Over the past three decades an increase in debate over the five words “Separation of Church and State” has been increasingly ramped up due to pressure from America’s religious and political right, as their agenda is to see that Christian theology play a vital role in the governing and in the legislation of our country. With the impending 2008 presidential election at hand, major news outlets such as Fox News have been running several programs and reports aimed at promoting the idea that religion and government should be mixed. One such special was hosted by GOP activist Newt Gingrich, who goes as far as to actually lie about the faith of the Founding Fathers.
The goal of the conservatives and fundamentalists is to guide the government with the Holy Bible; the rationale for their argument compounded and spread out. The more fronts that they can make their argument on the more confusing it is for laymen and political novices to mount a rational defense, and thus the more easily accepted it is into uneducated and poorly informed groups of society.
The key basis’s for the conservatives and fundamentalists are as follows; 1) the founding fathers based this nation and the US Constitution on Christian and Biblical values and principles; 2) the First Amendment does not really separate church from state; 3) the Supreme Court does not have the power to separate the church from state because the Constitution does not allow for it.
“The founding fathers based this nation on Christian and Biblical values and principles.”
Many politicians and influencers of opinion have been heard to utter this phrase before. This is perhaps the most incongruous of the absurd claims made by the right in this matter, as such, it is the most easily defeated, and as such it is fitting for it to be addressed first. Though ridiculous on its face, this is one claim that has the most credibility with the uneducated masses of the American public. This argument bears weight for two reasons; because as a mass, Americans possess little knowledge of their history, of their historical leaders, or of their present day government; and there is a common belief that society is becoming less religious over time.
The latter of the two reasons is based on the principle of repetition. If one hears something over and over enough, one will simply accept it as fact over time. The vocal “moral majority,” crying oppression, claims that the United States is becoming increasingly amoral, even immoral, and increasingly distant from the Christian faith.
Nothing can be further from the truth. In November 2000, the United States elected the first president in modern times who openly admits that faith is his leading factor in policy making. At no other time in America’s history would a leader who allows church to influence him so heavily be elected to the seat in the Executive Palace. What’s more is that church going has increased over the past four decades according to statistical data from the U.S. Census Bureau.
The simple reason why the right claims to be losing ground is because they are; they’re losing ground morally. In 1776 slavery was legal. In 1861 conservative states seceded from the Union in order to protect slavery, an effort proven to be futile when the 13th Amendment was ratified by the states was completed on December 6, 1865, but the Christian conservative movement in Mississippi prevented ratification of the Amendment until 1995.
Up until 1920 Christian leaders successfully prevented women from voting in America until the 19th Amendment passed 1920, because a woman’s voice is one which should neither be heard nor listened to.
Even after the passage of the 15th Amendment on February 3rd, 1870, it was not until January of 1964 with the passage of the 24th Amendment that Christian fundamentalist organizations were finally prevented from keeping blacks to vote.
In modern day America, all women and all races are welcome to vote in the United States; slavery is viewed as being so barbaric that it’s unimaginable; women have the right to choose whether or not to bear children and contraceptives are now legal; homosexuality is no longer illegal; non-Christian children are no longer forced to participate in Christian prayer in America’s public schools. With women and blacks voting, it is not difficult to see why the right protests and claims that morality is on the decline in this country.
The even more bizarre argument is that the founding fathers had no intention of separating the state and the religion, and that they themselves based U.S. law on Biblical Doctrine. The absurdity of such claims is easily demonstrated by merely referencing the words of America’s greatest thinkers, leaders, and Constitutional Framers.
John Adams, the second President of the United States, was instrumental in the establishment of the Constitution. The following quotes are excerpts from his letters to his friend Thomas Jefferson:
“This would be the best of all possible worlds, if there were no religion in it.”