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August 9, 2000
8:05 AM   Subscribe

In polls, the Separation of Church and State does not rank as one of the top election issues for many Americans. However, with recent Supreme Court rulings on the posting of the 10 Commandments, aid to religious schools and school prayer, the debate has been very contentious with numerous groups both for and against. Now as the election approaches, Bush is for more Church in our State and Gore generally is for the continued separation.
posted by quirked (16 comments total)

 
aren't religious people creepy though? I heard Gore is good friends with Anton Szandor LaVey. ifyouknowwhatimean.
posted by tiaka at 8:54 AM on August 9, 2000


So maybe I'm just not getting something here. Are the people linked to above (and all the fundamentalists of every stripe from Kansas & wherever) just flat-out ignoring the constitution as written?

And what do you mean, creepy? (and Gore's apparently friends with Michael Moore, too. Which proves just as little.)
posted by chicobangs at 9:32 AM on August 9, 2000


As more people gravitate away from "accepted" faiths and seek answers which work for the individual rather than for tradition and bloodlines, the die-hard creepy zealots will get louder and more distressed for an end to the separation of church and state. The way parts of America used to work, Christianity used to be a given. It was as certain as gravity. For some it still is, but it no longer holds the power and control it once did. The days of "blind faith" are for many, very over.

It will be difficult, but with patience and compassion, we will drag the more closed-minded members of our society into the 21st century, kicking and screaming. Hopefully, someday, they will thank us for it.

Ifni.
posted by ZachsMind at 10:10 AM on August 9, 2000


Zach couldn't have said it better. At times like this I feel very very thankfull for not living in US.
I hope that someday those people wake up and realise that there are different people on the world, even in US. Everybody else does not think like you. Instead of doing this whole thing you can just go ahead and erase that First Ammendment that you're all so proud of.
posted by Jups at 11:45 AM on August 9, 2000


perhaps the government should take the words "In God We Trust" off of its legal tender if there is to be a clear separation of church and state.
posted by alethe at 12:40 PM on August 9, 2000


The way I understand the doctrine of "separation of church and state," it doesn't forbid religious influence in politics, but rather forbids the government from interfering in the people's right to practice any religion.
posted by gyc at 1:03 PM on August 9, 2000


Well, "separation of church and state," like any other part of the Constitution, has been interpreted in different ways at different times. It's obvious from our history that in the past, the amount of Christianity bundled into various parts of our government was quite high indeed. And a lot of these people are looking to get some of that back. I hope, and fully expect, that they'll fail.

There's been a more novel church-state debate going on here in New York in the last couple of weeks, as a court struck down a 118-year-old state law that regulated the inspection and labelling of kosher foods.
posted by aaron at 1:25 PM on August 9, 2000



gyc, it also forbids to government from doing anything that promotes one religion over another. So students can't be led in a prayer of a particular religion by a school (government). Also, no government institution can post the 10 Commandments because it is perceived as an endorsement of Christianity.
posted by quirked at 1:27 PM on August 9, 2000


I'd love it if "In God We Trust" was taken off U.S. money.

GYC, separation of church and state may not forbid religious influence in politics, but since it forbids the gov't from interfering in the right to practice any religion it tacitly forbids the gov't from voicing religious sentiments which would interfere with an individual's own religious beliefs.

We don't allow the 10 Commandments to be posted in gov't buildings because that interferes with individuals' religious beliefs if they're not Christian, by displaying principles from Christian religions while ignoring all others.

For the same reason, we don't allow statues of Buddha to be placed in gov't buildings; that would interfere with individuals' religious beliefs in the same way (plus I believe both Muslims and Christians would view it as a false idol, so it would particularly offend them).

Christians who wish to post the Commandments in gov't buildings are arguably contradicting Jesus's own teachings. "Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's..."

Also, Jesus enjoined his followers to pray only in private: "But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet; and when thou hast shut the door, pray to thy Father... And thy Father, which seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly." (Mat. VI. 6-8)
posted by wiremommy at 1:31 PM on August 9, 2000


Anton LaVey is dead, for pete's sake. I don't know if that was intended as a joke, tiaka, but you do realize that Gore is a born-again Christian?

