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Thread: Jeferson's Wall of Separation

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    Senior Member K.Bullock's Avatar
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    Default Jeferson's Wall of Separation

    With the coming controversies of Christmas I figure this should be a good pre- Holiday read.



    History Matters
    Misusing History
    Thomas Jefferson's "wall of separation" metaphor allowed the Supreme Court to redefine church-state law and policy—and not necessarily in a good way.
    Daniel Dreisbach | posted 11/12/2008 02:13PM

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    Originally a restriction on the civil government's powers, the First Amendment has been reinterpreted to grant power to the government to define and, ultimately, restrict the place of religion in society. Herein lies the danger of this metaphor. Today people frequently invoke the "wall" to separate religion from public life, thereby promoting a religion that is essentially private and a civil state that is strictly secular.

    The "high and impregnable" wall constructed by the modern Court inhibits religion's ability to inform the public ethic, deprives religious citizens of the civil liberty to participate in politics armed with ideas informed by their spiritual values, and infringes the right of religious communities and institutions to extend their prophetic ministries into the public square. Jefferson's figurative barrier has been used to silence the religious voice in the marketplace of ideas and to segregate faith communities behind a restrictive wall.

    Those who criticize modern constructions of the wall are not necessarily supporting a religious establishment. Rather, these critics contend that the First Amendment requires that religion and religious perspectives must be allowed to compete in the public sphere, without government inhibition, on the same terms as their secular counterparts. By its very nature, however, a high wall does not permit this.

    The use of Jefferson's metaphoric wall to exclude religion from public life is at war with our cultural traditions insofar as it shows a callous indifference toward religion. It also offends basic notions of freedom of religious exercise, expression, and association in a pluralistic society. Unfortunately, the Supreme Court's "high and impregnable" wall has redefined First Amendment principles, transforming a bulwark of religious liberty into an instrument of intolerance and censorship.

    Daniel L. Dreisbach is professor of justice, law, and society at American University and author of Thomas Jefferson and the Wall of Separation between Church and State (2002).

    Copyright 2008 by the author or Christianity Today International/Christian History & Biography magazine.
    Click here for reprint information on Christian History & Biography.

    Entire article here: http://www.christianitytoday.com/ch/...nghistory.html
    Last edited by K.Bullock; 11-17-2008 at 02:33 PM.
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    Senior Member YardleyLabs's Avatar
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    There is nothing that inhibits the ability of residents of our country from expressing their religious beliefs or from bringing their religious beliefs and morality to bear in their roles as voters, elected politicians, or employees of our government. What the wall of separation prohibits is the use of the trappings of government to promote any specific religious message.

    In my mind, the measure of the appropriateness of religious expression within the context of governmental institutions is whether or not you would fight equally hard for the right of someone with violently opposing religious views to promote their message in an equal manner. If the answer is no, you are trying to use the trappings of government to promote your religious views and are in violation of the First Amendment. When I grew up my public school teacher required each of us to read from the Bible each morning. Jews had to read from the New Testament. We began with a prayer calling on "our Lord Jesus Christ". That was a violation of my rights as a non-Christian. I am proud that a member of my faith was part of the lawsuit that led the Supreme Court to make such prayers in school illegal so that my children would not be made to feel that their religious training -- which was consistent with the religious beliefs of Jefferson and Adams -- was in some way un-American. New York State atempted to develop a "non-denominational prayer" that still called on a "creator" in which all were supposed to believe.

    The founders of our country built the wall between government and religion on purpose and there was a reason that it was part of the First Amendment. They recognized that as individuals they were more than willing to have a government representing their own religious views. However, they didn't want a government representing someone else's religion. Even then we were a religiously diverse country. While Jefferson, who was "un-churched" but generally Unitarian in belief (i.e., not a believer in the deity of Christ), wrote the language of the First Amendment, it was as a supporter of the principle of separation. However, the separation was demanded by the Baptists of Rhode Island as a condition for joining the Union since they believed that any involvement of the government with religion would ultimately corrupt the religion.

    I believe the corruption goes in both directions. A religious government ultimately falls into the trap of believing it is doing the will of God which leads to the belief that anything it does is OK since its objectives are moral and its opposition evil. Our nation was founded on the principle that how we operate -- that is, due process -- is the measure of our morality rather than why we claim to do the things we do. A religion that engages itself in government ultimately falls into the trap of compromising its most fundamental religious principles because of the "needs of state". Examples of this exist throughout history.

