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Poll: Separation of Church and State

Answer our poll question, then debate the topic below.


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You made some Good points there. I did a search on the topic and found most people will agree.

The State keeps out of religion, but religion is in the voter & will be reflected in govt.

Billy Bob, Florida

Hello Sir,

I agree. It's all getting reflected in "government".

I used to ask people what laws prevented them from living their "religious" beliefs.

It appears that secular laws have made "legal" in the USA all the "do unto each other" that "economists" discovered was unprofitable social behaviour - like generosity, respect, and valuing labor.

However, there's never been a better time to promote "social distancing". Who knows what good can happen if we not only track the breathing and hand-using of each other, but also the activity that allowed HIV and other STDs to become the permanent "virus" of all our previous social closeness?

The State should not establish or promote a religion.
Our State is suppose to be by the people & for the people & people may be religious, therefore religion may influence the State.
Nazi skinheads should not be allowed religious status due to the harm they promote, etc.
Religion should promote good over evil--some may want to debate what that means, but normal people understand what I mean.

The State keeps out of religion, but religion is in the voter & will be reflected in govt.

Without faith all there is is gold & bonus promises.

Billy Bob, Florida

When you Christians finally hear Bush's "Nixon Tapes" you will understand that the Bible and the Constitution were both toilet paper to him. Render unto Caesar what is Caesar's and unto God what is God's. God's kingdom is in the afterlife you desperately crave. To earn it you must endure the intolerable rationality and grating humanistic generosity of persons like myself while you live. Praying in private and not judging fellow citizens by the Bible but by generally accepted human law will put you closer to your ideals. Or, are you an agnostic like dear Ben Franklin, George Washington and Thomas Jefferson who has little or no faith in the promise of an afterlife? If you don't understand what I mean, maybe you'd be more comfortable in the Taliban.

Posted by: Jack Martin | February 17, 2008


Okay, I don't understand what you mean.

Most of Ms. Jacoby's insights are accurate and, on the whole, this book ("The Age of American Unreason") will enlighten and uplift the level of discourse ... IF ... it is taken to heart, taken seriously and constructively acted upon.

However, there is one critical point I believe Ms. Jacoby has failed to adequately articulate, and this point was highlighted in a New York Times article about this book, in which the Times quoted Ms. Jacoby as saying, "Although people are going to school more and more years, there's no evidence that they know more." To most people, and obviously to Ms. Jacoby, this is both counterintuitive (surprising) and unfortunate (not fortuitous for this society - not a good omen).

Like most people, Ms Jacoby harbors the belief that most people (or too many people) suffer from great ignorance because the "information input" is either "inadequate" or defective or inaccurate or incomplete. In fact, this seems to be the resonating theme throughout this entire book, namely, that a cure to the problem lies in disseminating 'information input' that is more adequate, more accurate, more complete and less defective. This, I believe, echoes most people's common beliefs surrounding this unmistakable problem, and I submit that this belief is incorrect and stands as an intractable part of the problem and not part of the solution.

This delusional image of a solution has us looking like a "safe-cracker" who is searching for the magic combination, the magical "input data" needed to toss the tumblers, turn the latch and open the safe, thereby disgorging the treasure-trove of 'knowledge' and 'answers' and 'solutions' to the problems we face ... the problems we are addressing with our 'safe-cracking' exercise. The operating presumption here is that we merely lack the correct "substantive input" ... the right substantive 'information' (the safe's combination), and that once we discover that certain substantive 'information' (the safe's combination), we will have open access to the answers and solutions we seek.

I submit that this is the myth that has spun the ignorance complained of. I submit that we are ignorant, not because we lack the right substantive "information" or the right "data input" or the right "answers" ... but rather we are ignorant because we lack the right "QUESTION." Stated differently, we are ignorant NOT because the "substantive information input" is defective, but because "THE PROCESSING" is defective. Because "THE PROCESSING" is defective, no reliable 'solution' or 'answer' is feasible, regardless of the integrity of the "substantive input," just as it is impossible to get cash from an ATM this has broken-down (is defective), regardless of the fact you have entered the correct card and the correct pin number.

It is the "PROCESS" of accurately 'seeing' ... of 'perceiving' ... of 'cognizing' ... of 'apprehending' and "PROCESSING" that is defective. And the imperative for us is to finally come to the realization of the futility of trying to "clean-up" and "correct" the substantive input, when it is the PROCESSING that is defective. Krishnamurti spent his entire adult life graphically laying bare precisely this point.

The reason formal education seems to be failing is more easily and accurately understood, in light of the fact that it focuses on swamping the student with zillions of gigabytes of the most accurate "substantive input" it can lay hands on, WITHOUT TEACHING students the skills of PROCESSING that data. Logic is NOT required in elementary school, high school or college, and it should be required for all students in all of these institutions of learning. In fact, it is not even available as a course until college, where it is never a "required" course for every student. This problem is seriously compounded by the fact that logic (reason - rationality) is but one of the epistemological PROCESSES we have become ignorant of and alienated from. Our profound ignorance of these 'OTHER' epistemological PROCESSES has left us spiritually bankrupt as well, in addition to being intellectually bankrupt. Logic epistemological PROCESSES address the issue of "intelligence." Perceptual epistemological PROCESSES address the issue of "apprehending - cognizing," and the "OTHER" epistemological PROCESSES address this issue of "WISDOM" and Compassion.

And none of these epistemological PROCESSES is being effectively taught in school, at home, at church, at work or on the football field.

I submit that every issue complained about in Ms. Jacoby's new book is traceable to this neglect.

