Friday, September 2, 2011
The REAL meaning of Separation of Church and State
One of the biggest issues today, and one that has been going on for centuries, is the "separation of church and state." There are those who say that government has no business being involved in religion and vice-versa, and there are those who will say there is no way to separate the two.
Those are the two extremes to this argument. Most people would probably be found somewhere in the middle, whether they be leaning to the former or the latter.
To find out where this argument originally began, it is necessary to find out where the phrase "separation of church and state" actually came from. A common misconception that many people have is that the separation of church and state is actually in the Constitution. On the contrary, the only mention of the state's involvement in religion is found in the First Amendment: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof." The term "separation of church and state came out of a letter written by Thomas Jefferson.
The Danbury Baptist Association wrote a letter to Jefferson in October of 1801. They were a religious minority in their state of Connecticut. They were complaining that in their state, the religious freedom they enjoyed was not looked upon as an immutable right, but as a privilege granted by their state legislature; they were looked upon as "favors granted." In his response Jefferson did not address their issue on a state level, but on a national level. Also in his response was the phrase "a wall of separation between church and state" from which we get the short-hand we use today, "separation of church and state." Jefferson was saying that there should be no state-run church or an official state church. He was in no way saying that in order to serve in government, you must hide your religion or deny it when questioned.
That is the phrase's history. You can see it was never meant to be what it is today. In America a person can practice whatever religion they choose freely with no interference from the government. Politicians should not be required to hide their faith; rather, they should be encouraged to share it in a way that does not force it on others.
With all that said, this nation was founded on Biblical principles and needs to get back to them today. These were not forced on people, but were just what was used. The Founders knew that the principles they used were not only God-inspired, but plain common sense. While not all of the Founders were professed believers, they all had a respect for God and what He is. They all knew that a Supreme Being had created the universe. The Founders who were believers, along with the ones who weren't, agreed that the founding documents for their new nation should be based on God's Word.
Separation of church and state is one of the most heated debates going on in America today. It has been going on for centuries. I think that if we do not get a handle on the "religious situation" going on, our entire democracy will be at stake. If politicians continue to hide what they believe from the citizens they want to elect them, they will never be completely truthful with them and therefore will never be able to properly serve the people. Everyday American citizens should be allowed to speak about what they believe without having to fear physical or emotional harm being done to them.
Separation of church and state is not in the Constitution. It was never meant to be what it is today. It was meant as something to make sure the government here in the United States did not adopt an official state church as countries with monarchies have done. It was meant to ensure the government could not in any way prohibit someone from practicing their beliefs as they chose to do so.
There should be a separation between church and state. The government should in no way dictate what Americans are allowed to do in terms of their beliefs. We need a separation or the government we enjoy in America called Democracy would soon turn to something called Dictatorship.
There are people today who would love for all of us to believe "separation of church and state" means that there can be no reference to God or any specific faith whatsoever in anything concerning government. They would love to take it out of our currency, our Pledge of Allegiance, even our schools. In reality, most of the places that these references have been were designed that way centuries ago. They were designed based on the new nation's principles. Principles that, if we would go back to them, would drastically change things in America overnight.
The entire idea surrounding this phrase needs to change. We need to realize that we are a diverse society, whether your or I like it or not. Diverse not only in religion but in race, ethnicity, and many other things. Diversity is one of the things that sets America apart. Along with that comes a responsibility; and that responsibility is to respect one another in everything, whether we agree or disagree. Protesting and being outraged about something, in most cases, does not change it over to your favor. Rather, it usually makes things even worse.
I'll leave you with two things to think about:
Why, in times of personal and national distress, do some people look to faith for help and answers, but in times of peace ridicule it and the people who live it on a daily basis?
State has the need to stay out of church more than church has the need to stay out of state.
Thoughts? I'd love to hear them! (: