Last week I received an email about blogging regarding the separation of church and state. A while back I took part in the Blog Against Theocracy. So I thought I would try it out again:
Is believing that there is a separation of Church and State patriotic? I guess that would depend on who you asked. Religion has played an important part in the founding of our country, but certainly not the only part. It has caused many problems—slavery, women’s rights, civil rights, and now gay and lesbian rights. The government has used religion to both take freedoms of some groups away and have used religion to give freedoms to others. The proposed anti-marriage laws in this country are prime examples. No one can deny that the creation story from the Old Testament is behind these laws (“Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve”). Religious belief should not be used to create laws that take away the rights of others. The Founding Fathers are turning in their graves. For me, this is religious persecution at its worst, and is something that the Constitution, the Bill of Rights and the Founding Fathers were specifically against.
Let’s take a short look at our Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. There is nothing in the Declaration of Independence that would suggest that religious persecution had anything to do with the break from Great Britain. But there is no doubt that religion played a part in the creation of this document. There is language like ‘…the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them…’and ‘that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness…’ We all know that the people who wrote this did not really think that all men were created equal and even today, we have seen that some American legislators do not believe that all Americans should have Life, Liberty or the pursuit of Happiness. But these two sentences in the Declaration of Independence do not show that religion and the state were one and the same.
There is also nothing regarding religion in the Constitution, which sets out the responsibilities of the three branches of government. No mention of God, no mention of anything religious, even in the opening lines of the document. The Bill of Rights, on the other hand, mentions religion. In the first Ten Rights, religion is only mentioned twice, and that has to do with the State establishing a religion (which it prohibits) and that the State cannot prohibit someone from exercising their religious freedom. That is it. Once again there isn’t any religious language used in the beginning of the document.
It would seem that religion really didn’t play a part (or maybe wasn’t allowed to play a part) in the creation of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, except to keep the government from establishing a religion and to make sure that its citizens could be open and free about which religion (any religion) they chose. The fact that the First Amendment to the Bill of Rights stresses that the government should not create a religion is reason enough to say that there is a separation of State and religion, and that this was done on purpose by the original creators of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. It is also notable that this is the very first thing that the Bill of Rights lists. Why? Because the founding fathers knew that the mixture of state and religion was a dangerous thing. They could look to the history of Great Britain and Europe to see what happened when a State took on an official religion. They did not want this for this country. Despite this, there is no doubt that nearly all of these men were Protestant Christians. Two (Carroll and Fitzsimmons) were Roman Catholic.
Should there be a separation of church and state in the U.S.? If you accept the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, you really have no choice but to say yes. We can look at what the various individual original writers had to say about their own lives, but that really doesn’t add very much to the argument that there shouldn’t be a separation. As I have mentioned, nearly all of these men were Christians. Yet Christian language did not make it into the original documents of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. Therefore it is misleading to go looking for what individuals had to say and how they lived their lives. It is clear that all were Christian, yet they agreed as a whole to keep religion out of the government.
If there is a definition of patriotism to be found, it is within the lives of these founding fathers. They had no problem being Christian in their private lives. However, they did have a problem with letting religion be part of the government. These men were all educated and knew their history. They knew what would happen if Christianity became the legal religion of the land. Tyranny would begin and those who were not of the Christian faith, or those who believed a different form of Christianity, would be persecuted. Religious wars would begin and the history of religious Europe would start here. Therefore they refused to let the government become an arm of religion. That is what they considered to be patriotic. There is no reason why today that this country shouldn’t still hold to the same principles of its founding fathers—keep religion out of the government, while preserving the right of its citizens to practice (or not practice) whatever religion they choose.