When you Christians finally hear Bush's "Nixon Tapes" you will understand that the Bible and the Constitution were both toilet paper to him. Render unto Caesar what is Caesar's and unto God what is God's. God's kingdom is in the afterlife you desperately crave. To earn it you must endure the intolerable rationality and grating humanistic generosity of persons like myself while you live. Praying in private and not judging fellow citizens by the Bible but by generally accepted human law will put you closer to your ideals. Or, are you an agnostic like dear Ben Franklin, George Washington and Thomas Jefferson who has little or no faith in the promise of an afterlife? If you don't understand what I mean, maybe you'd be more comfortable in the Taliban.

i belive that religion is very important because if we dont fear the law we fear the punishment that god will give us and we all kno that religion is important it comes from way back lincoln,washington all the presidents have a belive and that was what made them big

The example we choose to create with our lives is our faith made real in this life. This is for us.

How we choose to treat others in respecting, caring and accepting them should not be based soley on our faith but the faith of the others that it may affect.

out of this respect it becomes impossible to combine any one church and the state.

What I am waiting for is a state that respects all political beliefs in practice and not just rhetoric. Then lets work on faith.

Interesting question. I'd put it right up there with "Should slavery be abolished?" and "Should women have the right to vote?".
I'm sure some people see this debate as an indication of the vibrant health of our democracy but as I sit here, looking at a photo of the Earth taken from the orbit of Saturn, the question sounds more than a little absurd.

Last night I watched a remarkable film of JFK's 1960 speech and answer session to clergy members and citizens concerned about his Catholicism. Many in the audience (and in the public at large), were afraid that if elected, JFK might be beholden to the Pope and essentially take his orders from the Vatican. As I watched the film, I was amazed at just how much things have changed in the last forty years.In 1960, JFK emphatically distanced his possible presidency from any influence of the Vatican and went to great lengths to reiterate the separation of church and state in the constitution.Now it seems that politicians do just the opposite;rather than respecting the separation mandate, they go to great lengths to publically confess their faith and drop the "God Bless America" mantra after every speech.Indeed, it seems that nowadays a politician couldn't get off first base if he or she did not do so.

Not allowing gay marriage is just going against our constitution. We are suppose to keep separation from church and state, as clearly stated in the constitution. The main reason gay marriage is not allowed is because of religious beliefs. Isn't that going against the consitution? I believe so. Gay marriage should be allowed. Just because someone doesn't believe in it, doesn't mean that it should not exist! No one agrees with everyone. If straight people are allowed to get married, then why not homosexuals? I would like to get married one day... And as of now they are making that nearly impossible! This world is screwed up! EQUAL RIGHTS is what we are suppose to be about, and we are FAR from that!

If that's true, Klad, then why the debate over gay marriage now and not 200 years ago. Weren't gays denied a right to marry each other then? It's because until very recently, no one ever believed that gay relationships were ever, or could ever be, equal to heterosexuality or marriage between a man and a woman. I happen to believe they are inherently unequal and can never be equal, but the gay and lesbian lobby has managed to convince enough people as to even make it debatable. This debate would have been unthinkable ten years ago. The only think that has changed is the vulnerability of the American people to the propaganda of the extreme leftists that make up the gay and lesbian activist crowd.

Yes, it was Christianity 1500 years ago that first began to condemn homosexuality and it is Christianity today that stands in the way of America becoming the land of Caligula, a boiling cesspool of decadence, lust, and unbridled passions as the way of Athens and Rome. Knowing history the way I do, I'm thankful there is a "wall" of separation between what we are today and the evil hedonists we could become...and that wall is the self-restraint born from our Christian faith. If you want to know the real ramifications of a true separation between church and state, read your history books. The last two "secular" movements that mercilessly sought to undermine and destroy all vestiges of faith were the Nazi's and the Communists. And today, it's secular liberals partnered with the gay movement trying to undermine and destroy Christianity in America. I would argue that not only is a true separation undesirable, it is dangerous!

If there isn't an 'unofficial state religion' (Southern Baptists) at work in the current administration & thereby this nation, then why are there such constant, vehement, vicious & spittle spewing attacks against granting all citizens the benefits of marriage?

In a civil society, where no religion holds sway, all citizens are truly equal, the playing field is even & we all enjoy the same rights & priviledges, equally.

In North America, the only nation that upholds these high standards is Canada...a true civil & just society.

As this nation was being conceived, our founding fathers seized the opportunity to avoid repeating the horrific precedents of mixing church and state. Perhaps their efforts were not sufficiently nuanced. Today, untaxed churches are acquiring political influence as capital driven fascist entities. And fascism is not understood by Americans, who only make the time to become its victims.

It is somewhat revealing that the "no" vote in this poll very closely mirrors GW's approval rating.

While some of those who voted "no" may have done so for semantic reasons, I suspect the bulk of the "no " votes came from rw2s (right wing religious wackos)who would codify their own religious dogma if given the chance. GW promised them that chance, and they will now follow him anywhere.

These are the people who got us into war in Iraq. Then, after our military had won a quick victory, these same yahoos surrendered the constitution-writing process to a shiite group that would establish its own sect as the official state religion and source of islamic law, with no protection for the freedoms of those in minority religions.

Is it any wonder that these spineless theocrats, who have such contempt for our own constitutional freedoms, would screw up Iraq's constitutional process as well?

We are now paying the price with an intractable civil war in Iraq, and a casualty count nearing 30,000, entirely attributable to Americans who believe themselves to be on a mission from God.

God help us.

