"Separation" works two ways
- pits "one" 'gainst "another",
Separate "the Other from One" means "One from the Other."
And the Constitution is clear, it protects Church from the
but not State from the Church. There is no debate.
I'd best start with my conclusions or nobody will read any farther.
Opponents of the slogan "Separation of Church and State" are not necessarilly theocrats-in-the-making; they may accept implicitly
the First Amendment's governmental non-establishment of religion but be concerned about the slogan's silencing of political
debate by churches. Which it says. The word "Separation" is meaningless unless the slogan, in preventing the government
from influencing religion, doesn't also prevent religion from influencing government. And the man-on-the-street, as well as
the U.S. Supreme Court, has interpreted it to say just that. But the Constitution just plain doesn't.
It would make good sense if separationists would at least consider the possibility that some
anti-separationists are not (in the soft-spoken words of Reverend Barry Lynn, Commandant of American's United for Separation
of Church and State) planning a "political agenda for the entire world;" they're just defending their own Constitutional rights.
|The First Amendment to the Constitution|
First, let's start with an undebatable fact: The slogan
"Separation of Church and State" is not in the Constitution of the United States. Even the Americans United for Separation
of Church & State readily admits that. Then they continue: "But the concept is certainly there." But is it?
what does "Separation" even mean? By common usage of anyone including the dictionary, it means
a division of two entities such they are not joined or not shared. If separation means government must leave religion
completely alone, then it means religion must leave government completely alone. Thus churches, alone in a democratic society,
would be unable to influence their government.
What does the Constitution say?
Americans United claims to take its authority from the First Amendment:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establisment of religion, or prohibiting
the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people to peaceably assemble,
and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."
When Thomas Jefferson was first elected President a group of Baptists in Connecticut
wrote to him pleading for strict enforcement of religious liberty. (Their State had "established religion," the Congragationalist
denomination). Jefferson's reply of Jan. 1, 1802 stated that the First Amendment had created a "wall of separation
between church and state." Although a carefully worded letter it ignored the fact that it was the State of Connecticut rather
than Congress that was discriminating against Baptists.
In addition, of course, it's the Supreme Court rather than the President that's empowered
to interpret the Constitution. But anyway that letter is the source of Americans United's slogan.
Fast forward to June 13, 1866. The Fourteenth Amendment was passed, including among other
things "No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United
States; ... " The Supreme Court has ruled that this extended the First Amendment from Congress to the State governments
as well. (Lawyers can come up with conclusions like that.)
Does Amendment One Protect Church from Government?
Certainly. The Supreme Court has ruled consistently that any law giving one denomination
or one religion preference over another, or even giving faith preference over non-faith is, in effect, an "establishment
of religion" and is unconstitutional.
But what about non-faith over faith? Well, it doesn't seem to work that way.
Are Church and State Protected Equally from Each Other? Well,
if so, who gets to enforce the law? Churches?
Is Government Protected from Churches?
Asked in another way; do we have freedom of political speech and
the press EXCEPT for churches? (It's the first step in dictatorships.)
The First Amendment doesn't even suggest this, and neither does Article Six, the only other place religion is mentioned in
the Constitution (it prohibits religion being a test for holding public office).
The Constitution leaves churches completely free to influence government
and even the Americans United website doesn't say otherwise.
Clearly, government is owned by the people, and that includes the people's legal organizations,
such as labor unions, polka clubs, manufacturer's councils, cub scout packs, Sunday School classes,
and thousands of others, and most of them (unlike religion) don't even have a constitutional amendment specifically protecting
them. A democracy doesn't "protect" its government from its own people.
Do Churches Have Freedom of Political Speech?
According to the First Amendment, certainly, and also the freedom
of the press and to petition government. But suddenly the Internal Revenue Service rears its ugly head. The power to tax =
the power to control, and churches are tax exempt as long as they do not endorse or oppose specific candidates for office.
(Note this is the tax rule for charitable giving and has nothing to do with the First Amendment or even with the "Separation"
Tax-exempt organizations (listed as 501(c)(3) in the tax code and also includes Americans
United) still have the right of "Issue Advocacy." They're free to speak out on social and political issues, though not
on individual candidates.
And that IRS Rule Against Politicking by Non-Profits. Is it Enforced?
VERY loosely, apparently. The Americans United
website says they report egregious violations to the IRS and reported 11 in 2004.
Triumphantly they say an IRS report shows that IRS investigated 132 cases that year, of which "fewer than half" were
Of the 132:
55 cases-a warning was issued.
3 cases- revocation of tax-exempt status was "proposed."
1 case- IRS excise tax was applied.
Some of these may, or may not, have been religion-related.
And this in a nation of hundreds of millions of people.
website continues "This report should lay to rest Religious Right claims
that houses of worship have a right to engage in partisan politicking,” said Lynn. “They
don’t, and any that ignore the law and do so anyway could face severe sanctions.”
And they could also get hit by a meteor.
I've read that IRS lists nearly 100,000, each, 501(c)(3) organizations.
OMB Watch reports that for the 2006 election season, complaints of 501(c)(3) violations were as follows:
# complaints received by IRS
# complaints initially dismissed 137
# complaints investigated
of these, % religious organizations
# investigatons completed
# meriting revocation of tax exemption 0
# dismissed after investigation
# written advisories
No word on how many $ million those 26 written advisories
Was America Founded as a God-Fearing Nation? Well, it was,
though not officially and that's not what this website is about. But since the question often comes up I'll turn to a source
that knows more about it than I do or Rev. Lynn does. In his farewell address of Sept. 19, 1796 (delivered not on TV but in
the American Daily Advertiser, Philadelphia) George Washington told Americans what made them a great nation, including "With
slight shades of difference, you have the same Religeon, Manners, Habits & political Principals."
Nevertheless one's sectarian beliefs are none of the government's business. Let's let
it go at that.
What's Your Own Relationship to Christian Conservatives?
RhymeCon sometimes disagrees with Christian Conservatives. For
example I see no reason an omnipotent God couldn't have used the laws of nature he himself had created to cause species to
evolve. But unlike Rev. Lynn I'm comfortable with religious diversity. I'm not going to pile abuse on them, as Rev.Lynn
But there's something offensive about a statement I once read in a letter-to-the-editor- "There's
no such thing as a liberal Christian." Does this mean that God, through his infinite love for us, chose to become incarnate
to come to Earth to walk among us and die in agony on a cross in order to promote a political philosophy?
What's Your Own Opinion of Americans United for Separation of Church and State?
To the extent that they try to enforce the
First Amendment, that is, to free religion from being influenced by government, three cheers! But to the extent they try to promote
their "Separation" slogan which intrinsically says that religion must not influence government,
in a nation where people MUST take part in their government, then thumbs down.
But they pretend that non-establishment of religion
and separation of the church from the state mean the same thing when they sometimes mean just the opposite. They say things
like (Sen.) Inhofe, like (Congressman) Jones, has
spent years trying to destroy the First Amendment principle of church-state separation. It is a principle they both loathe."
Well, say what you mean; which of the two principles
do they loathe, the real one or your own worn-out slogan?
As another example: "Beyond blaming
feminists and gays for America’s alleged moral decline, Dobson has long argued that the First Amendment principle of
church-state separation has been wielded by 'secular humanists' to strip the nation of its Christian identity. In 1993, Dobson
helped launch the Alliance Defense Fund (ADF), which funds litigation aimed at weakening the First Amendment."
I do not believe that statement. Why would James Dobson downgrade
the First Amendment, much less try to weaken it, when it places absolutely no limitations on religion in the first place?