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    Senior Member Joe S.'s Avatar
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    Slightly modified from a previous post:

    The issue, as I see it, is when the government makes a law based on the personal religious belief of those in power. Clearly, in my mind, this violates the separation of church and state as intended by the Framers BECAUSE it places the governing party in a position to impose its religious based will on all residents of the country. The job of the government is to decide what is best for ALL people in the country, not decide what is best according to what they believe based on their specific religious principle.

    If our government passed a law that required every American to attend a House of Worship of their choosing once a week because that is what the religious belief of those in power held to be correct, it would NEVER get past the Supreme Court.

    How then can we say that {any issue}, decidied and placed into law based on the narrowly held religious belief of some, should be the law of the land for all? I don't follow that line of thinking at all.

    The country was founded to provide the freedom from a state sponsored religion, and the associated laws, as much as it was founded to provide for the freedom of religion, I think.

    Canned Regards,

    Joe S.
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    Senior Member K.Bullock's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by YardleyLabs View Post
    There is nothing that inhibits the ability of residents of our country from expressing their religious beliefs or from bringing their religious beliefs and morality to bear in their roles as voters, elected politicians, or employees of our government. What the wall of separation prohibits is the use of the trappings of government to promote any specific religious message.
    That is why I put modern in bold. This is a relatively new interpretation. The opposing view is that the "wall" prohibits government from interfering. The restriction is on the government ...not the individual.

    Quote Originally Posted by YardleyLabs View Post
    In my mind, the measure of the appropriateness of religious expression within the context of governmental institutions is whether or not you would fight equally hard for the right of someone with violently opposing religious views to promote their message in an equal manner. If the answer is no, you are trying to use the trappings of government to promote your religious views and are in violation of the First Amendment.
    You are entitled to your opinion. But your opinion should have no bearing on my constitutional rights.
    Quote Originally Posted by YardleyLabs View Post
    When I grew up my public school teacher required each of us to read from the Bible each morning. Jews had to read from the New Testament. We began with a prayer calling on "our Lord Jesus Christ". That was a violation of my rights as a non-Christian.
    How awful..kids must have it much better now that they are indoctrinated into believing they began history in a slimy puddle.

    Quote Originally Posted by YardleyLabs View Post
    I am proud that a member of my faith was part of the lawsuit that led the Supreme Court to make such prayers in school illegal so that my children would not be made to feel that their religious training
    Ant the effects of removing Christian influence from our schools has been what? Violence, higher rates of teen pregnancy, A recent study has shown that compared to a study done in 1983 compared to now, minority achievement gains have actually reversed. It seems that it is difficult to learn when you are pregnant teenager and worried about your safety.
    At least they did not have to suffer those excruciating prayers. And read out of that awful New Testament.

    Look at the headlines and the state of the schools today as compared to then. I am not so sure I would be to proud of removing our nations moral compass.


    Quote Originally Posted by YardleyLabs View Post
    -- which was consistent with the religious beliefs of Jefferson and Adams -- was in some way un-American. New York State atempted to develop a "non-denominational prayer" that still called on a "creator" in which all were supposed to believe.
    It is true that for a period of Jefferson's life he referred to himself as a deist. It should be pointed out though that is not the whole story. Like many people Jefferson's spiritual journey lasted his lifetime. He could be claimed by Baptists and in the end he was an Anglican. So to say Jefferson was only a deist is not entirely accurate.

    Quote Originally Posted by YardleyLabs View Post
    The founders of our country built the wall between government and religion on purpose and there was a reason that it was part of the First Amendment. They recognized that as individuals they were more than willing to have a government representing their own religious views. However, they didn't want a government representing someone else's religion. Even then we were a religiously diverse country. While Jefferson, who was "un-churched" but generally Unitarian in belief (i.e., not a believer in the deity of Christ), wrote the language of the First Amendment, it was as a supporter of the principle of separation. However, the separation was demanded by the Baptists of Rhode Island as a condition for joining the Union since they believed that any involvement of the government with religion would ultimately corrupt the religion.
    They were really afraid that America would enact a state religion like the Church of England. Which chased the Puritans who founded this country out of England. The Baptists back then referred to themselves as dissenters and had reason to fear a state religion.