A small intro since I will address more directly the hiring of people with a bias that becomes an illegal test for Federal employment. I worked for OPM as a career policy analyst for a quarter century of my 33 yrs in Gov't. Lawyers in the F ederal service have for generations been what we called schedule b appointments. That was based on the belief that we could not test for this occupation and would rely on a review of the prospective employee's record. These positions were an exception to the normal hiring practices but when they were hired the employees became career civil servants. I don't know the facts in this case because the 150 hires Mr. Moyers speaks of may have been temporary hires and may have been recognized as non-career. This would be troubling enough because the insertion of religeon into the civil service is contrary to what should be the hiring practices followed by Federal agencies. If the normal schedule b authority was used, I'd say the head of OPM, Ms. James has a lot to answer for. When I first came to the Civil Service Commission, Ludwig Andolsec, one of the Commissioners got into trouble for making a couple of phone calls to help some people get jobs. The rule after that impossed a strict ban on employees of CSC (later to become OPM) making any such calls unless they were in that business. If anybody came to me looking for help, I could only go to the point of telling them where to apply. Ms. James, as OPM director, would have used influence to place people that would have been simply illegal. Perhaps the law has changed in the decade since I retired. This is something that is first an ethical question. How can people who think they know what God wants do something that has been branded unethical? The Federal Gov't should have a clean hiring system. The worst joke going is how many political appointees have been inserted into agencies since the Civil Service Reform Act of 1979. A non-partisan Civil Service Commission was replaced by a partisan OPM. And this is what you get. Makes me angry that the head of OPM would not know what is inappropriate.

If the premise that all voices likely have one or more elements of validity is reliable then the constant task for me is to discern what is valid in perspectives so very different than my own. In the case of the Evangelical’s voice (below) the question of validity evolves to what are they entitled to in a society that guarantees their right to have their voice, viz:

"I intend to help further the administration of justice and to do justice.
And I believe in absolute truth, and I believe in absolutes. Not grey,
you know, not relative truth but absolute truth. And that is what God's word is."

My frustration is that this group of conformist, ethnocentric, traditional and absolutistic individuals has no observing self (and thus no self-correcting skills), they are easily offended by difference and they are used to the galling assumption of the pre-imminence/superiority of their belief system.

The piece that I rarely see addressed in print or blog posts is their underlying assumption of exclusive validity, and how that drives and provides the bottom-line rationale for their assumption of superiority. They will adamantly insist that they are not about imposing their values on others, but-all-the-while they are poised to go into victim role when challenged claiming persecution for the very machinations they manifest themselves. Their center of gravity is that of the rigid pre-modern, and they make it difficult to take a middle position because they see the world completely from a dominant/subordinate modality (be ye Hatfield or, be ye McCoy!).

"tolerate no Caesars and walk with god(if you know what that means")

Response to Sean, who posted on May 12:
1) We also have freedom FROM religion. Read Article VI of the US Constitution: "...no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States." This applies to ALL appointed and elected public officials at all levels of government. If you don't like the Constitution, there are ways to change it. Try changing this Article, the bedrock of US religious freedom, and see what happens.
2) Re: Islam is "uncivilized": while the rest of Europe was enjoying the Dark Ages, Muslims in Spain were inventing algebra, studying science, and creating schools of philosophy.
3)Re: no churches in the US are working to become the "official US Church": listen again to the comments by the Regents "law school" graduates who are being directed into the Federal government in great numbers, and Pat Robertson. You missed the point of the program.

If religious absolutists (of any flavor) have cornered the market on "the truth", why bother having "the law"? Under their rules, it's impossible to debate the law, which, in a democracy, is developed through compromise of positions, advocacy of interests, and debate. In democracy, law is made from the bottom up, not imposed top-down. With their absolutist position, there is no room or role for a legislature (as the Republicans showed in the first 6 years of the Bush Admin when the US had a 2-branch government), only enforcement (since the law is created and known a priori), like the Taliban. Totalitarian governments like the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany also claimed that they had ultimate and intimate knowledge of "the truth". The religious right wing and those Regents "law school" graduates should be experiencing a good dose of cognitive dissonance, not trying to evangelize for and promote their religion in politics. How can they seriously say that their side has the "truth" which is "god's will" and Christian (most notably), and ALSO say they believe in the separation of church and state? Their misappropriation of the term "relativism" to equate with "democracy" must be fought and exposed at all times, especially when it is used to propagandize for political positions that diminish the general welfare and freedom.

I would just add that I think the issue we are dealing with here is a systemic one, and is manifest in such things as faith determining politics. It is systemic in that the whole system is ailing because of our idea that this world was made for us, humans. We are egocentric creatures, we are ethnocentric, we are religiocentric.

Our moralistic system needs to be overhauled; just as the scientific idea of the universe changed from geocentric to heliocentric, we need a massive shift in understanding about what it means to be human and live in this world.

Religion has propagated a belief that the world is ours, given from god for our pleasure and benefit. That idea is outdated and continues to cause undue suffering to millions of other species worldwide. Look at the factory farm which produces untold suffering to billions of farm animals daily. We're not discussing their dilemma, I notice.

Until we deal with the systemic problems facing us, the peripheral issues will remain unresolvable. Lets totally rethink this whole sysem...call another consitutional convention, bail ourselves out of this social morass.

I don's understand the difference between "faith" and "pretend". "Make-belief". Everybody can see the fallicies of other religions but not their own. Religions say; "Here I stand, I cannot do otherwise and I will blind myself to all evidence which does not support my position. How can such a stance be incorporated into a governance of a nation which wants to survive and prosper?

A strong case for the need of separation of church and state comes from the comments of the new Regents U. Law student, Carly who said, "I intend to help further the administration of justice and to do justice. And I believe in absolute truth, and I believe in absolutes. Not grey, you know, not relative truth but absolute truth. And that is what God's word is." By 'God's word' she means the Bible which she no doubt interprets as being literally true. The justice described in the Bible is frequently harsh and cruel and inconsistent with common decency. The Bible's justice can be oppressive and bigoted. "God's word" in the Bible is anything but clear. It is always subject to interpretation. Carly wants to enforce her uncompromising interpretation on American society. Lord, I help the constitution protects us all from this and other absolutist Christians.

