This week we examine the separation of church and state in America’s republican form of government. This has been a contentious issue in American history, particularly in the past seventy years.
Week 4 Required Readings (please see link below)
The Rise and Fall of Puritanism: The Attempt to Create an American Theocracy:
John Winthrop: Selections from “A Model of Christian Charity” (1630)
Jonathan Edwards: The Great Awakening: “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” (1741)
Benjamin Franklin: “A Witch Trial at Mount Holly” (1730; note: this is a work of satire—fiction—not of journalism)
Separation of Church and State:
Michael Novak: “Faith and the American Founding”
Marci Hamilton: “The Ten Commandments and American Law: Why Some Christians’ Claims to Legal Hegemony Are Not Consistent with the Historical Record” (Sept. 11, 2003)
Thomas Jefferson: Letter to the Danbury Baptists, Jan. 1, 1802
Daniel Dreisbach: “The Mythical ‘Wall of Separation’”
Christopher Clausen: “America’s Design for Tolerance” (2007)
Book Week 1-3 Readings
Book Week 4-6 Readings (only use pgs 1 – 40)
Compose an essay of at least 2000 words but no more than 3000 words (not including your references list) in which you discuss in depth the following topic, making sure to offer your critical thinking opinions (opinions plus reasons and evidence) of relevant ideas from the Weeks 1-4 readings (all pgs in book 1 – 3 and pgs 1 – 40 in book 4-6 of pdf links can be used for this assignment).
Since its 1947 decision in Everson v. Board of Education (with an opinion written by Justice Hugo Black), the Supreme Court has further considered and limited the active role that religion or religious institutions can play in the public sphere—that is, on government property. In your essay, present an argument for one of the two following positions:
(a) Faith groups and institutions should be allowed to form political parties and they should attempt to gain influence in the workings of government for their views and values by entering the realm of political discourse and attempting to elect their own politicians.
(b) Faith groups and institutions should not be allowed to form political parties and they should not attempt to gain influence in the workings of government for their views and values by entering the realm of political discourse and attempting to elect their own politicians.
Note: In answering these questions, you will specifically want to reference and critique, wherever possible, relevant ideas from the Week 1 readings on values; Plato, Aristotle, Locke, Jefferson, from Week 2; the Week 3 readings on interpretation of the Constitution, and the Week 4 readings listed above. You may also bring in up to two additional sources that you have found in your own research of the topic.
Employ APA format for both in-text citations and your references list. Abstracts and running heads are not required. Use the Major Essay Grading Rubric for guidance on how to write this paper successfully and well.
Very Important for All Students: All Major Essays must be submitted to Turnitin.com for a plagiarism check before you send them to your instructor through the Assignment area (this is explained in 3 below).
Important Assignment Guidelines: Not following these guidelines will have a negative impact on your grade for the week.
Write in Arial font, size 14 (chosen from the drop-down menus on the create thread box in the Discussion Board forum), unless otherwise directed by your instructor.
Reference specific ideas from the assigned readings that illustrate these values. (See notes above for specifics on this). Always name the author whose ideas you are discussing (use the author’s full name the first time you refer to him/her; after that, identify authors by their last names).
Provide in-text citations for all ideas, opinions, and facts derived from the course readings, whether you simply refer to them, paraphrase them (put them entirely into your own words), or quote them. Place the in-text citation at the end of your sentence but before the period that ends your sentence. The in-text citation should give the author’s last name (unless you’ve used it already in your sentence), the year of publication (if known), and the appropriate page number(s) from the reading (if page numbers are used in the online text of the essay). Do not use the title of the reading unless it does not have an author).
Provide a References list at the end of your essay that includes bibliographic references for every reading cited in your essay.
Note: Your references list does not count toward your minimum word count.
Center the word References (do not underline it, place it in quotation marks, or place it in bold or larger size font).
Present your references, listed alphabetically by author’s last name.
Here is an example of a references list entry:
Locke, J. (1689). Of the beginning of political societies. In Two treatises of government (Chapter VIII). Retrieved from http://idcontent.bellevue.edu/content/CAS/eBooks/Kirkpatr/Book1.pdf
Separation of Church and State in America’s Republican form of Government.