    A paragraph from the letter written by the Danbury Baptists to Thomas Jefferson.

    http://www.wallbuilders.com/LIBissuesArticles.asp?id=65

    Our sentiments are uniformly on the side of religious liberty: that Religion is at all times and places a matter between God and individuals, that no man ought to suffer in name, person, or effects on account of his religious opinions, [and] that the legitimate power of civil government extends no further than to punish the man who works ill to his neighbor. But sir, our constitution of government is not specific. Our ancient charter, together with the laws made coincident therewith, were adapted as the basis of our government at the time of our revolution. And such has been our laws and usages, and such still are, [so] that Religion is considered as the first object of Legislation, and therefore what religious privileges we enjoy (as a minor part of the State) we enjoy as favors granted, and not as inalienable rights. And these favors we receive at the expense of such degrading acknowledgments, as are inconsistent with the rights of freemen. It is not to be wondered at therefore, if those who seek after power and gain, under the pretense of government and Religion, should reproach their fellow men, [or] should reproach their Chief Magistrate, as an enemy of religion, law, and good order, because he will not, dares not, assume the prerogative of Jehovah and make laws to govern the Kingdom of Christ.



    Quote Originally Posted by YardleyLabs View Post
    I believe the corruption goes in both directions. A religious government ultimately falls into the trap of believing it is doing the will of God which leads to the belief that anything it does is OK since its objectives are moral and its opposition evil. Our nation was founded on the principle that how we operate -- that is, due process -- is the measure of our morality rather than why we claim to do the things we do. A religion that engages itself in government ultimately falls into the trap of compromising its most fundamental religious principles because of the "needs of state". Examples of this exist throughout history.
    I agree which is why I believe it is not for the Federal Government to say whether we can have school prayer or not.
    Last edited by K.Bullock; 11-17-2008 at 12:02 PM.
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    Senior Member Buzz's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by yardleylabs
    I am proud that a member of my faith was part of the lawsuit that led the Supreme Court to make such prayers in school illegal so that my children would not be made to feel that their religious training

    Quote Originally Posted by K.Bullock
    Ant the effects of removing Christian influence from our schools has been what? Violence, higher rates of teen pregnancy, A recent study has shown that compared to a study done in 1983 compared to now, minority achievement gains have actually reversed. It seems that it is difficult to learn when you are pregnant teenager and worried about your safety.
    At least they did not have to suffer those excruciating prayers. And read out of that awful New Testament.

    Look at the headlines and the state of the schools today as compared to then. I am not so sure I would be to proud of removing our nations moral compass.
    Removing religious influence from the schools means that I don't have to worry when I send my daughter off to school that she is being indoctrinated by someone who does who's views I disagree with - christian or otherwise. I am a member of the Roman Catholic Church. Every Wednesday night my daughter attends catechism at our church, so she gets her religious education from the place of MY CHOOSING.

    It is astonishing to me that conservatives think that government run institutions role to play in imposing a moral compass upon our children. If government cannot get anything else right, what makes you think are the ones for this job.
    Last edited by Buzz; 11-17-2008 at 02:06 PM.
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    Senior Member K.Bullock's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Buzz View Post
    Removing religious influence from the schools means that I don't have to worry when I send my daughter off to school that she is being indoctrinated by someone who does who's views I disagree with - christian or otherwise. I am a member of the Roman Catholic Church. Every Wednesday night my daughter attends catechism at our church, so she gets her religious education from the place of MY CHOOSING.
    Again your opinion, your choice. That should not effect the policy in my district. My kids go to Sunday school ..so whats your point?

    And uh last time I looked Catholics were christian. Schools never taught doctrinal nuances they simply began with prayer. See Vatican II on the Catholic stance on ecumenism. Pope Benedict doesn't seem to be threatened by ecumenism either.

    And if you are concerned about Doctrinal nuance ..isn't that why there are Catholic schools. What about the schools teachings on abortion and sexuality. Why doesn't that concern you?

    Frankly I would much rather my Evangelical kids pray the rosary each morning, rather than have them indoctrinated into moral relativism, which is a whole other religion unto itself.



    It is astonishing to me that conservatives think that government run institutions role to play in imposing a moral compass upon our children. If government cannot get anything else right, what makes you think are the ones for this job.
    You should find it astonishing because conservatives want the government out of the schools. The government is the one imposing morality(immorality) on the schools. You have it backwards my friend.

    If government cannot get anything else right, what makes you think are the ones for this job.
    Amen
    Last edited by K.Bullock; 11-17-2008 at 02:24 PM.
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