John Kennedy had it exactly right when in 1960 he stated that the catholic church would not be in charge of his preisdency. Yet it was his moral perspective that led him to take a serous role in the civil rights of minorities. Theology cannot be public policy, no more than we can turn Iraq into a model democracy because that is the desire of some.

Those of us who have no interest in the discrimination of gays, as one example of theology that lost it's way. The safety and security, the opportunites of American citizenshp must be available to everyone whether they are religious, or are not religious. The bible must not become another way to modern inquisition. It is a complimentary document to the constititution, but it is not the constitution.

Faye krause

Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's.

I read all the posts and it makes me wonder if Religion is the root of all evil. Certainly much of the evil that takes place in the world is done in the name of Religion. As for being Anonymous, I fear the persecution of the Religious.

This is an utterly meaningless question.

One must define what one means by the words "separation of church and state". In Western civilization a separation of church and state has been in place since the ever since the Treaty of Westphalia in 1648. Basically, it established two institutions, one governing the church and one governing the state.

In some countries, the church became influential over the state, in others the state became influential over the church.

With the American revolution, these two institutions were made co-equal, each with its own separate realm and each to leave the other alone.

Unlike Islam, where the church, as in Iran and elsewhere, must approve candidates for public office and public policy initiatives can be rejected by the clergy, there is no religious test for office or policy in the United States. That is what is meant by an established religion of church and state, and no one on the Religious Right has even advocated an established church. To the contrary, they have called for religious liberty, that is, freedom of everyone to express their religious views as they wish.

Similarly, no one, not even the Left in this country, has advocated that church leaders gain the approval of the political leadership before assuming their duties. There is separate of church and state in the United States, and, as I say, no one is challenging that principle.

Having said that, there is no separation of faith and politics. People can say and do what they want as they interact in the political and public realms of speech. They just can't impose their views or positions on the body politic, whether those views are religious or secular. As public officials they must implement public policy as it is determined by state institutions such as our elected representatives. Needless to say, those representatives can be religious or atheists.

What people are really complaining about is the interaction of faith and politics. Rather than complaining, they should be debating their own point of view and stop worrying about some distorted perception of the question of separation of church and state.

This is an utterly meaningless question.

One must define what one means by the words "separation of church and state". In Western civilization a separation of church and state has been in place since the ever since the Treaty of Westphalia in 1648. Basically, it established two institutions, one governing the church and one governing the state.

In some countries, the church became influential over the state, in others the state became influential over the church.

With the American revolution, these two institutions were made co-equal, each with its own separate realm and each to leave the other alone.

Unlike Islam, where the church, as in Iran and elsewhere, must approve candidates for public office and public policy initiatives can be rejected by the clergy, there is no religious test for office or policy in the United States. That is what is meant by an established religion of church and state, and no one on the Religious Right has even advocated an established church. To the contrary, they have called for religious liberty, that is, freedom of everyone to express their religious views as they wish.

Similarly, no one, not even the Left in this country, has advocated that church leaders gain the approval of the political leadership before assuming their duties. There is separate of church and state in the United States, and, as I say, no one is challenging that principle.

Having said that, there is no separation of faith and politics. People can say and do what they want as they interact in the political and public realms of speech. They just can't impose their views or positions on the body politic, whether those views are religious or secular. As public officials they must implement public policy as it is determined by state institutions such as our elected representatives. Needless to say, those representatives can be religious or atheists.

What people are really complaining about is the interaction of faith and politics. Rather than complaining, they should be debating their own point of view and stop worrying about some distorted perception of the question of separation of church and state.

As I write this, the poll shows 39% of respondents answering "no." This, my friends, is especially ominous, given that this is a PBS website! (Have the fundamentalists come out and loaded the results?) This country, at least theoretically, HAS separation of church and state, despite its increasingly porous boundary. Once this current administration, at long last, will be out of power, we may have the opportunity to put things to right. We should not have governmental agencies making decisions to kow-tow to various religious groups, interestingly enough the most "conservative" and the most likely to want to interfere in others' lives, especially their bedrooms.

Religion is a matter of faith. Belief without proof. Government is founded on clear, logical thought. Empirical wisdom. By definition, they have no common ground.

AS the founders of both the religion and the state under discussion here believed in their separation (for the good of both) to artificially merge them is to destroy them both. The reason others admire and emulate America is because this freedom to worship (or not worship) allows citizens to get on with the tasks of living together amicably, which are difficult enough in themselves without throwing our religious preferences into the mix.

A lot of Americans believe in the inerrant truth of the Bible. So, they should observe Deuteronomy where it states disobedient sons should be stoned to death and they should believe Deuteronomy where it says if there is no proof that a woman is a virgin when she marries they should stone her. They should ask themselves why there are two stories of creation in the Bible and ask how God or why God would have told just one. It is hard to think they are both true. So if they aren't both true then somebody told a big fat lie.

I think it is time for Americans to read the Koran where women have rights which the Bible does not give. The Koran does not even advocate stoning them or bad boys either. I think Americans should realize they are getting to be vicious and vindictive. They consider the mote in their neighbor's eye and ignore the beam in their own. They always judge.

I think a lot of Americans don't realize how irrational the Bible is: filled with vicious and hateful things which are against the law so far.

In the meantime, think of the Taliban. It only wants to spread its belief one way or another just like the Christian right does.

definitely state and church should be seperated. i remember when the pledge of allegience did not have under god in it. even as a fourth or fifth grader, just having been taught about chuch and state seperation, i wonder how we could change "our pledge". but since sister josephine said we should and everyone agreed this was a strike against the godless communists, i went along. now i am silent when those two words come along and i say the pledge in its original form. i do not want my government involoved in any religion.

