2012-05-17 / Sam Bari

Separation of church and state

BY SAM BARI

Religion and the application thereof is indeed a touchy subject. That’s why the framers of the U.S. Constitution were careful to ratify a secular document that has been amended 27 times without breaching that fundamental principle.

Nonetheless, the apostles of religious correctness have been assaulting the concept by saying that the literal phrase, “separation of church and state,” does not appear in the Constitution. This is true, but that does not mean the concept is not there. The First Amendment clearly says, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,” etc.

To clarify the point, Thomas Jefferson, when he was president in 1802, wrote a letter to the Danbury (Connecticut) Baptist Association declaring that the American people through the First Amendment had erected a “wall of separation between church and state.”

James Madison, who is considered the father of the Constitution, wrote in an undated essay, “Strongly guarded ... the separation between religion and government in the Constitution of the United States.”

The right to a fair trial is generally accepted to be a constitutional principle, although the term “fair trial” is not found in the Constitution. Neither is “religious liberty,” yet the concepts are clearly and eloquently written and explained in the document that has been the foundation of our American democratic system for more than two centuries.

The same religious zealots accuse Jefferson and the others involved in the drafting of the Constitution with being inconsistent because the Declaration of Independence clearly refers to “the Creator” which they believe is synonymous with “God.” They are talking about the first sentence of the preamble that says: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by ‘their Creator’ with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

The Declaration of Independence was an official document drafted by the Continental Congress and sent to King George III of England as a reaction to unfair taxation. The U.S. Constitution was ratified on March 4, 1789, 13 years later.

Although the Declaration of Independence is an “offi cial” document, it is not a “legal” document. The opponents of separation of church and state often refer to the word “Creator” in the declaration as proof that the framers of the U.S. Constitution intended for the United States to be ruled by a sovereign being. Not so.

The U.S. Constitution, a secular document, was written and ratified by elected officials. Most of them were traditional Christians who were deeply concerned about entanglements between religion and government.

The U.S. Constitution is the only legal document that defines the democratic principles of the United States of America.

Without doubt, there are many contradictions to the separation of church and state. “In God We Trust” is still on our currency. The Congress of the United States, the same governing body that ratified the Constitution so many years ago, also declared Christmas, Thanksgiving and Easter as “offi cial” federal holidays. All have religious origins.

Christmas and Thanksgiving are obviously Christian. Easter, although the celebration has pagan Anglo-Saxon origins, is still religious. Christians celebrate the resurrection of Christ, not Easter. The two celebrations happen to fall on the same day.

The word “holiday” comes from the term “holy day,” and I believe anything “holy” requires some religious involvement.

When taking an oath, we are no longer required to swear on a Christian Bible. A notarized affi davit of oath is an alternative to that practice. However, we can swear on the Bible to take an oath if we wish to do so.

The point is, all of the aforementioned contradictions are not legal – they are official. A federal employee cannot be arrested for not observing Christmas.

The concepts in both the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution are in agreement with the fundamental principles of Judeo-Christian ideologies. They also agree with most of the fundamental principles of the other three major religions, Buddhism, Hinduism and Islam.

To greatly simplify the concepts, all five major religions have their version of the Ten Commandments. They are universally accepted philosophical tenets.

The applications of the principles of our Constitution have always been open to debate and interpretation.

Despite the many flaws that our government may have, it has wisely allowed the country to maintain its Judeo-Christian identity without compromising the secular principles found in our Constitution. Those principles allow everyone to practice the religion of their choice.

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