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Posts: 1248/2860
(19-Feb-2007 at 22:02)


Spirit of the division of church and state.

I was wondering this just now: what was the reason for the division of church and state in the United States and what are it's merits and flaws (if any of either) now (this is the main topic of discussion) and is it working?

When the States were formed into the country there was a practice of separation of church and state. The founders, being all white Christians must of had some reason for this. Was it opposion of beng forced to follow one faction of Christianity (the different christianities were more of an issue then) or was it just a good idea to govern a country so that any religion and culture could work within it?

I.e. where they looking after their own asses or were they looking out for the good of the country.

So my introduction is free of my opinion (ish) so I'll start with my opinion.

I don't remember from history enough to actually decide why this was done. Offering freedom of religion seems very economically friendly but very generous with rights. So maybe they were just nice people with good vision.

As for todays merits, this is where I take my beef. I don't like it when religious groups attempt to take their dogma and make it my law. They seem to think that their moral values should be the law of the land. My idea of it is that if they hate homosexuality (the sin, not the sinner, ) then they should keep that to themselves and their converts and let the rest be. Same for abortion. If they wanna claim any moral authority on that they should be adopting like crazy instead of making 5+ children of their own.

While on the subject of large families, mostly a result of not using the sinful contraception I wanted to discuss the outrage that non objective morals are preventing the education of children and use of condoms and sex. The sex education is sometimes loaded with lies about the effectiveness of condoms and the recommendation of abstinance which in pracitce works but the fault of that is practicing it rarely happens. Lies and lack of information about the effectiveness of condoms effects people who do not plan to use abstinance. So why is it purposed that abstinance is the method by some when it's only merit is that it is the Christian/Muslim/Jewish morally sound method which does not apply to other groups.

On the other hand, the use of a condom works well because abstinance does not go with natrual urges, but the use of a condom goes better with natrual urges.

Furthermore, I would like to discuss the separaton of science and religion. Sound scientific theory is being muddled with religious dogma. When you put theory of evolution (for example) against a bible, scientifically, the thoery wins out. The bible has nothing on the scientific field whatever its merit elsewhere. So what have some groups done? They attack the soundness of the theory alone shittily hiding the agenda of "do not go against my bible/tora/whateverthefriggingbook." If you don't want the children of the nation to believe in evolution, just tell them at home why the bible is better an leave other people's children out of it. Or, people could make a distinction between what science says and what relgion says. I don't even care if they take the kids out of class. It's just not fair to non religious people or faith's who's books accept it.

All of this ties to politics. I don't know when this happened, probably before I was noticing, but the U.S. politics has become a batle of religious vs. non religious. This is rediculous. This merges beliefs about abortion and gay rights with the poor decisions of the current administration. If you appose gay rights and the war, good fucking luck finding a representative. This is probably more of a failure in the two party system.

Anyway, my discussion leans toward the modern merits of church and state and how its breaking down, but discussion of how "Christians founded this country on Christian morals" can be discussed as well. My proposed solution is either more pary's that do not take a stand religiously or the reprivatization of religion. There is nothing stopping religous people from following their religions so why not let them do as they please at home or skip out on evolution day. I see nothing wrong with that. The model for the state should work if placed in any culture with any religion.

Mars II - American Scientist
PhD - Physical Chemistry
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(19-Feb-2007 at 23:03)


From what I can remember the Founding Fathers of the US attempted to moderate the power of the State, simply because many of those in the New World had come there due to persecution of religious beliefs, as well as a distrust of the nobility.
Today there is a groundswell amongst Church groups to dictate policies to the Government; in the US there is the debate over Evoliution, and apparently over whether the Earth is the center of the Universe.
You can visit their website here, and no it is not a parody, but actually considered true by some powerful people.
But religious groups are not only attempting to change governmental policies in the US but we can see the affects in Canada.
Quote:
Story Highlights
• Social workers take three kids for treatment over their parents' religious objections
• Two of sextuplets died; authorities gave blood transfusions to three of survivors
• Parents are Jehovah's Witnesses, whose beliefs forbid blood transfusions
• Children are back with parents, but court hearing has been set for next month

“The law, in its majestic equality, forbids the rich as well as the poor to sleep under bridges, to beg in the streets, and to steal bread.”
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(19-Feb-2007 at 23:46)


The founding fathers wanted to avoid a state religion, like the Church of England, in which the political leader was also the head of the church (King or Queen whomever).