I resent the use of the terms "separation of church and state". That is a European notion, not an American one. It came out of the bloody French revolution.

No, that phrase is not in the United States Constitution, and never will be. Thomas Jefferson's letter to a church pastor was meant to reassure the church that the state would never interfere with their freedoms. Today we have proven Jefferson wrong. The State interferes with and suppresses religious freedom on a daily basis.

The "Church" is not the same as religion, and individuals are not churches and the Bible is not a religion. Too many ignorant people don't know enough about religion to make an informed decision as to whether it is a good thing or not. That is exactly the reason why our founding fathers, in their wisdom, set the protection of religious freedom into the Bill of Rights.

Since then, Freedom of Religion is not an option. The Bill of Rights says it exists, and it says the government can't restrict it in any way. If you disagree, then you are not an American and you do not support, protect, or defend the US Constitution. You don't like what it says, then see if you can pass an Amendment, or go live in Canada. No one has a right to turn this country's government into a Godless, uncivilized, amoral den of thieves and murderers. This is America and America is a Christian Nation with Christian morality as it root. The Supreme Court has already ruled in the affirmative on this.

As for Islam, Islam fails the religion test, it is a death cult not a religion, and it strangles every nation and people it invades. It is uncivilized and has no regard for life, liberty, or freedom, especial the western ideas of these principals. Christianity, and the Bible are the root of western civilization, western morality, and western law. Christianity supports the life, liberty, and freedom of even those who do not believe, so long as they don't injure themselves, other people, or society at large.

Secularism is also a death cult by proxy. Secular humanists tell everyone that they are against religion, but Secular Humanism IS a religion. They believe that THEY are God and that conflicts with everyone who believes that they are NOT God. So in reality EVERY human being alive today has a religion, they just call it by a different name. By attacking the moral and ethical foundations of civilization in this country, they weaken its strength and its ability to defend itself and to repel invaders. In this way, Secular Humanist are attempting national suicide and they mean to take the rest of us down with them.

The poll question is loaded to be one sided, the liberal side, so it is therefore bogus. No churches in the US are working to become the "official US church". Churches just want the Government to butt out of church affairs, and Christian's want to be allowed to practice their faith and their freedom of speech just like other Americans do, and just like the US Constitution says they can.

It is interesting to read that some who disagree with the idea of separation of Church and State fear that those of us who are for it are for "freedom FROM religion". As a person who has taken several religious paths throughout her life, I would unashamedly agree that I do desire a certain freedom from religion- or at least to have the right to follow the spiritual path that nature, life put before me- not any government. For if the policies of a State are to be determined by religion, which religion? Christian? If so, which sect? Individual sects, congregations within those, and indeed even religious struggles within the self can be as varied in thier political passions as religions themselves. I do believe that policies of state should be framed by MORALITY; but this is NOT the same as religion. Each religion may claim that a certain act is moral or not, but it is selfish and foolish to believe that any one religion owns the name of morality itself. Individuals who follow any religion, or no religion for that matter, can demonstrate an entire range of morality. Without actual human beings to interpret or misinterpret them, most religious creeds seem very MORAL. Unfortunately, human beings do determine these things, and human beings (from the lowliest church-goer to bishops, to Popes, Rabbis-anyone in power who's personal politics of the day may determine state policy for the rest of us) are sinners, if you will forgive my use of the term. The most vile will proclaim most vociferously that they only commit thier vile acts in the name of "God". No, moral claims within religions are too varied, too subject to context or fashion to use in setting policy. Look at the question of torture. Totrure is, by creed, determined to be NOT moral in most religions. Yet, juxtoposed with an act of terrorism and coupled with its use in morality plays on popular television shows, and it becomes decidedly more tolerable by those very religious organizations. With the backing of these religious leaders, our Government can then justify implemeting torture as POLICY. Excellent topic of discussion!

It struck me as naive the young lady legal graduate from Regent University declaring her intent to bring about the very integration of church and state that her ancestors struggled so hard to escape.

So, another misguided attempt at maverick, unbiased, level-headed journalism? The triumph of reason...really? Haven't you ever read Heidegger, do you not understand that science begins with philosophical presuppositions? Do you not understand that everyone has "a worldview" whether we call it "religion" or "reason" or "no worldview," which indeed actually ends up being a worldview.

Are we really so terrified and offended at Christians living their lives and getting jobs and being involved in society, government, schools?

Is this so independent and such a critical, penetrating use of this all-supreme, all-seeing, omnipotent, omnipresent "Reason?"

This dried up "Reason," this separation of Mind/Body that has polluted Western thought since Descartes separated us from the world and from our own bodies, from others?

Do we really want to watch some smug editor of some magazine, Reason, pretend like he actually has a clue about anything that's going on?

No Bill Moyers, we don't. Please find something interesting to talk about.

I was reading the posts here and took the poll. I must say as and Evangelical Judeo-Christian I am most troubled that their are so many, especially within these posts/blogs who put stock in "seperation of church and state". Its all about freedom of religion not freedom from religion. To each his own folks nothing more nothing less. Justice Hugo Black wrote his advise and consent on the basis of bigotry toward the Catholic faith because as a practicing suprimists and klansman he agreed to disagree with the Catholic faith and saw an opportunity to put the screws to the "Jesus Freaks". As for the Danbury Letters ole TJ had in mind of freedom to worship as we see fit and ought Jefferson was a practiicng deist as was Benjamin Franklin, they believe in the exsistence of God but choose to not believe in him as the rest do. In closing I want to say to one and all God loves you and I will be praying for you all. Until next time God speed and happy trails to you and yours and remember always to keep smiling until then...