Religious practice and beliefs remain to be vibrant in the United States of America most likely due to the clear separation of the church and state. Immigration brings different and new religious practices and traditions even as the indigenous religions which most Americans are affiliated to adapt to the changing needs of the population. Almost ninety percent of Americans profess a particular faith which influences their politics, culture and public policy. Despite the religious aspect that permeates in the nation the United States is among the few countries in the world that avoid the establishment of a state religion. As a result the law prohibits the government from endorsing, supporting or promoting any particular religion at the expense of another. The government cannot compel prayer or worship, appoint religious leaders, provide interpretations of scriptures or even define statements of faith. The arrangement is widely referred to as the separation of the state and the church due to the predominance of the Christian community which also applies to synagogues, mosques and all religious institutes of any kind (Boisi 2016).
Although most Americans find the arrangement of a separation between state and religion familiar and necessary the rest of the world does not understand the reason for the separation yet most of the Americans are Christians. If the majority believe in the existence of God it is a wander why they don’t push to inculcate the believe system in their governance. It also intrigues people around the world how religious beliefs have flourished without the support and protection of the state. Since the state government plays an important role in matters regarding religious freedom. The judiciary holds the authority to nullify any law that violates the interpretation of the constitution and it’s the body that has the exclusive authority to interpret the constitution including the provisions concerning religious freedom (Gutting, 2016). The constitutional interpretations change with time as the judiciary applies the law in given contexts thus their decisions have a high likelihood of affecting the church state relations for years to come. All the more reason why institutions and faith groups should be allowed to form political parties and attempt to gain influence in the workings of government for their views and values by entering the realm of political discourse and attempting to elect their own politicians in order to safeguard their beliefs and practices. Without a representative in the positions of authority it would be easy for them to lose their freedom of worship as it has already been experienced in the schools.
The moment when the state and religion became separate was marked in a period of fifteen years in the seventies. It was marked by political trial and error, war in a bid to form a government that was suitable for all people. The wrangled followed the decision to create a separate secular government to represent the religious people which have been the trend that was kept to date. The founding moment is marked by the declaration of independence where it was argues that human rights were God given but must be protected and regulated by a government whose powers are given by the people and not from divine sanction or royal lineage. According to the view of that time God is to be acknowledged as the sole creator and the source of all rights but the government which is human and not divine has its power derived from the people who elect officials into the various seats and not from God. The declaration of independence is highly esteemed in the American culture since it is a document that marked the independence of the United States as a nation and also formed the foundational values of the nation. Additionally another document that safeguards the rights of the people was set into place after the declaration of independence was instituted; it’s referred to as the bill of rights which gave a promise to the people that their rights would be reserved. The bill of rights guaranteed the right to free speech, religious freedom, association, unlawful search and seizure amongst other rights. The two important documents formed the foundation of the distinction between the state and the church (Gutting, 2016).
The founding fathers were well aware of the range of options that they has as they contemplated the suitable relationship between the state and the church. The American colonies in the past made toleration of churches that are established a necessity despite the religious diversity of the time. Thus the founding fathers had a choice to make on whether to carry on with the trend or make a change. The traditional establishment of tethering the state and the church allowed each institution to reinforce each other. The logic behind it was that a church that is establishedcan reinforce the authority of the government by lending some of its divine legitimacy to officials and civil laws and by helping shape its congregants into law abiding and virtuous citizens. The state on the other hand established the church by promoting its teachings either in direct or indirect ways. For example the state can suppress alternative religious practice, provide financial assistance for church buildings and ministerial salaries, compel attendance at worship services and provide a political status for religious leaders. The advantage that the given arrangement had over the present one is that the society had high moral values and there were no parallel and heated views that threatened the peace and stability of the nation (McConnell, 2016).
By the time the founding fathers were contemplating on the path to follow, there was a great liberty of conscience that was widely accepted as a core right of human beings by most Americans and the right should not be in any way be infringed by the government. However what we do not realize is recognizing this liberty did not require a complete separation of the state and church. Doing away with the church in political leadership and governance would all the more abridge the right of conscience since there was no one who is affiliated to a religious institution to represent the people. Creating a secular government cannot propagate religious rights because after all that is not their specialty and concern. It is like forcing a doctor to figure out how a rocket should function and which parte need to be put together for it to be launched successfully. The purpose was correct and in line but the process was not an effective measure to ensuring the liberty of conscience as we have experienced in current times. The government prevents the freedom of conscience and worship in some settings such as work and school yet the religious experience is not external but internal. Thus it does not make sense to control the internal with external measures.