Merits:
-Policy dictated by logic, science and hopefully reasonably
-No one should be persecuted by the state for religious belief

Flaws:
-Those who are religious may be limited in certain activities (should the next POTUS be a bishop?)


As for laws: at the end of the day all laws dictate our collective morality. Murder is not illegal because it says so in the bible - a majority of the population thinks it is wrong, therefore it is.

Sex: It is difficult for people not to bias any lesson, especially a heated one like sex ed. A very religious teacher may put doubt in their students minds about the effectiveness, a non-religious teacher may gloss over flaws with birth control.

I suppose on the specific topics you mentioned there is tension everywhere, but not only religious tension. Abortion is a hot topic because some people view it as murder - not only those who are religious. Personally I am against abortion, unless medically necessary. There was a thread a while back where I elaborated, please look it up if you care.

As for gay rights, I don't see what the problem is. The bible (as far as I have read) is very unclear regarding this, and it seems like the religious zealots have grabbed on to it. If you are attracted to nurses? Fine. Leather? Fine. S&M? Fine. Men - totally wrong? I don't think so. Again, not only the religious lobby is against gay rights, but mostly people who are creeped out at the thought of m/m or f/f sex, or just think it's "wrong".

Evolution is another thing that religious zealots need to let go of. There are some BIG holes in evolution, but then again I don't think it was a "coincidence" that we evolved. That is another thread's topic.

Frankly religion and politics often don't mix. You mention that they can "just stay home" - and that works, some of the time. There are many cults that believe in sex with children - but it's against the law, and they can't hide behind the religion barrier. Ditto with terrorist attacks, many think that they are ok, and the bombers will go to heaven afterwards, wrong.


IMO
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(20-Feb-2007 at 00:37)


I think the spirit of this concept of the separation between church and state (which, by the way, is not part of the constitution) was to ensure religious freedom. Like already said, most of the people who came here did so to escape religious persecution, so the founding fathers did their best to set that as a precedent. They expressly prohibited a government-sanctioned religion, while at the same time expressly prohibiting the government from standing in the way of the free expression of anyone's religion.

Unfortunately, that has now failed. Someone got the idea in their head that the words "separation of church and state" meant that religious people have to leave their religion at home when they work for the government. Our culture has so successfully separated religion from the government that it is now common practice to persecute people for being Christian. It's so common, in fact, that most people don't even realize they do it. When you stand here and say that people need to keep their religion out of the public eye because it's offensive to you, that right there is religious persecution. Your guiding principle is that it's ok for anyone to have whatever religion they want, as long as you don't have to see it, hear about it, or know it exists. But that's backwards. The spirit of the concept was that everyone can practice their religion freely, not that everyone can be free of seeing anyone else's religion being practiced.

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(20-Feb-2007 at 01:11)


How people adhere to their private life doesn't bother me. It's when people seek to make their religion my laws. I have no objection to people praying in schools or wearing crosses ect. but when I have to do it, it becomes a problem or when I or anyone else is prevented from learning, then it is a problem.

Another notion that I thought was silly is the notion that the religious majority is being opressed. This is foolishness. At no time in your own personal space will you be bothered to remove religious symbols unless you put yourself in one of those communities that regulates those things.

Mars II - American Scientist
PhD - Physical Chemistry
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(20-Feb-2007 at 03:54)


Re: Spirit of the division of church and state.

Originally Posted by Mars II: View Post
How people adhere to their private life doesn't bother me. It's when people seek to make their religion my laws. I have no objection to people praying in schools or wearing crosses ect. but when I have to do it, it becomes a problem or when I or anyone else is prevented from learning, then it is a problem.

Another notion that I thought was silly is the notion that the religious majority is being opressed. This is foolishness. At no time in your own personal space will you be bothered to remove religious symbols unless you put yourself in one of those communities that regulates those things.
It's not foolishness though. You have no objection to people praying in schools, and that's great, but there are many who do. And they voice their objections in the courts, and their objections are often upheld in the courts. We've got appellate courts ruling that a student-led prayer in a football huddle is unconstitutional. People today seem to think there's a line in the First Amendment that guarantees them freedom from being offended, and some of them are winning those battles in court.