P.S.
When Thomas Jefferson was President of the United States he was the first seting President to decree that the US Capitol should hold weekend bible studies and prayer meetings as in Jefferson's own words, "the Capitol is not being used on (weekends) Sunday's..."

I wish you liberals would quit whining about religion in America and take a stand against radical islam throughout the world. Iran and Saudi Arabia those are theocracies you should be concerned about! Too bad you are not as concerned about islam taking over America as you are about Pat Robertson! You liberals are worse than the blind leading the blind!!

I think of Mary, the mother of Baby Jesus, had a clue how religionists would corrupt her son's teachings, she would have had a cow.

How ironic, how sad, how tragic, and how frightening it is to watch pieces like the one about Pat Robertson trying to make his religion the law of the land at the same time that Americans are dying in the effort keep two factions of Islam from killing one another.

The overwhelming majority of bloodshed in world history is and has always been over religious tribalism and sectarianism, involving virtually every religion in the world at one time or another. If Pat Robertson were to have his way, we would be condemned to repeat the history we refuse to learn from.

Bill should do a program on "The Reverend Jackson" and "The Reverend Sharpton". Wonder what nice thing he can find to say about these two "Race Baiters"? I sure he would find their "Non Bigotry"
okay. So it is with Socialist and Liberals, two faced at every turn?
PS: I bet a liberal friend you wouldn't post this. We will see!

THE 150 YEAR WAR

Ever since Darwin’s “Origin of Species” was published the bible believers and the evolutionists have been on opposite sides. Scientists normally have long and vigorous debates before a new theory is accepted. This was not true about Darwin’s theory. Scientists were so tired of having chapter and verse being quoted from the bible for every discovery they made they readily embraced Darwin’s theory even though Darwin himself recognized weaknesses in his theory such as the Cambrian explosion and the lack of fossil evidence.

Now nearly a century and a half later no progress has been made in this age-old conflict. When the Intelligent design theory was threatening the evolutionist’s camp they swept it under the rug claiming it was only creationism in disguise. Further they claimed it was not science because God or the creative designer could not be proven to exist ignoring the fact that it was equally true that God or a designer could not be proven to not exist.

Surprisingly Einstein, the clearest thinking scientist of this or past ages recognized a cosmic intelligence so profound as to make human intelligence utterly insignificant. Numerous attempts were made to get him to offer his opinion on Darwin’s theory, but he always skillfully sidestepped the issue. He recognized his views were only his sincere beliefs and could not be backed up by scientific evidence.

I have just viewed the first two episodes of the PBS series "The Inquisition". If ever there is a valid argument for the separation of state and church, this docu-drama presents it!!!

I don't know if this will be posted or not, but didn't Jesus said "love thine enemy"? no place in the Bible have I seen, "kill thine enemy"!!! Hasn't America read (You Shall NOT Kill)? So, why if America boasts of being a Christian Country, is she killing so many inoscent Iraqis?

If church controlled state, it would mean the end of the world. This reminds me of something of the book of revelation where the church becomes corrupt by losing faith in the universal government of God and joining with a human government. This was done in ancient Europe when the church imposed religous traditions that weren't even biblical.

It's possible to postpone this prophecy, but it can't be stopped. The time will come as in the time of Noah when evil will be exceedingly great. In this prohpecy, people will support the church's power over state, but for others it will mean persecution for those who rather have faith in God's word concerning the Sabbath than the government's imposed religous laws. The others in between will have no choice but to choose sides. I would fear living in those times.

Government, by necessity, inflicts itself upon us via laws, even thought the laws are theoretically agreed on by consensus.

I don't want my religion inflicted upon me or anyone else. Why should it be?

I agree with all the entries on this blog thus far, some very eloquent. It is difficult to add more. It is apparent from the electorate responsbile for voting Bush into office that the greatest threat to Democracy is ignorance. Unfortunately the role of organized religion is to use faith to prey upon the ignorance and insecurity the unaware and by so doing undermine wisdom and truth. The obvious outcome if religious sects come to further dominate the political arena will be religious sectarian violence or the familiar, "my god is bigger and better than your god". As so many have said on this blog, are we really incapable of learning from history? Does the obvious opportunism and stupidity of George Bush and his administration not reflect the ignorance of too large a segment of Americans? ---and the low state of education in this country. Where are the student protests of the 60's? Not instituting the draft has been a brilliant strategy to foster widespread disinterest in the Iraq war.

Over half a century ago Robert Heinlein wrote a sci-fi book titled "Revolt in 2100" about a USA under the thumb of a "prophet." I recommend it as a cautionary tale, and especially the author's Postscript in which he discusses the possibility that this could actually happen, since "... almost any sect, cult, or religion will legislate its creed into law if it acquires the political power to do so ..." and so forth.

I believe it was Sinclair Lewis who said, "WHEN fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in a flag and carrying a cross." Church & state separation is good for the state and even better for churches.

Things usually have to get worse before they'll get better. Even though we have three Republican candidates who don't even believe in Evolution, I'm voting for Mitt. He has sworn allegiance to his prophet, believes in sacred underwear, and believes God was once a man, and he (and all good Mormons) can become equal to GOD! And the Christian Right thinks this is OK? Yes, the perfect candidate to make things "better." Hang on tight, folks.

I just finished President Jimmy Carters 2005 book, "Our Endangered Values". I highly recommend this book for those who have concerns over the impact of fundamentalist religion in this country.

