Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Faith and the Fourth: Wave the flag for separation of church and state

One of my favorite guest bloggers over at The Carpetbagger Report, Morbo, has a great post up about Separation of Church and State and the unique way in which America deals with it. It is a great post and should be read in its entirety, but here is a snippet:

Our founders had lots of good ideas, of course — but few can be called truly American, since most of them were borrowed from other societies. The ancient Greeks had democracy. The Romans had republican government for a while. Habeas Corpus? It’s in the Magna Carta.

This is not to say that the United States did not refine or improve these concepts. We did. But our founders did not come up with them. They did devise the American church-state model from whole cloth. From the research I’ve done, it seems that no other nation or peoples set up religious freedom the way we did with a two-pronged guarantee of free exercise of religion and no establishment. I call it what it is: separation of church and state. And it works.

Prior to the creation of the United States, some countries experimented with toleration. They extended religious freedom, but usually within the framework of some type of established church or preferred faith. This was a step in the right direction but did not go far enough. It’s nice to be allowed to exist, to be tolerated, but real liberty finds no refuge on such a fragile platform.


Before our Constitution, the idea that government could survive without the prop of religion was unthinkable. After the Constitution and Bill of Rights were ratified, some ministers were sure the new nation would not survive. After all, its governing charter was secular and God was not even appealed to in a general way.

The descendents of these people are still with us today. Every time I hear Bill O’Reilly rail against “secular progressives” — the moron actually thinks “secular” is a dirty word! — or listen to some TV preacher rant about how we need to be a “Christian nation” I can only shake my head. They make the same mistake every theocrat in history has made: assuming it’s their expression of faith that will be embraced by the state. In a country with hundreds, if not thousands, of Christian sects, chances are one version will triumph over others. Better to put them all on equal footing.

Too many people do not appreciate the truly American character of church-state separation. They assail the principle. They constantly try to sneak a little religion back into the public schools, post religious codes at courthouses or tax people to support “faith-based” initiatives. Some people have never reconciled themselves to the system our founders pioneered that works so well. All we can do is pledge to keep fighting.

Oh Morbo honey, don’t you worry, on this battle I’m willing to take up arms and fight to the death. Just wave James Dobson’s picture in this momma’s face and there'll be no stopping me.


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