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 Americans United for Separation
of Church and State) planning a "political agenda for the entire world;" they're just defending their own Constitutional rights.
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.
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?
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
Tax-exempt organizations (listed as 501(c)(3) in the tax code and also including
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.
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.
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"
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.
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
# written advisories
# dismissed after investigation
No word on how many $ million those 26 written advisories cost.
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?
In Your Own Opinion has Americans United Misled the Nation?
I don't claim Americans United intentionally cofuses the issue of First Amendment
violations with the totally unrelated issue of IRS violations. I don't accuse them of saying "Political speech in a church
is unconstitutional." But certainly they push their Separation slogan that says exactly that, and huge numbers of people believe
them. I believed it myself till I spent a dime in a garage sale for an old book on the subject and read the whole
Constitution without finding a word limiting the activities of churches.
Then, several years ago our church literally split apart because
the words Democrat and Republican had been uttered (without criticism) from the pulpit . (Several people were mad at the minister
anyway and things took off from there). But I was astonished at how many people actually believe we have a law against
discussing politics in a church. A man in our adult Sunday School class
formed a "wall" with one hand and with the other hand pointed first on one side and then the other. "Separation means
we are to keep the state on one side and religion on the other and there is to be NO contact between the two."
I responded "Well, it's true government must not influence the
church but to say a church can't speak out about their government would be ridiculous."
"Not ridiculous at all," he grumbled.
The unfortunate end of this true story is described in the
Case History page.
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