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Separation of Church and State Benefits (almost) Everyone June 11, 2007

Posted by Joe in agnosticism, atheism, belief, church state separation, freethought, law, media, politics, religion, skepticism.

The separation of church and state is not a theist versus non-theist issue, though it is often portrayed that way in the major American media outlets, and among those that oppose or demonize it.

This clause in the first amendment to the US Constitution was intended to create (in Thomas Jefferson’s words) a “wall of separation between church and state”: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion” This has come to be known as the “Establishment Clause”.

The purpose of the Establishment Clause was never to promote atheism or any kind of non-theism. The purpose if to prevent any religion or religious organization from using the power or resources of the government to push their religion on others. So if you are protestant and live in a Catholic majority community they cannot use public resource to the benefit of Catholicism and detriment of your church. The Mormon church which may be a large majority of the people in parts of Utah cannot use government resources to enforce their stringent ideas of morality on non-Mormons.

Its intent is not to attack religions in favor of further atheism. The intent is to limit the power of the more popular religions to dominate the minority religions. By favoring no particular religion and remaining neutral on religious issues the government can foster an environment where the people feel free to exercise and express their personal religious views.

I originally did not even think that the “almost” in the title was necessary, but then I though well there is one group of people that the Establishment Clause does not benefit. It strictly limits those who wish to force their religion or religious practices on others; (Not that they haven’t made some in-roads despite it) those who wish to force students in school to perform an official prayer led by their teachers regardless of the students religion, those who wish to use public resources to erect and maintain religious monuments on public land regardless of the religion of the tax payers, those who are so afraid of communism that they insist on sticking “In God We Trust” everywhere and making it the official motto of the United States regardless of the Americans atheists who have no such trust.

If you ever feel the need to expound against the separation of church and state or its advocates take a second and think what your thoughts might be if you were a Christian in a majority Muslim country. Would you want such a law to be there to protect you then?



1. Melinda Barton - July 2, 2007

“those who are so afraid of communism that they insist on sticking “In God We Trust” everywhere and making it the official motto of the United States regardless of the Americans atheists who have no such trust.”

I agree with you wholeheartedly, but note that in the above statement you make the violation of separation of church and state an “atheist” issue. “In G-d We Trust” is offensive not just to atheists but also to Buddhists, Hindus, Wiccans, and many monotheists who find the name of G-d on money to be a bit distasteful to say the least. Although it’s a Christian scripture, I’ll paraphrase here: You can serve G-d or mammon. You cannot serve both.

2. Joe - July 2, 2007

Ah, good point. Though many may believe in god, they may not want it on their money. Which only supports my point that separation of church and state benefits everyone.

3. Bruce Barron - February 19, 2009

To begin with this country was founded as a Christian country. The 13 original states had constitutions favorable to the practice of religion in accord with one’s conscience and religious persuasion.
The Establishment Clause simply prohibits the Congress from showing favoritism for one religion over another and from establishing a religion of any kind. It does not mean that Congress must be hostile to the fostering of religion. In fact it is the civic duty of all men to give due reverence to God as the 13 original state and multiple statements from the Framers ecplicitly assert. In fact the federal government has the obligation to foster religion.piety, and promote virtue.
The constitution does not forbid the establishment of religion but is forbidden from any legislation establishing religion. This is reserved entirely to the states under the 10 amendment. No language of the 14 amendment deals with this at all.
The 1st amendment does promote religion by non interference in the states right to legislate on this matter and which all 13 states did and all fifty still can.
The 14 amendment as it applies to the Bill of Rights lays an obligation on the legislators and officials to see that the rights of its citizens are not abrogated. In other word it is incumbent on the state to resist any infringement on the part of the federal government to tell the states how they are to deal with matters of religion.
Congress has never made a law establishing a religion and hence the courts have no legitimate basis on which to act.
It is self evident that there is the greatest religious freedom in this country and no one is trying to coerce others into another religion.
If the states decide to have school prayer it is within their constitutional right and no court can prohibit it. The courts may claim that since the Bill of Rights comes under the14 amendment that the establishment clause is fair game for the courts to apply to the states.Since the constitution forbids the congress from legislating on the issue of religion reserved to the states the 14 amendment is null and void on this issue since no language in the 14 deals with this power.
What’s more is that the 14 amendment has never been ratified.
Congress and no state that I know interfers with the free exercise of religion and this free exercise prevents coercion.
The 14 amendment is not applicable to the 1st or 10th amendments.
As a result of the courts unlawful usurpation of states rights on the matter of religion they have succeded in creating an atmosphere of agnosticism and atheism. It sounds to me that this should make you very pleased.

4. Jason - July 7, 2009

I agree; I would not want any other religion forced on me or associated with me against me own will. I can definitely see where an atheist or buddhist would be offended by having to participate in prayer in a school or other such institution. However, I’m pretty saddened, as a Christian, that our nation is turning away from God. It’s an odd position to be in. The last thing I think would be beneficial is to force a belief on someone though.

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