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Separation Of Church And State Right Or

Separation Of Church And State: Right Or Wrong? Essay, Research Paper Daniel Emerick 11-2-2000 English 111-11 Michael Guzman P3- Final Draft Separation of Church and State: Right or Wrong?

Separation Of Church And State: Right Or Wrong? Essay, Research Paper

Daniel Emerick

11-2-2000

English 111-11

Michael Guzman

P3- Final Draft

Separation of Church and State: Right or Wrong?

Separation of church and state is a very sensitive topic in today?s society. Most people see the phrase ?separation of church and state? and think it is concrete, constitutional, proof that nothing religious should set foot in anything relating to government. The intent of this paper is to present an alternate view of separation between church and state. Through exploring this controversial issue, this paper will touch on the history of separation of church and state, the principles of separation of church and state, and the elementary solution to church and state relations.

Today?s Laws Concerning Separation of Church and State

Today?s laws concerning church and state relations are very strict. The laws today treat religious morals as if they are harmful, and are going to severely detract from whatever they come in contact with.

The notion that religion should be excluded from almost all facets of government related issues is a very new thought. The very first Supreme Court case taking any form of religion out of schools, (and therefore government,) was in 1962. In the Engel v. Vital Supreme Court case, prayer was taken out of schools. A year after this case, Bible reading was taken out of schools in the Murray v Curlett Supreme Court case. Seventeen years later, in 1980, the ten commandments were taken out of schools in the Stone v Grahm Supreme Court case. (Hall, ?United States Supreme Court Decisions?) I have mentioned these court cases to show how recent this ?new? view of separation of church and state re is. This new view of separation of church and state is called pluralism. The definition of pluralism is: law being decided by the majority or by the ruling group or individual apart from an objective morals. Today?s view is that the government should be tot neutral, and have no religious or moral prejudices when making laws. (Coyle, ?Separation of Church and State?)

Founding Fathers View of Separation of Church and State

Society, until recent times, also supported separation of church and state. The only difference was that people in the past had a tot different view of this separation. Our founding Fathers? definition of separation of church and state was not pluralistic. They did not think religious morals should be tot separated from government. They solely viewed separation of church and state as a way to protect themselves from papalism and erastianism. Papalism is defined as the church taking the leading role in government. Our founding Fathers actu left Europe to get away from a Papalistic Catholic Church. Erastianism is just the opposite of papalism. Erastianism is the state becomeing all-powerful, and telling the church what and what not to do. Our founding Fathers wrote the First Amendment of the Constitution to guard against papalism and erastianism. (Coyle) They did not write the first amendment to completely separate religious values from government. In researching our founding Fathers? writings, one can see what a devout religious foundation this country originated from.

Origin of the Phrase ?Separation of Church and State?

Most people think the phrase ?separation of church and state? comes directly from the Constitution. This common misconception is very misleading. People repeat the phrase ?separation of church and state? as if it is an authoritative Constitutional statement. This phrase is found nowhere in the United States Constitution. The phrase separation of church and state originated in a letter from Thomas Jefferson to the Danbury Baptist Association. The Baptists were concerned with a rumor they heard that the government was going to appoint a national religion. The Danbury Baptist Association wrote to the current President, Thomas Jefferson, to see if this was true. Thomas Jefferson wrote the Baptist association back and assured them that no such law was going to be passed by saying, ?I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should ?make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,? thus building a wall of separation between church and State.? (Jefferson) In evaluating this quote from Thomas Jefferson to the Danbury Baptist Association, it can be seen that the now overused statement ?separation of church and state? was to assure frightened citizens that they were not going to be subjected to papalism or erastianism.

Interpretation of the First Amendment

In the letter to the Danbury Baptists, Jefferson quotes part of the First Amendment, ?Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…? Most people today will say that this proves their pluralistic view of separation of church and state. In fact, the only thing the First Amendment says is that Congress can?t make a national religion or denomination. This is a law against erastianism and papalism, not a law against having religions morals and presuppositions in government. (Coyle) Since the Constitution was written, the Supreme Court has interpreted the first amendment as a law against erastianism and papalism and not a law against morality and religion in government. This view has been held by the Supreme court since the birth United States and continued until 1962, when prayer was taken out of schools.

