Bryan G. Olson
Separation of Church and State
Organization: Univ. of MD, Baltimore County Campus
From: email@example.com (Bryan G. Olson; CMSCIn article
<4483@eastman.UUCP>, firstname.lastname@example.org (Dan Schaertel,,,) writes:
|> In article email@example.com, rhuss+@EDRC.CMU.EDU (Robert Huss) writes:
|> I thought that the separation of church and state was pretty well
|> spelled out in the Constitution.
In article <44838@eastman.UUCP> firstname.lastname@example.org (Dan Schaertel,,,) replies:
|> Well it isn't spelled out at all. The constitution says the government
|> shall make no religion. Further investigation into the meaning of this
|> shows that what is meant is the government shall not establish a specific
|> sect as the official religion. Christianity was the standard at the
|> time the constitution was written. Our founding fathers had no way of
|> knowing the misunderstanding this would cause. But there is nothing that
|> indicates any such thing as "seperation of church and state". In fact the
|> majority of the constitution is derived from the bible. Much of it is
|> directly from the bible.
What the first amendment actually says on the subject is, "Congress shall
make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free
exercise thereof". The separation phrase seems to have originated in a
letter sent by Thomas Jefferson to a Committee of the Danbury Baptist Assn.
of Connecticut, dated 1 Jan 1802. Jefferson wrote:
I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole of the
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.
While Jefferson is certainly respected as a founding father, the letter does
not carry any legal weight. For an authoritative interpretation, we have to
look to the Supreme Court decision of Lemon v Kurtzman, of 1971. Chief Justice
Warren Burger wrote for the majority:
The language of the Religion Clauses of the First Amendment
is at best opaque, particularly when compared with other portions of
the Amendment. Its authors did not simply prohibit the establishment
of a state church or a state religion, an area history shows they
regarded as very important and fraught with great dangers. Instead
they commanded that there should be "no law respecting an establishment
of religion." A law "respecting" the proscribed result, that is, the
establishment of religion, is not always easily identifiable as one
violative of the Clause. A given law might not establish a state
religion but nevertheless be one "respecting" that end in the sense
of being a step that could lead to such establishment and hence offend
the First Amendment.
This same decision set forth the "Lemon test", a three part test to determine
if a law violates the establishment clause of the first amendment. It states:
First, the statute must have a secular legislative purpose; second, its
principle or primary effect must be one that neither advances nor
inhibits religion (citation omitted); finally, the statute must not
foster "an excessive government entanglement with religion."
The statement that the majority of the Constitution was derived from the Bible
strikes me as absurd. The Constitution is entirely devoted to secular matters,
specifically, the establishment of the federal government. Where the Bible
speaks of such matters, the forms of government advanced are absolutely opposed
to the ideas of the Constitution. The great leaders of the Bible are chosen by
God and rule by such authority. The constitution is ordained and established
by "We the people", and our leaders are chosen and rule by authority which
comes from the citizens. The main ideas of the Constitution came
not to the Bible, but from political philosophers who redisovered Greek
democracy, with its elected representatives and division of powers.
From: Monica L Boyle
To: All Msg #27, Feb-18-93 09:57AM
Subject: Re: Separation of Church and State
Organization: University of Pittsburgh
From: email@example.com (Monica L Boyle)
In number X, it reads "A religious sect may degenerate into a political
faction in a part of the Confederacy; but the variety of sects dispersed
over the entire face of it must secure the national councils against any
danger from that source."
The 14th amendment took care to stop even a part of the nation from being
taken over by a religion.
It there refers to one religios view becoming politically empowered as
Can't get much more specific than that, though most intelligent people
find the first and fourteenth amendments sufficient enough to believe
that religion has no place in politics in this country.