The government of today places restrictions on religious practices in so many ways. Sabbatarian observance, marriage evangelism, and religious dress codes are amongst the religious practices amongst many that have received hearings in the Supreme Court. The pledge of allegiance was also altered to remove the connotation of God amongst many other civic obligations. Public schools are required by the state to speak for the government since they are an entity of the government and thus forbid them from endorsing a particular religion (McConnell, 2016). This restriction has a great implication on the children, the curriculum and activities they engage in all have to be far from any religious connotation. The government also restricts any religious display on public property which is viewed as establishing a particular religion.
One would wonder if the government was established to protect the rights of people including the liberty of conscience then how did it become an offense to speak the truth about life and death and to say one’s name in school. It does not make much sense how serving God isagainst the law of men and which law does one go against to have faith in a particular belief and how can beliefs that supersede human nature be against the law of men and a person be convicted of actions that proceed from a spiritual association. The law seems against people associating with a being that is not physical and what charges can be set against them in a human court of law without a clear understanding of the inward experience of their faith. In my opinion this is an infringement of the right of people to feel and experience what they desire.An infringement of their right to choose, to worship. Guilt by association should not be the case for a nation that has majority of its people as believers in a particular faith. Choosing leaders who do not represent the rights, needs and desires of people is not in sync with what a democratic nation stands for’ a government for the people and by the people. What began as a desire to ensure the rights of people are safe guarded has resulted into the converse opposite happening (McConnell, 2016).
Therefore given the path that the nation has taken and how it seems that the course was diverted from the original purpose it is for the benefit of all if institutions and faith groups should be allowed to form political parties and attempt to gain influence in the workings of government for their views and values by entering the realm of political discourse and attempting to elect their own politicians in order to safeguard their beliefs and practices. It is the only sure way to steer the country back to its initial course because if the current trend continues it means the rights of the secular population is propagated and those of the religious ones are infringed.
Political parties that are founded on religion would allow all people to be represented well in regards to their beliefs and reduce the strife between different religions. Beliefs and convictions form the foundation of behavior, when people feel they are caged their normal reaction is to try and break away from the cage. When the people’srights neither are nor heard and their needs are not met what ensues is a revolution resulting from lack of faith in their leadership to execute the mandate that the people believe they should be enforcing in their office. Providing free competition between secular and religious political parties would not only provide an avenue for people to air their concerns but would also make people feel they are involved in the process of governance and provide an aspect of equality and fairness between the secular and religious worlds. Sensitive issues such as abortion, religious restrictions in schools as well as the issues of sexual orientation could openly be discussed and addressed without a percentage of the population feeling they have been left out of the discussion and their views have not been duly represented (Gutting, 2016).
The problems of moral decay would also be addressed and a healthier nation would be established which would have a significant effect on the development of the nation as a whole. Additionally just like in the earlier days when the church and state were not separate, the government can have a voice in the church indirectly. The religious leaders can be able to push for the law of the land to be followed and can reinforce the authority of the government by lending some of its divine legitimacy to officials and civil laws and by helping shape its congregants into law abiding and virtuous citizens (Gutting, 2016).. The government in turn can incorporate some of religious teachings either directly or indirectly while incorporating what is acceptable for all religious groups without infringing on the rights of any. The symbiosis can help quench the religious motivated wars by giving the people a voice in a reasonable and workable manner. After all the government is for the people and by the people thus the people should be the priority as well as their rights and freedoms in all given institutions and governance.
Boisi Center.(2016). Retrieved 2 June 2016, from https://www.bc.edu/content/dam/files/centers/boisi/pdf/bc_papers/BCP-ChurchState.pdf
Gutting, G. (2016). Should Religion Play a Role in Politics?. Opinionator. Retrieved 2 June 2016, from http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/07/27/should-religion-play-a-role-in-politics/?_r=1
McConnell, M. (2016). Why Protect Religious Freedom?. Yalelawjournal.org. Retrieved 2 June 2016, from http://www.yalelawjournal.org/review/why-protect-religious-freedom