As to making religion into law, it's kind of hard not to. Many laws are made in an attempt to protect the general public from people who would do wrong to the public. Things like murder, theft, blackmail, and rape are things that someone might do to another person that is wrong. But how does one determine what sort of things are right and what sort of things are wrong? People answer that question by looking at their own personal moral code. That's all well and good, but where does your moral code come from? Yours might come from your parents, it might come from Confucius, or it might come from the Noodly Appendage of the Flying Spaghetti Monster for all I know, but mine comes from my God. The point is that your moral code didn't come out of thin air, it was taught to you somewhere along the way. And if you trace back far enough, one way or another it came from some religion. The same is true of those of our legislators that are religious. We want our legislators to make laws that are good for the country, and they determine what is good based on their own moral code. But if their moral code comes from their religion, how can we ask them to leave their religion at home? It's just not possible, unless we want them to act contrary to their own moral code. That's why I say that the concept of separation of church and state has been corrupted. As has been said before in other threads, the point was to guarantee freedom of religion, not freedom from religion.

Perhaps some historical text might help. Thomas Jefferson was the first one to popularize the term separation of church and state, and it eventually manifested itself in the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, in which Jefferson wrote:
Quote:
no man...shall otherwise suffer on account of his religious opinions or belief; but that all men shall be free to profess, and by argument to maintain, their opinion in matters of religion, and that the same shall in no wise diminish, enlarge, or affect their civil capacities.
In this and several other statements of Jefferson I could quote, he made it quite clear that he believed the constitution guaranteed that people should be able to practice their religion freely and openly, without any interference from the government. Suffice to say that the founding fathers were trying to protect religion from government just as much as they were trying to protect government from religion. They didn't want atheists to use the government to prevent Christians from practicing their religion, even in the view of the public, any more than they wanted the Pope dictating policy.

One really interesting and slightly unrelated piece of trivia is that Madison's original draft of the Bill of Rights prohibited the states, in addition to the federal government, from establishing religion, but the House didn't pass it. So technically a state could have established a religion, at least until 1947 when the Supreme Court extended the Establishment Clause to the states based on the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

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Last edited by zeegs, 20-Feb-2007 at 04:00.
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(20-Feb-2007 at 04:03)


Re: Spirit of the division of church and state.

Originally Posted by zeegs: View Post
The point is that your moral code didn't come out of thin air, it was taught to you somewhere along the way. And if you trace back far enough, one way or another it came from some religion.
You've got it all wrong; It's the other way around. The various religions didn't get their moral codes out of thin air, they got it from the dominating view of how a moral code should be at the time that the religion was blooming. Do you think it's a coincidence that almost all religions have very much the same moral views, except for the more eccentric ones?


Quote:
That's why I say that the concept of separation of church and state has been corrupted. As has been said before in other threads, the point was to guarantee freedom of religion, not freedom from religion.
That little "argument" is incredibly overused, and it's far from sound. You people have made it all about semantics.

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(20-Feb-2007 at 04:46)


Quote:
From what I can remember the Founding Fathers of the US attempted to moderate the power of the State, simply because many of those in the New World had come there due to persecution of religious beliefs, as well as a distrust of the nobility.
I thought it was to moderate the power of the Church. When religious persecution happens it is usually by a religiously motivated government.


Quote:
The founding fathers wanted to avoid a state religion, like the Church of England, in which the political leader was also the head of the church (King or Queen whomever).
The Queen is not the UK political leader.


Quote:
The point is that your moral code didn't come out of thin air, it was taught to you somewhere along the way. And if you trace back far enough, one way or another it came from some religion.
The various religions got their moral codes from the people who started the religion, who were taught those codes along the way by somebody. The moral codes existed before religion adopted them.

Even in the so-called 'free' societies every person in every society is indoctrinated, by the state, with the moral code of that society, and most of the people in that society will consider their views to be obviously, inherently 'right' as if the 'truth' of their views somehow exists independently.

This becomes very dangerous if the indoctrinated people get it into their heads that they have a duty to 'liberate' other societies by showing (educating) them the independent 'truth', as this invariably involves a military invasion.


Quote:
Our culture has so successfully separated religion from the government that it is now common practice to persecute people for being Christian.
Every US president has been a white, male, practising Christian. In other words, every political leader has religious views. They are not as seperate as you imagine.

