June 3, 2003
Why there is Separation of Church & State
Since we will keep hearing from religious people who are going to be trying even harder now to get their "Christianity" further into our Government, I'd like to offer some words on the matter:
While the founders of our government were very religious men, there is an absence of religious doctrine in the Constitution and in the Bill of Rights. How else to ensure that all religions get fair and equal attention by the law? Only by the lack of any one particular religion in the law can we have the assurance that all religions are equal before the law. That this is the case in our Constitution and in our Bill of Rights cannot be denied.
Yes, the founding fathers were religious. Yes, much of society is religious. The lack of religious doctrine in our country's Constitution does not mean that religion is not to be part of our society, only our government. It really is important to have a society that loves its neighbors, that is charitable, that is peaceful and forgiving. Religion provides for that and more.
However, in a greatly diverse country such as ours, we need equality. And the cornerstone of our Constitution is equality.
And the only way to ensure that all religions are equal before the law is to not have religion as part of that law.
We want, for example, to make sure that Christians are not treated less than or otherwise than the rest of society. This is extremely important. But we also want the same for Catholics, Protestants, Baptists, Buddhists, Mormons, Muslims, Hindus, Jews, Shintos, Sikhs, and atheists.
Also, we want to make sure that no religion is treated better than, or allotted more privilege than, any other religion.
Ensuring equality is very simple; the separation of church and state.
The architects of our republic knew this.
We only need to recall Thomas Jefferson's often-quoted words to understand this:
Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between man & his god, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, and not opinions, 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.
If anyone would like to know more (certainly people are not going to just take my word for this and are going to research historical facts), I would suggest starting at FindLaw's website: U.S. Constitution Case Code. Of particular interest would be the annotations to the First Amendment.
Some people will of course sneer about "make no law" in TJs quote, but in all cases of Church/State merging, laws will have to be created even if they are as unassuming as "we shall allow [put your doctrine here] on State walls." You can call this point a nit, but Law is about picking nits, isn't it?