Of course the GOP claim that by "allowing" school prayer they're actually keeping government out of religion (at least, that's approximately the argument used in the Texas-football-game case). I'm not impressed. Even so, I'm more the type who would view this sort of thing as a challenge -- you know, get a Muslim student to call muezzin. Wouldn't that be enjoyable, just for the expressions on people's faces?
posted by dhartung at 3:13 PM on August 9, 2000


And what do you mean, creepy?
I think I can jump in here and explain... Christianity (and Judaism and others) = cult. Plain and simple. "Creepy", meaning that they are all brainwashed and not trustworthy. Spooky. Being around a Christian is like being alone in a dark alley on the wrong side of town.
I'm torn. I can't vote for any of these religous freaks. I just won't.

posted by internook at 4:22 PM on August 9, 2000


"I do not find in orthodox Christianity one redeeming feature."
"Christianity is the most perverted system that ever shone on man."
"We discover [in the gospels] a groundwork of vulgar ignorance, of things impossible, of superstition, fanaticism and fabrication."
-Thomas Jefferson

posted by lagado at 5:04 PM on August 9, 2000


"Whenever we read the obscene stories, the voluptuous debaucheries, the cruel and torturous executions, the unrelenting vindictiveness with which more than half the Bible is filled, it would be more consistent that we called it the word of a demon than the word of God. It is a history of wickedness, that has served to corrupt and brutalize mankind; and, for my own part, I sincerely detest it, as I detest everything that is cruel."
-Thomas Paine
posted by lagado at 5:12 PM on August 9, 2000


[aaron] Well, "separation of church and state," like any other part of the Constitution, has been interpreted in different ways at different times

[wiremommy] separation of church and state may not forbid religious influence in politics, but since it forbids the gov't from interfering in the right to practice any religion it tacitly forbids the gov't from voicing religious sentiments which would interfere with an individual's own religious beliefs.

The actual text of the Constitution does not include the phrase "separation of church and state." Although that's the name we give the concept that the writers of the Constitution were trying to get across in the First Amendment:

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."

Further, the Fourteenth Amendment stipulates that the States were also subject to these rules: "No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws."

The whole issue of organized school prayer or posting the Ten Commandments in government buildings has to do with the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment, that Congress may not make any law respecting an establishment of religion. I take that to mean that the government is not allowed to favor one religion over another, which organized prayer and posting of specific religious documents in government buildings would imply.

Of course, this argument could also apply to the "In God We Trust" motto on our coinage, although the Supreme Court ruled long ago (in the 50s?) that that specific phrase was all right because it didn't specify a specific god or anything. Although it seems to me that it pretty much presumes Christianity or Judaism to the exclusion of polytheism, atheism, or even other forms of monotheism.

Oh, and internook, I find it creepy that you seem to be so frightened of anyone who calls themself a Christian.
posted by daveadams at 7:29 AM on August 10, 2000


Also, no government institution can post the 10 Commandments because it is perceived as an endorsement of Christianity

Whoops! Didn't the Ten Commandments get passed down to Moses? Wasn't Moses the liberator of the Jews from Egyptian slavery?

Really, in order to understand the purpose of the Establishment Clause, it's necessary to know a little history, speficially the English civil wars between Catholics and Protestants in the hundred or so years preceeding the writing of the Constitution. Remeber, Henry VIII broke away from the Roman Catholic Church and created the Anglican Church - clearly an "established state religion" - and all hell broke loose from there as the power fo the government was used to cleanse heretics, first on one side, then the other, and so on. (Not, mind you, the first time government power has been abused in the name of religion.)
The Establishment Clause was never meant to prohibit the government from acknowledging the existence of religion, but from prescribing religious dogma and from having a church as an ogran of the state. Never did the Founder imagine their words to be construed to expunge all sripitual symbols from public institutions.

FWIW, I am not a member of any organized religion, nor do I consider myself an adherent of any particular faith. I just prefer that the interpretation of the Constitution not be stretched beyond its true meaning.
posted by mikewas at 2:22 PM on August 10, 2000


Whoops! Didn't the Ten Commandments get passed down to Moses? Wasn't Moses the liberator of the Jews from Egyptian slavery?

Sorry about the mistake. Obviously you are correct that the endorsement would be of Judaism and Christianity, not just Christianity. I apologize for my poor editing.

The Establishment Clause was never meant to prohibit the government from acknowledging the existence of religion...

I don't disagree with you.

...but from prescribing religious dogma and from having a church as an ogran of the state. Never did the Founder[s] imagine their words to be construed to expunge all sripitual symbols from public institutions.

I can see your point, but isn't it possible that the posting of Judeo-Christian religious symbols and documents in government buildings while exculding other symbols and documents of similar importance could imply that the government agrees with those principles, thereby "prescribing religious dogma," thereby establishing religion? Whether or not that's the intent of the action, doesn't the fact that the government posts a document imply that the government agrees with that document?

I guess it all depends on how you define "establishment." Is it all-out passing a law saying the new official national religion is now Lutheran and everyone is expected to attend church every Sunday and all churches must convert to Lutheranism? Or could it be that a school board, an arm of the state government, who says "There will be a prayer at each football game, non-denominational, of course," is prescribing and essentially establishing the official religion of the school (even if it's just generic Christianity)? I guess that's up to the courts to decide, specifically the Supreme Court.

Oh yeah, they already have.

posted by daveadams at 6:47 AM on August 11, 2000


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