Last edited by Voice of Reason, 20-Feb-2007 at 04:48.
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(20-Feb-2007 at 04:55)
Quote:
That's why I say that the concept of separation of church and state has been corrupted. As has been said before in other threads, the point was to guarantee freedom of religion, not freedom from religion.
I don't think you can really argue that's what the point of the guarantee was, partially because it was written so long ago, but mostly because of what the actual text says.

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.

They wrote the amendment addressing both sides of the issue. Not only can the government (state) not prohibit you from exercising your religion, the government itself is prohibited from making laws that endorse, favor, support, or disfavor any religion.*

"Separation of church and state" is just a phrase that people use to more quickly describe what I just said above.


*there are many people who feel that giving churches tax-free status is a violation of the First Amendment, by the way...I don't know if I agree with this, but it's something to think about


EDIT:
I forgot to draw a conclusion for what I said. The point, based on the text, was to guarantee BOTH freedom of religion and freedom from religion. It would have been much easier to say something like, "Congress shall play no role in religion whatsoever, excepting circumstances where there is significant public interest in doing so (such as illegal activity)."

Last edited by DPW ultiguy, 20-Feb-2007 at 04:58.
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(20-Feb-2007 at 04:59)


Re: Spirit of the division of church and state.

Originally Posted by zeegs: View Post
But how does one determine what sort of things are right and what sort of things are wrong? People answer that question by looking at their own personal moral code.
You don't make laws against things that don't effect you, i.e. ban on gay marriage or teaching abstinance and hiding the truth.

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(20-Feb-2007 at 05:21)
Re: Spirit of the division of church and state.

Originally Posted by Mars II: View Post
You don't make laws against things that don't effect you, i.e. ban on gay marriage or teaching abstinance and hiding the truth.
Gay marriage will affect everyone in some way. As will teaching abstinance, or not teaching abstinance. Sure, some religions have been corrupted, and some sects teach corrupted points of view, but the founding fathers gave us a thing called the Establishment Clause, and its says that the government will not establish a state religion. No where does it say government can not be influenced by religion and vise versa. Laws should be influenced by morality expessially(sp) the majorities morals. Meaning if more religions believe its wrong to steal, kill, and cheat, than it should be wrong. NOT because the religions say so, but because the majority influenced by the morals of their religions say so.

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(20-Feb-2007 at 05:38)


Re: Spirit of the division of church and state.

Originally Posted by thehegemon: View Post
Gay marriage will affect everyone in some way. As will teaching abstinance, or not teaching abstinance. Sure, some religions have been corrupted, and some sects teach corrupted points of view, but the founding fathers gave us a thing called the Establishment Clause, and its says that the government will not establish a state religion. No where does it say government can not be influenced by religion and vise versa. Laws should be influenced by morality expessially(sp) the majorities morals. Meaning if more religions believe its wrong to steal, kill, and cheat, than it should be wrong. NOT because the religions say so, but because the majority influenced by the morals of their religions say so.
What if the majority says blacks shouldn't be allowed to vote.

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(20-Feb-2007 at 06:01)
Re: Spirit of the division of church and state.

Originally Posted by Mars II: View Post
What if the majority says blacks shouldn't be allowed to vote.
this is off topic, but i'll try to tie it into the thread i believe you started. What are they basing that assumption off of? There is an amendment stating that everyone meeting certain requirements can vote. I do not recall an amendment stating its ok to kill. The example I used is only one among many, if you want to nit pick, then go ahead there will ALWAYS be an exception to any 'rule'.

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(20-Feb-2007 at 13:45)


Re: Spirit of the division of church and state.

Originally Posted by thehegemon: View Post
this is off topic, but i'll try to tie it into the thread i believe you started. What are they basing that assumption off of? There is an amendment stating that everyone meeting certain requirements can vote. I do not recall an amendment stating its ok to kill. The example I used is only one among many, if you want to nit pick, then go ahead there will ALWAYS be an exception to any 'rule'.
Ok, what about veils and womens rights in some Muslim countries?

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(20-Feb-2007 at 16:02)


Re: Spirit of the division of church and state.

Originally Posted by Mars II: View Post
Ok, what about veils and womens rights in some Muslim countries?
In the majority of Muslim countries the women choose to wear a headscarf/veil or not. I know this from living in a Muslim country and discussing this with the Muslim women. Very generally, they choose not to until they get engaged, and after that they do - it signifies that they are no longer trying to attract men.

