Sunday, December 10, 2006

The Separation between Church and State: Separating Fact from Fiction

Separation of Church and State or Separation of Church from State?
Does it matter?

In light of the recent controversy spurred on by Dennis Prager's column (and its follow-up), reading this should shed some light.

In light of the ongoing struggle to fend off the strict separationists from victory in the courts, reading this should help.

In light of the seeming never-ending claptrap that comes from some judges and justices, reading this should clarify the real issue.

In light of living in a world where many think the U.S. Constitution (and its Bill of Rights) was set up to keep religious-based ideas out of policy decision-making, out of public discourse, out of the government in any and all ways, out of the public square, reading this should give a sufficient amount of support for holding the view that the ACLU et al. are just plain wrong.

What is this?

It is “Origins and Dangers of the ‘Wall of Separation’ Between Church and State” by Daniel L. Dreisbach, published in the October 2006 issue of Imprimis (and the subscription is even free!):
There was a consensus among the founders that religion was indispensable to a system of republican self-government. The challenge the founders confronted was how to nurture personal responsibility and social order in a system of self-government. Tyrants and dictators can use the whip and rod to force people to behave as they desire, but clearly this is incompatible with a self-governing people. In response to this challenge the founders looked to religion (and morality informed by religious faith) to provide the internal moral compass that would prompt citizens to behave in a disciplined manner and thereby promote social order and political stability. The literature of the founding era is replete with this argument, no example more famous than George Washington’s statement in his Farewell Address of September 19, 1796:

Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, Religion and morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of Patriotism, who should labour to subvert these great Pillars of human happiness, these firmest props of the duties of Men and citizens . . . . And let us with caution indulge the supposition, that morality can be maintained without religion . . . . [R]eason and experience both forbid us to expect that National morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.

Believing that religion and morality were indispensable to social order and political prosperity, the founders championed religious liberty in order to foster a vibrant religious culture in which a beneficent religious ethos would inform the public ethic and to promote an environment in which religious and moral leaders could speak out boldly, without restraint or inhibition, against corruption and immorality in civic life. Religious liberty was not merely a benevolent grant of the civil state; rather, it reflected an awareness among the founders that the very survival of the civil state and a civil society was dependent on a vibrant religious culture, and religious liberty nurtured such a religious culture. In other words, the civil state’s respect for religious liberty is an act of self-preservation. The unfortunate consequence of 20th-century jurisprudence is that the First Amendment, designed to protect and promote a vital role for religion in public life, has been replaced with a wall of separation that, in the hands of the modern judiciary, has restricted religion’s place in the polity.

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