Saturday, February 25, 2012

"Separation of Church and State?" Or Elimination of the Church Altogether?

Nowhere in the Constitution does the phrase “the separation of church and state” exist. (Thomas Jefferson first coined the phrase in 1802 - more than a decade after the Constitution was ratified.) Yet many treat the term as though it is enshrined in the Constitution.
Those who bandy about the term “separation of church and state” argue that it means church and society remain completely separate from one another. Religion and government must not intersect, and society must not show a “preference” for one religion over another. Society must remain agnostic: ANY mention of any form of deity must be eliminated from the public eye altogether. (Never mind that by doing so, the government has already adopted a form of religion - irreligion.)
This is actually only the tip of the iceberg. In actuality, the loudest criers of the “separation of church and state” want more than the mere separation of the two powers. Those who argue for the “separation of church and state,” really want religion to be subordinate to the state – and eventually, replaced by the state altogether.
Not coincidentally, proponents of the “separation of church and state” support an ever-growing, metastasizing state. In a sense, a leviathan state becomes a new religion, touching on all aspects of life. The “public good” – as determined by government experts – develops a set of new rules that regulate human behavior just as strictly as religion's moral codes.
The recent decision by the Obama administration to force insurance companies to cover contraception for all employers – including religious employers who serve people of other faiths – is a perfect example of this trend. The defenders of this decision demand that even faiths that believe contraception is immoral be forced to violate their consciences and pay insurance companies for something they believe to be evil – for the sake of the “greater good” of society, as determined by medical "experts."
As such, statists demand that the church to have absolutely no voice in the governance of a society. They desire that religion become irrelevant, so that the state can then supplant the church as the sole arbiter of authority.
But to fully replace religion, the state must supplant religion completely – by eliminating it. In effect, religion must be forgotten entirely for the state to take the place of religion. So every hint of religion must be expunged altogether from society.
Those who seek the “separation of church and state” are in reality seeking the isolation and elimination of the church.


  1. The phrase “separation of church and state” can be found in the U.S.S.R. constitution. A very godless society as they closed the church buildings to be used for other thing or they were destroyed.

  2. Separation of church and state is a bedrock principle of our Constitution much like the principles of separation of powers and checks and balances. In the Constitution, the founders did not simply say in so many words that there should be separation of powers and checks and balances; rather, they actually separated the powers of government among three branches and established checks and balances. Similarly, they did not merely say there should be separation of church and state; rather, they actually separated them by (1) establishing a secular government on the power of "We the people" (not a deity), (2) saying nothing to connect that government to god(s) or religion, (3) saying nothing to give that government power over matters of god(s) or religion, and (4), indeed, saying nothing substantive about god(s) or religion at all except in a provision precluding any religious test for public office. Given the norms of the day, the founders' avoidance of any expression in the Constitution suggesting that the government is somehow based on any religious belief was quite a remarkable and plainly intentional choice. They later buttressed this separation of government and religion with the First Amendment, which constrains the government from undertaking to establish religion or prohibit individuals from freely exercising their religions. The basic principle, thus, rests on much more than just the First Amendment.

    It is important to distinguish between the "public square" and "government" and between "individual" and "government" speech about religion. The constitutional principle of separation of church and state does not purge religion from the public square--far from it. Indeed, the First Amendment's "free exercise" clause assures that each individual is free to exercise and express his or her religious views--publicly as well as privately. The Amendment constrains only the government not to promote or otherwise take steps toward establishment of religion. As government can only act through the individuals comprising its ranks, when those individuals are performing their official duties (e.g., public school teachers instructing students in class), they effectively are the government and thus should conduct themselves in accordance with the First Amendment's constraints on government. When acting in their individual capacities, they are free to exercise their religions as they please. If their right to free exercise of religion extended even to their discharge of their official responsibilities, however, the First Amendment constraints on government establishment of religion would be eviscerated. While figuring out whether someone is speaking for the government in any particular circumstance may sometimes be difficult, making the distinction is critical.

    Nor does the constitutional separation of church and state prevent citizens from making decisions based on principles derived from their religions. Moreover, the religious beliefs of government officials naturally may inform their decisions on policies. The principle, in this context, merely constrains government officials not to make decisions with the predominant purpose or primary effect of advancing religion; in other words, the predominant purpose and primary effect must be nonreligious or secular in nature. A decision coinciding with religious views is not invalid for that reason as long as it has a secular purpose and effect.

    Wake Forest University recently published a short, objective Q&A primer on the current law of separation of church and state–as applied by the courts rather than as caricatured in the blogosphere. I commend it to you.

  3. @Doug Indeap:
    When I wrote this article, I had in mind the modern conception of what the principle had become in the minds of statists, not the intention of the Fathers themselves. But I did not make that clear in my article. You are right to call me on this, and I have added an editor's note to my article to that end. Thank you for your fair criticism.


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