I'm not really a religious person though I was raised in the Methodist church, so I have been exposed to religious training. President Carter has an extensive religious background but he also has a common sense approach to religious issues in a Democracy like ours. This is not a preachy book at all, in fact I was surprised to find that President Carter and his wife had recently left the Southern Baptist Convention after 70 years of membership. They totally disagreed with their newly adopted stance on women being submissive to their husbands. This is the common sense Christianity that we need in this country.

Fasicism and Theocracy are one in the same. Both political ideologies shun reason, open dialogue, dissent and the freedom of choice. Its not a coincidence that when capitalism fails to provide access to resources that will promote equality, it morphs into one of the above.

Fasicism and Theocracy are one in the same. Both political ideologies shun reason, open dialogue, dissent and the freedom of choice. It’s not a coincidence that when capitalism fails to provide access to resources that will promote equality, it morphs into one of the above.
This religious delusion which is upon us is becoming political reality.

What I've read in these posts
shows that most of us are knowledgeable about the issue of separation. Unfortunately people who visit don't Moyers are'nt represented here. Then the sparks would fly! We'd hear things about a Christian nation and God-fearing Founding Fathers. These are myths which need to be refuted.

As I see it, the problem is that people seem unable to distinguish God from religion. They are vastly different. God is within all of us and all of nature, a deep and powerful spirit. Religion is a man-made institution, political in nature, rooted in the belief that any particular religion is expressing God, and more so than another religion. God is not, and did not create (and Jesus did not die to create a) religion. None of these religions/fabrications of man, which are cleverly amplified by emotion, should be aligned with the governing arm of our institutions. Our Founders had a deep and abiding understanding of that, mandating the separation of church and state. Religious intrusion upon our government will further increase access to the financial cookie jar for those in the religion of choice and break the backs of the nonaligned.

May 11, 2007

The founding fathers of the US left us the legacy of the separation of church and state largely because they were fighting against what appeared to them the tyranical powers of their day: social institutions like monarchs and churches that imposed on individual freedom, on the (reasonably) unhindered pursuit by each individual of happiness. The founding fathers seemed content with the compromise: don't interfere with what I think is good to do and I won't interfere with what you think is good to do, so long as in pursuing our conceptions of what is good to do we don't hurt each other. Today, that sense of compromise seems unavailable to many people. Many people seem to think that if they truly believed in their personal vision of what is good, then they believe that they should seek every means to promote it, including the use of state enforcement of some sort. Bluntly, there seems some sort of desire on the part of such people to prove their faith by uncompromisingly imposing it on others. Perhaps the logic here is inevitable given the fact that with religion there are no objective signposts that one is faithful enough; one finds ones faith in sharing it, and, apparently, finds it more so in imposing it. Whatever the psychological source, though, the tendency does seem there to use the state as an expression of faith. This tendency is fostered by those, like George W. Bush, who exploit it for power. Sad.

When government and religion mix, people die. Every time.

As a boomer, seperation of church and state was at one point in my life the only thing I was truly proud of my country for. That pride is disappearing.

"...religious displays like nativity creches and menorahs, and the like are not the state sponsoring any faith over another." F. Doosey

Well, not as long as I am allowed to erect a statue of the Holy Serpent of Eternal Light, my lord and savior...and my friend is allowed to erect a statue of himself, as he believes himself to be God...and my other friend, the Satanist, gets to have a pentagram sculpture...etc., etc., etc. Since not one of these religions is any less rational (or provable) than any other, surely we have to allow them all, because, of course, we cannot allow the government to be biased against certain religions just because they are believed in by relatively few (who defines "too few," afterall, the majority?) - that's a central reason why European's abandoned their societies and came to the colonies in the first place.

It's not really the issue that church and state should be "separated", but the critical issue is that neither should control the other. Probably the best way to do this is to keep them separated. Odly enough, the greatest benefactor of a church-state separation is Religion because in a church controlled society one of the earliest casualties are the other religions. Thanks for the opportunity to congregate on your blog. John

The basic constitutional provision that the government shall not engage in the establishment of any particular religion or restrict the free exercise of religion, and the "separation of church and state" principle that has flowed from the language of the constitution is at the core of the attraction the United States had for my paternal ancestors when they elected to emmigrate to America. The tyrany and authoritarian practice of domineering churches led to much of the immigration to our shores. During the Colonial period, too, many of the communities that were established by the passionately religious also became authoritarian and oppressive (read Nathaniel Hawthorn's "Blithedale Romance" for example) in their own way. The clause that was written into the Constitution was a result of much lively and thoughtful debate, and the resulting language reflected, as much as from the immigration stories themselves, a wisdom gained from contemplating the disappointments witnessed in the Colonial period -- a period roughly as long as the age of the USA, by the way.
In my view, we have already gone too far in collaboratibe enterprise involving public tax-payer provided resources flowing through church-chartered and related projects and institutions. We also need to watch more critically, in my view, any buisness operation conducted under tax-exempt church auspicies, producing products that are then marketed in competition with products and services provided by actual tax-paying enterprises. It may not be enought merely to be insisting that church (or "faith-based") programs promise to be non-discriminating in their hiring and staffing practices. While important, that is almost proof-positive that we have already gone too far in allowing collaborative church and state programs, and funnelling tax dollars to or through those operations.
Keith Leafdale

Though our leaders in their choices should be expected to reflect their beliefs and values established by their religious training, however deep or shallow it may be. Be it Christian, Jewish, Atheist, Socialist, Satanist, Islam, Mormon, Catholic or other.
Church and state need to be seperate while the state must support and protect the church in it's compassionate charitable pursuits(It saves the state huge amounts of money.) and right of it's freedom to worship. Worship must not include the perscution or specially physical harm of others who believe differently. The Jewish faith and rooted from it/grafted into it, the Christian of which "love" is fundimental to both yet frequently "love" ill-defined at best resulted in such acts as the "Inquisitons", and on and on, sadly.
I was disappointed that the PBS special regarding the inquision ended before the inquisition. The Catholics pursued the Sephardic Jews to Mexico, South America and at least New Mexico as they tried to find a safe place to live and worship.
I see no disparity between true science and Biblical truths. I know Christian Scientists who hurt deeply when reporters make statements indicating there is a wide seperation between the two. However, I do question why if science feels we need to control pollution to protect the atmosphere they are not concerned with rockets etc. sent through the atmosphere delivering the pollutants directly to the Ozone.

