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Church And State

I just finished watching the Dennis Miller Show and his panel discussion was on the current hearings on the 'separation of church and state' in the US Supreme Court.

I'm certainly not an expert on American law, I'm not even an expert on Canadian law, but I have a few beefs with the debate and the positions being taken. Now I've got no beefs with people who think the United States is essentially a secular country and that it should not have any references to God on government property. That is a straight forward position and one that can be argued based on it's merits.

My beef is with the people who claim that the entire 'separation of church and state' clause forbids any and all such references. These people have to get a grip. There is no such clause. The constitution clearly forbids the federal government from instituting a national religion but that is it. Now once again, you can argue the semantics of the actual wording but that can only get a person so far.

The simple fact is that the people who wrote the constitution did not have the same idea of 'separation of church and state' that is presently promoted. The people who wrote the constitution were members of the American government for 30 or 40 years. These are the same men who commissioned and built the majority of the legal precedents, monuments, buildings, and institutions, in America.

Simply put, how did all of the references to God become a part of American law if it violated what the writers of the constitution intended? Or put another way, why is the interpretation of a legal scholar today more authoritative than that of the actual individuals who wrote the legal principles in dispute?

If the dispute is about what kind of country American is going to be in the future then that is fine and should be debated. But to frame the debate in a manner that assumes the American founders intended that the government never refer to God, is not only denying history but is also debating in very bad faith. No pun intended.


Anonymous said...

This subject fascinates me because the left likes to think of itself as intellectually superior to those with any kind of religious faith. Or maybe it's just faith in anything but big centrally planned government , that they don't like ? In any event they seem to forget that most people eventually end up worshipping some kind of “ism". Often an “ism” much more extreme then most forms of religion.

Any form of extremism by definition should be marginalized as quickly as possible , including the secular extremists that appear all to frequently in the MSM and academia and who typically can be found worshiping at the Temple of the UN .

Personally , I like the notion of separation of church ( substitute , mosque, synagogue etc) and state as described by Martin Luther King, Jr., who said that the church should not be the master of the state or the servant of the state; it should be the conscience of the state.


angry_in_t_o said...

It's been said before -- they seem to have misread it. If is "freedom of religion", not "freedom from religion".

Andrew said...

I've fought the Separation of Church and State battle on my blog a few times.

Modern lefties seem to thing that it means that the Church has no say, and should not participate in politics at all. For example, they were outraged when Bishop Henry urged members of the Church to write letters to their MPs about the SSM issue.

However, the separation of church and state only dictates that the church cannot explicitly make government policy, and in return the government cannot meddle in church business (unless something illegal is taking place).

Anonymous said...

An interesting poll in the Globe today

Which of these do you fear the most?

Big government
1055 votes (23 %)

Big business
1563 votes (34 %)

Big religion
2022 votes (44 %)

Total Votes: 4640


Jack Martin said...

Avoiding any comment of the relevance of any "debate" on the Dennis Miller show to reality ... (and let me agree that Dennis is a great comedian and a smart man)... I agree with your post.

The missing element, though, is that the battle has moved on. There are at least 6 of the 9 Justices who have (at least part of the time) long since abandoned rational construction of the Constitution to the dictates of post modern interpretation ... where there is no objective truth and all perception of truth is solely within the mind of the individual. This is a world where what the Constitution means can change from year to year ... Justice to Justice.

It is a world where the Supreme Court can decide, just 15 years ago that the exectuion of 17 year olds does not violate the "Cruel and Unusual Punishment" clause of the Constitution ... and then this week turn on a dime and decide ... well hell maybe it does.

And reverse their own decision based on what they perceive to be international fashion.

Which is why the left is willing to fight to the death over George Bush's attempt to appoint rational ... Constitution honoring ... Justices.

Dana said...


I'm not sure about the referal to the 'cruel and unusual punishment'. As far as I'm aware, the clause for 'cruel and unusual punishment' isn't very clear and because of that is open to interpretation.

Since it is open to interpretation I can understand why positions on it would change over time. I agree it is kind of silly to have the supreme court changing its positions every couple of decades but at least I can understand how it happens in this case.

Given that, I'm still left baffled over the present idea of 'separation of church and state' because the wording is quite clear and the intention of the people who wrote it is quite clear.

I just don't see where there is room for interpretation in this case.

Dana said...

I would be interested to know how many people who claim that 'big religion' is their greatest fear actually have suffered somehow because of 'big religion'.

For the life of me I can't remember the last time a religious community in Canada went around prosecuting people.

Maybe I don't read the 'Religious Oppression' section of the newpaper often enough.

Friend of USA said...

Dana, I agree but then again with Muslims "gaining ground" in Canada , now that`s a scary religion...

Rob said...

All of you that don't have a problem with religion in government just ask yourself if you would like verses from the Quran or from other religions in schools, courts or other public buildings or is it O.K. just for the religion you and the majority believe in. In the U.S. the constitution protects the rights of the minority it does not give the majority the right to promote thier religion through government. Just food for thought.

Dana said...

In regards to having verses from the Quran put on government property that falls under the realm of 'what kind of country American is going to be in the future'. That debate is open as far as I'm concerned and I could care less what Americans decide on that matter.

The fact remains though that nothing the American founders wrote into the American Constitution forbids it. That is the only point I'm making.

e m butler said...

Just a minor point...There was no UNITED STATES of America until the constitution was passed ..The DEc of IND was signed in 1776 and refers to the united states(no caps)... So at best there were 10 years of contested gov not 30 or 40

Dana said...

Sorry but my language wasn't clear. What I meant to say is that the American founders first wrote the constitution and THEN served for another 30-40 years.

That varies according to the individual of course but I was basically trying to make the point that the men who wrote the constitution then served in various public offices for a generation before dying off.

Anonymous said...

The following site (sorry i don't know how to link) has some relevant comment from
Larry Kudlow co-host of CNBC's "Kudlow & Cramer," which airs nightly from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m