A Necessary Separation of Church and State
Despite the pleas of some, the United States of America is not a Judeo-Christian based government guided by Judeo-Christian principles. Even among those who believe it, I think the Judeo part is just an honorable mention.
The historical record, which Kent so well put in his piece on this topic, shows that many, if not all, of the founding fathers sought to insure a separation of the two.
This meant a freedom to hold any faith one chooses without the interference of or, and this is the important part, support of the government.
The problem is, depending on what side of the religious fence you fall on, supporters cherry pick quotes to reinforce their positions. There are quotes aplenty, taken out of the context of their time which lend themselves to such manipulation.
Kent may perceive this as a benign, misguided attempt by fundamentalists or those of a more strict Christian doctrine than his own tradition to insert themselves into government.
I think it more serious when the public expects elected members of the government to engage in behavior tantamount to an acknowledgement of Christian faith. Whether it be a moment of silence or ending with an invocation of the blessing of their perception of a Christian God.
Can you imagine the uproar if President Obama gave a speech and did not end with “God Bless America?” The media and public would excoriate him. Many of his critics denigrate him by describing him as a “Muslim” as if that in and of itself is enough to warrant impeachment. It is the wrong faith according to their perception of a Christian nation.
We have legislative bodies passing laws to display a list of 10 commandments in public buildings, demand that we open the school day with prayers, or that the Bible be considered a sound basis for teaching, some go so far as to demand it be recognized as a historically valid text. Ignoring the other equally well adhered to religious traditions.
Therein I see great danger.
If religion is just one element of society’s overall philosophy, one in which government has no stake, then why can’t the President end his speech with “May Allah Bless Us” or, “Peace be upon you, As-salamu alaykum?” Each of these impart the same long-held religious traditions.
The problem is, in the eyes of many, it is the wrong tradition. There is no better argument for keeping any vestiges of religion out of government than that. Because if there is such a thing as the “wrong” religion, it is not a stretch of the imagination that some will seek to reinforce that concept through the force of law.
Kent and I agree on this, if one studies history, if one takes the time to read the full speeches and writings of the founding fathers, and if one understands that most religious traditions incorporate an element of tolerance, we would recognize the wisdom of separation of church and state.
My fear is, that’s a lot of “ifs.” Just a quick look at the politics and influence of fundamentalist Christians in this country shows their growing influence and lack of tolerance. Keeping the government separate from such elements is crucial.
Your faith in a particular religion is your choice, others take different paths, neither has the right to seek government help in supporting one and suppressing the other.