Womens rights are a bit more complex, but again very generally, and across much of Asia (and Japan particularly) regardless of religion, women want to be supported by their husbands - they actually select a husband on his ability to earn. Income is far more important than little things like looks, personality, or any of the other thing that are important in the West.

Going out to work, being independent, having their own income etc. are not important to the women. They want to be housewives, to stay at home, to be supported by and reliant on their husbands. You are making the mistake of applying Western Christian values to non-Western, non-Christian situations.
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(20-Feb-2007 at 16:07)


Re: Spirit of the division of church and state.

Originally Posted by Voice of Reason: View Post
In the majority of Muslim countries the women choose to wear a headscarf/veil or not. I know this from living in a Muslim country and discussing this with the Muslim women. Very generally, they choose not to until they get engaged, and after that they do - it signifies that they are no longer trying to attract men.

Womens rights are a bit more complex, but again very generally, and across much of Asia (and Japan particularly) regardless of religion, women want to be supported by their husbands - they actually select a husband on his ability to earn. Income is far more important than little things like looks, personality, or any of the other thing that are important in the West.

Going out to work, being independent, having their own income etc. are not important to the women. They want to be housewives, to stay at home, to be supported by and reliant on their husbands. You are making the mistake of applying Western Christian values to non-Western, non-Christian situations.

It's not a mistake to let them decide for themselves. Women's rights is not a complicated issue, they get the rights that a man has as long as they choose to use them or not. The point is that they can't be taken away. As for women choosing to wear veils, that's fine, but when it is enforced or other restrictions that are not fair are enforced, then it is a problem. If a woman wants to rely on a man, that is her choice but she should be allowed to make it. Where this is prohibited because of religious beliefs that it is moral is where separation of church and state is good.

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(20-Feb-2007 at 18:46)
Re: Spirit of the division of church and state.

Originally Posted by Mars II: View Post
It's not a mistake to let them decide for themselves. Women's rights is not a complicated issue, they get the rights that a man has as long as they choose to use them or not. The point is that they can't be taken away. As for women choosing to wear veils, that's fine, but when it is enforced or other restrictions that are not fair are enforced, then it is a problem. If a woman wants to rely on a man, that is her choice but she should be allowed to make it. Where this is prohibited because of religious beliefs that it is moral is where separation of church and state is good.
VoR addressed the initial question, so I will answer this. In muslim countries (theocratic, or monarchies influenced by the religious leaders) the 'church' is the state, and therefore church teachings determine what is right and wrong. To say that these nations are bad because they enforce religious beliefs, it is there state and let them do what they think best.

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(20-Feb-2007 at 19:49)
Socialist dictatoric regimes enforced laws on people, and also said what is right or wrong, often stomping on human rights with absolutely no regard (take Caucescu in Romania as an example). So, because the laws he made decided what is right and wrong insted of people, that made it okay? I don't think so. I understand the seperation of church and state is a touchy issue, but my stance is the same. If people wish to follow the teachings of Islam, let them be able to choose so. But forcing them is bad, and not seperating the church and the state does exactly that.

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(20-Feb-2007 at 22:31)
Re: Spirit of the division of church and state.

Originally Posted by XblablaX: View Post
Socialist dictatoric regimes enforced laws on people, and also said what is right or wrong, often stomping on human rights with absolutely no regard (take Caucescu in Romania as an example). So, because the laws he made decided what is right and wrong insted of people, that made it okay? I don't think so. I understand the seperation of church and state is a touchy issue, but my stance is the same. If people wish to follow the teachings of Islam, let them be able to choose so. But forcing them is bad, and not seperating the church and the state does exactly that.
Those socialist and dictatorial nations did not allow votes on laws, and the majority did not agree with what was going on. The fact is that most (by alot) of muslims want the nations they live in to have laws based on the beliefs of their religion, and as such that is how the countries are ran.

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(20-Feb-2007 at 23:41)


Re: Spirit of the division of church and state.

Originally Posted by Voice of Reason: View Post
The Queen is not the UK political leader.
Yes she is. All laws must have royal ascent to pass. In theory, all authority comes from the queen as she was "the divine choice" to lead England. While the royalty has now been relagated to figurehead status, back when the pilgrims came to America the royal family was very much in control and could do whatever they wanted to.
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