Saturday, May 30, 2009

Separation of Church and State, part 2

Separation of Church and State, part 2

The concept of separating the affairs of government from the affairs of religion, and vice versa, is intended to prevent the government from ruling the church and the church from ruling the government.

The writers of our constitution were only one or two generations removed from governments in England which had been ruled by monarchs who variously promoted the power of the Catholic church or the Protestant church over the laws of the land. Heirs to the throne fought each other because one wanted the state to be Catholic and one wanted the state to be Protestant (James II vs William III c. 1688). The Protestant, William III, won and Parliament subsequently passed a law that no Catholic, or anyone married to a Catholic, could become the monarch.

America’s founders, as do some present day folks, failed to be objective enough. They put into the constitution that “Congress shall make no laws respecting the establishment of religion--”, meaning that there
 can not be any government-approved church. They failed to forsee the need to be specific about keeping government out of religion and religion out of government. It was very easy for them to make this omission because most of them thought only in terms of their particular faith being in the majority. I suspect that, if they had considered the possibility that some other faith, say Judaism or Islam, might become a majority, they would have been more specific about the necessity for keeping church and state separate in order to preserve liberty and justice for all.



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