Separation of Church and State

The First Amendment to the United States Constitution guarantees the separation of church and state.

The phase “separation of church and state” comes from a letter written in 1802 by President Thomas Jefferson to the Baptists from Danbury [Connecticut]; but the concept pre-dates the Constitution and Bill of Rights, and was largely championed in it’s adopted form by James Madison (the principal drafter of the United States Bill of Rights).

The ideological basis of the separation of church and state are often credited to English philosopher John Locke and his principle of social contract.  It can also be seen implicitly in the flight of Roger Williams from Massachusetts to Rhode Island.

Many in the religious right argue that our founding fathers did not intend fro the First Amendment to create a godless country; and they continue to argue that the United States is a Christian nation, and Christian beliefs are centric to the nation and the Constitution.  However, that argument is not supported by the verbiage of the Treaty of Tripoli.

The Treaty of Tripoli, (unanimously) ratified by the US Senate and signed by President John Adams (one of the founding fathers) in 1797 contains in Article 11 the following:

Art. 11. As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion,—as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquility, of Mussulmen,—and as the said States never entered into any war or act of hostility against any Mahometan nation, it is declared by the parties that no pretext arising from religious opinions shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries.

It seems clear that it isn’t necessary to dig into the Federalist Papers, the Declaration of Independence, or read in depth biographies of the founding fathers to understand that they never intended religion to be a central pillar of United States and that it was in fact their intent to prevent religion (particularly organized religion) from exerting control on the government and it’s policies.

Why then, two hundred years later do Christians seems to have carte blance to have the precepts of their religion imposed on the country as law and policy?

One place you can clearly see the Christians exercising control is state and local mandated ordinances forbidding retail operations on Sunday (particularly as it relates to alcohol sales).  While perhaps not as flagrant as it was fifty years ago, it’s is still clearly an affront to the religious freedom and separation guarantied by the US Constitution and a fundamental founding principal of this county.

To [mis]quote Lewis Carrol … the time has come the walrus said to speak of many things …

My personal belief is that each and every time any governmental unit attempts to impose the will of an organized religion there should be quick and severe recourse.

Religious invocations should be forbidden in any governmental sponsored event (that includes public school events, local governmental meetings, etc); civil oaths should be the default in any judicial or administrative hearing; and laws which are based solely on religious fundamentals stricken down.

Christians now account for less than 75% of the adult US population, and that number has been decreasing at an increasing rate over the past two decades with non-religious individuals the fastest growing segment (currently over 15% of the adult US population).

The United States was founded on the principles of freedom of religion (including freedom from religion), it’s time we honor the core values of those who built the framework that has endured the tests of time by ending religious persecution once and for all.

Originally posted 2010-08-30 02:00:51.