An example of how the Supreme Court formerly interpreted the First Amendment comes from a statement by Mr. Justice Brewer as he delivered the opinion of the court in1892 in the case of Trinity v. United States. Justice Brewer stated,

?It is the right as well as the duty of all men in society publicly and at stated seasons, to worship the Supreme Being, the great Creator and Preserver of the universe: . . . As the happiness of a people and the good order and preservation of civil government essenti depend upon piety, religion, and morality, and as these cannot be gener diffused through a community but by the institution of the public worship of God and of Public instructions in piety, religion and morality…? (Tussman, ?The Supreme Court On Church & State? 39)

Justice Brewer understood how important religious morals were to the preservation of government and society as well.

The Myth of Neutrality

Besides the pluralistic view of separation of church and state being a bad interpretation of the First Amendment and Jefferson?s letter, pluralism is liter impossible. It is impossible to successfully govern a nation with out absolute morals. The epitome of a nation without absolute morals was Germany. Without a higher law to give us absolute morals, we as humans can commit hanus crimes such as and other such dictators have done.

A statement that is quoted quite often says, ?we can?t legislate morality.? ?You can?t legislate morality,? is a very faulty saying. Rousas Rushdoony argues that, all legislation is concerned with morality. Our laws are moral laws, representing a system of morality. Laws against manslaughter are moral laws that echo one of the ten commandments, ?Thou shalt not kill.? Laws against theft, slander, and fraud are moral laws repeating another commandment, ?Thou shalt not bear false witness.? Any and every law in the law books are morality based. Even traffic laws are moral laws. The purpose of traffic laws is to protect life and property. Laws having to do with punishment especi have to do with morality. It is impossible for a judge to make any kind of judgement without a moral value system. (Rushdoony)

Today?s Thoughts Concerning Religious Morality

One reason people might not want religious morals in schools and government is that religious morals don?t condone behavior such as immoral living, substance abuse, and other such questionable issues. People might say that religious values prevent tolerance of other views and ways of life. True, the Bible does teach strong absolutes, but it also teaches to ?love your enemies, do good to those who you? (Luke. 6.27) True Christians are the most accepting and loving people I know.

Conclusion

Our Founding Fathers never intended the concept of separation of church and state to mean what it does today. James Madison said, ?We have staked the whole future of America not on the power of government, far from it. We have staked the future of all of our political institutions upon the capacity of each and all of us to govern ourselves according to the 10 commandments of God.? (qtd. Barton, Americas Godly Heritage) This is a powerful statement from the fourth president, who is often called the Father of the Constitution. How could someone who played such an important part in writing the Constitution mean to tot extract religious morals from almost all aspects of society. George Washington, another great founding Father said in his farewell speech as he left the presidency,

Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of patriotism who should labor to subvert these great pillars of human Happiness – these firmest props of duties of men and citizens.

Washington goes as far as to say that someone who tries to subvert morality and religion is unpatriotic. There is no way our founding Fathers had a pluralistic view of separation of church and state. Furthermore, the pluralistic view of separation of church and state is almost impossible. It is futile for a good government to make any decisions without looking through some kind of moral grid. Our society needs moral absolutes. Where do we get these absolutes? From ourselves? From what the majority says? It is far too risky to look to ourselves for these truths. In 1844, Supreme Court Justice Story answered these questions. He said, ?Where can the purest principles of morality be learned so clearly or so perfectly as from the New Testament?? (Tussman, ?The Supreme Court On Church & State 9) From all this information, we need to make an important decision. Do we drift farther and farther away from the absolute morals of religious teachings our founding Fathers implemented, or do we start trying to utilize the same religious morals that have so well served us in the past. We need a higher law to give us absolute morals and keep us in check. As the government throughout the history of America has done, today, more than ever, our government needs to obtain absolute morals from religion.

Works Cited

David Barton. America?s Godly Heritage. 1990.

Bible. Luke 6.27

Coyle, Doug. Personal interview. 12 October 2000.

Hall, Kermit L. United States Supreme Court Cases. New York: Oxford University Press, 1999.

Tussman, Joseph. The Supreme Court On Church & State. New York: Oxford University Press, 1962.

Rushdoony, Rousas J. Law and Liberty. Vallecito: Ross House Books, date unknown.

David Barton. America?s Godly Heritage. 1990.

Bible. Luke 6.27

Coyle, Doug. Personal interview. 12 October 2000.

Hall, Kermit L. United States Supreme Court Cases. New York: Oxford University Press, 1999.

Tussman, Joseph. The Supreme Court On Church & State. New York: Oxford University Press, 1962.

Rushdoony, Rousas J. Law and Liberty. Vallecito: Ross House Books, date unknown.

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