since the phrase wall of separation between church and state isn’t in the Constitution, the authors didn’t intend to keep religion out of government.” If that is true, the authors could have written a more direct statement in the First Amendment in support of religion and its role in the newly formed government.

The phrase “separation of church and state” is thought to have been first written by Thomas Jefferson. It was in a letter written to the Danbury Baptists who agreed with the founders that the Constitution was a guide to the civil government of the country. Their leader, Roger Williams, used the phrase before Jefferson. Williams believed that there needs to be a “wall of separation” to describe the relationship between church and state. He and many living at the time know well the corruption that follows when the civil government of a community has too close of a relationship with any with religion. Thomas Jefferson echoed this belief in his letter.

Religion is only mentioned in the Constitution twice. Both times it is to limit the role of religion. Of course, there is the First amendment that expressly states, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” It is to be read that government is not to make any law that establishes or prevents any religion. That means that government is to stay entirely out of religious activity.

The second time is in Article VI. The third paragraph states that:

“The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the Members of the several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.

An oath is to be taken supporting “this Constitution” not a deity and that no “religious test shall ever be required” to hold any office or public trust in the Federal government and all the states. Powerful words that can only be interpreted one way, that everyone who is involved in the government; elected or not, at the federal or state level; must be true to the Constitution and not a deity.

It is a dangerous game if we allow religion to have a say in government. Let’s stay true to the Constitution and keep religion as a matter of personal worship.


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