Our country has the most diverse religious community on the planet precisely because we do have separation of church and state, notwithstanding occasional breaches by those more concerned with imposing their views than preserving the genius of the system our founders perceived.

It is the profound lack of historical perspective by the public that make these incursions possible and dangerous; paving the way for a twisted, pinched interpretation of someone's ideology to be shoved down all our throats.

Forgive them, Lord, for they know not what they do, indeed.

I don't think that there should be a state-sponsored church, one that gets mandatory support from the state. That said, I think that the idea of separation has grown ridiculous in the United States, to the point where any public display of belief is construed as intermingling of church and state. Public voluntary prayer, religious displays like nativity creches and menorahs, and the like are not the state sponsoring any faith over another. What so many forget is that the First Amendment prohibiting "an establishment of religion", i.e. a state church, also prohibits laws preventing "the free exercise thereof" - in other words, people are completely free to believe as they wish (provided they don't violate someone else's rights to life/liberty), but the government can't sponsor one church over another through laws or finances.

I suggest that everyone unaquainted with Church history read Karen Armstrong's books starting with The Gospel According to Woman and then proceed on to Kevin Phillips's latest book. Or, for that matter, Jimmy Carter's.
I believe these are enormously dangerous times we live in and that the erosion of our constitutionally granted right to freedom of and from religion lies at the very core of that danger.


The Spanish Inquisition should be lesson enough as to why church and state should be separate. It sruck me watching the PBS Special on the Inquisition just how much the methods and rationale of the inquisitors resembled those of Nazi Germany and Stalin. Even Jesus suggested that church and state should be separate -- "Render unto Caesar that which is Caesar's and unto God that which is God's." It has always been those people who want to exert absolute power who want church and state melded. Our Founders deliberately forged our Consitution to distribute power, and had the wisdom to to separate the twin oppressors of the past.

I'm beginning to thing that all political seats should be offered by some lottery system. Yep, it's your time to be president, whether you like it or not.

Plato thought that it was the place of the 'philosopher kings' to rule, maybe that is the way we need to go.

As long as politics attracts those whose desire it is to gain from the political system, we will be ruled by the self indulgent.

I voted that church and state should NOT be separate. However, the question to overly simple. Strictly church and state need to be separate for all the reasons cited above. But if the notion of church is expanded to refer to not a particular church or even to an organized religion, but to the laws of nature that link us all and that dictate our health and happiness: good pure food and air and water; security; love; mutuality; etc. then the state must incorporate the territory of "church." Otherwise, what is the purpose of the state?

although the state have always been and will always be influenced by the faith (Christianity in the case of the U.S.) of the leaders and people in power, the state should be as secular as possible so that it can continue to do its job of making room for both science and religion.

~C

The closer the church gets to the state, the more the political process will work to corrupt the church. Do the faithful really want that?

When church and state are one ..... do we still get to choose which church? Does Pat Robertson know how many Mormons, or Catholics there are here in the US? He could find himself and his pititfull group outnumbered. There are some terrible historical examples of church and state being the same. Remember the inquisition? How about Afganistan? Churches are the most intolerant of others, because it's all in the name of "GOD".

The United States is a beacon of freedom for the rest of the world to emulate. It is a republic not a theocracy. Why? The founding fathers looked to Europe and saw the alliance of State Governments with Religion. The alliance allowed the Government to exercise religious authority and political authority over its citizens. Absolute power is far too much power for mere mortals to have. The founders saw this and rejected the idea of an official State Religion. We need governments of men and women, people with whom we can argue and throw out if we cannot reach an agreement. We need laws that flow from the people and are enforced by elected governments. We need governments of men and women who understand that all people have a right to worship or not worship their chosen deity. When governments get into the religion business one thing is clear. One form of one religion is chosen to the exclusion of all others. This is never the end of troubles, it is the beginning of trouble. Insist on your right to worship as you please. Insist on your brothers and sisters right to worship as they please. Render to the government that which is the governments and to your chosen God that which is Gods. Do not render to the Government the right to establish close ties with religion or to form an official state religion. If the alliance between Church and State rises again then it will cloak itself in the divine right to rule and will extinguish America’s beacon of freedom.

The motivation behind merging Church and State appears to be the fallacious belief that practitioners of a religion are capable of ethical conduct. In fact, the opposite often appears true: the supposedly religiously devout often advocate for the meanest most short sighted public policies such as being pro-birth without giving a damn what happens to the child after birth, or, murdering thousands of innocent Iraqis so we can drive our pristine SUVs with the little fishes on the back.

Although, I believe strongly in the Christian faith I am repelled by any form of fundamentalism. It does not matter whether it is Islamist or Christians who would trample the rights of others through political processes. Merging religion with politics is dangerous. This was clear to this country's Christian founders.

Yes, emphatically yes...

Church and state make strange bedfellows. By and large, religion denies scientific theory, which alone makes the matter (as far as I'm concerned) moot. I thought the point of modernity was to shed our old skins, to integrate our intellect into how we relate to this world and each other.

Instead, it seems that we're developing a dual track evolution, with half the population creeping back into the dark corners from whence we came, while the other half threatens to unleash their true potential on the world...

Very exciting times, to say the least.

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