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Separation of church and state: The Concept

SheWolf

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We all know the phrase isn't in the constitution, but is the concept?

What does that concept mean to you, and how does the Constitution support your view?



Donnell-Coons debate is being argued in another thread.. and I didn't want to derail it. This thread isn't about politics or that debate.. it's about philosophy.

The other thread:

http://www.debatepolitics.com/break...ns-separation-church-state-senate-debate.html
 

Cold Highway

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In my opinion chuch state concept is that the state isnt allowed to steal from me in order to prop up the church it needs to kiss up to at the time or any other law that forces me to support a particular religion in one way or another.
 

Korimyr the Rat

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We all know the phrase isn't in the constitution, but is the concept?

What does that concept mean to you, and how does the Constitution support your view?

United States Constitution said:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof...

The Constitution says that our government shall not establish a State Church or establish an official State Religion, and that it shall not prohibit any otherwise lawful religious exercise-- it can not prohibit any religion, or any practice specific to a religion, unless that practice is deemed unlawful irrespective of religion. Thus, the government can not outlaw a religion from sacrificing animals unless it is otherwise unlawful to kill animals, but it can outlaw the method of animal sacrifice if it is deemed a violation of animal cruelty laws. The government can not dictate that a church perform rites or services for any person, nor can it dictate that any person subject themselves to the rites or services of any church.

I believe that this combines with the Equal Protection clause of the 14th Amendment to mean that the government shall not consider religion in the application of the law-- something that the family courts, in particular, have been frequently accused of.

As a member of a religious minority, I appreciate the Hell out of the separation of Church and State, but I don't necessarily consider it a beneficial organizing principle for society. I think religion and government have overlapping spheres of responsibility regarding the morality of the public, and I believe that they should act to reinforce and stabilize each other.
 
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tacomancer

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Regardless if it's in the Constitution or not, it's a good idea.

When church and state mix, the result is generally very negative.

I see having a separation between church and state as helping to create a healthy church. As churches get involved in politics, they tend to get corrupt.
 
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Josie

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The U.S. isn't a theocracy and the federal government cannot get into church's business. At least that was the original intent, I believe. I know some individual states had their own religions, so obviously the Founders didn't think any government shouldn't establish a religion, just the federal government.

I agree with Hoplite, though (!). Mixing religion and government never comes out well. It's best if the government stays out of religious activities and no state religion be established.
 

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In the most simple sense, it is strong constraint of the state to leave religion unfettered for the most part; the same as strong constraint of the state exists towards speech, press, assembly or protest. It literally is the first five "Thou Shalt Nots" for government.

Regards from Rosie
 

spud_meister

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The U.S. isn't a theocracy and the federal government cannot get into church's business. At least that was the original intent, I believe.

I actually think it was the reverse, the original intent was that the church couldn't get into the governments business, they saw what was happening in England with the Protestant government Vs. Catholic Irish and wanted to avoid anything of the sort.

EDIT: And to ensure the Church of England had no governmental power in the US.
 
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Your Star

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The first amendment protects the believers from being persecuted because of their religion, and protects the non believers from religion. Now making a law based on a certain religion, or outlawing a certain religion, or giving other religions preferential treatment would violate both of those.
 

American

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Regardless if it's in the Constitution or not, it's a good idea.

When church and state mix, the result is generally very negative.

So the Constitution is irrelevant to you, as long as a good idea is enforced?
 

tacomancer

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So the Constitution is irrelevant to you, as long as a good idea is enforced?

1. Most americans would agree that the constitution is full of good ideas
2. Who wouldn't want to live in a society full of good ideas that have become law?
 

Hoplite

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So the Constitution is irrelevant to you, as long as a good idea is enforced?
You're toeing the overly-simplistic line, but yes. The Constitution is an outline of how to conduct government. It is not a religious document or a sacred relic that we cant or shouldnt discard and start over if necessary.
 

Black Dog

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The Constitution is the backbone of our republic and it states the government cannot put into law, laws based on religion or hinder legal religious practices.

Unfortunately people think this means freedom from religion because of a disassociated letter by Thomas Jefferson, which is pretty ignorant.

Life and liberty are far more important than a thin skinned atheist or religious person getting offended one way or the other by an inanimate object.
 

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The word "establishment" in the first amendment is clearly understood to mean the prohibition of the government establishing any religion, of having a state sponsored religion.

Americans are free from any and all compulsory religious practices. There is no "American religion". This effectively means freedom from religion in American society.

Regards from Rosie
 

Black Dog

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The word "establishment" in the first amendment is clearly understood to mean the prohibition of the government establishing any religion, of having a state sponsored religion.

It does mean this but it also means no law created from relgious docterin.

Americans are free from any and all compulsory religious practices. There is no "American religion". This effectively means freedom from religion in American society.

Regards from Rosie

This is absolutely wrong. It means freedom OF religion, not freedom from religion. It was never in any way shape or form to mean freedom from religion. If this were the case, all religion would be outlawed. :doh
 

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It does mean this but it also means no law created from relgious docterin.



This is absolutely wrong. It means freedom OF religion, not freedom from religion. It was never in any way shape or form to mean freedom from religion. If this were the case, all religion would be outlawed. :doh

freedom of religion and freedom from religion can mean the same thing. freedom from religion just means you cannot be forced to worship; the state cannot endorse a religion, or force you to be religious.
 

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It does mean this but it also means no law created from relgious docterin.

Government never compels any religious practices. It was this clause that removed prayer from the public schools because it compelled a religious practice. Public schools are free from or of religion. So is the rest of the US.

Regards from Rosie
 

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Government never compels any religious practices. It was this clause that removed prayer from the public schools because it compelled a religious practice. Public schools are free from or of religion. So is the rest of the US.

Regards from Rosie

Nah, that was some overstepping of boundaries I think. I would agree if prayer were forced, but it wasn't. There were a lot of changes from moments of silence in the morning, to having a prayer meeting outside by the flag pole or something. Not all of it violates Church and State. I think that if a group of students and teachers of like faith wish to gather in the morning before school starts on school grounds and have a prayer group or something; that there's nothing wrong with that. Why not? No one is forced to participate. And I think we've taken it so far as to not allow any discussion of theism in classes. However, religion has had a profound impact on the course of human history and thus I think it to be a valid topic of intellectual and scholarly discourse. Maybe we shy away from it because there could be some preaching instead of teaching; but it's not like we couldn't handle it properly. And then you wouldn't have any debate on evolution/creationism because creationist theories can be discussed in some theism course whereas evolution can remain in the science course.

If we just use a bit of reason and logic I think there are ways to at least slightly satisfy all sides. That is, if we want to use a bit of reason and logic.
 

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Uh, that's what compel means...to force the issue. Compulsory means being forced to do it. Prayer can't be required. It can be voluntary and private, like in a small huddle before and after a football game for some people, but no one can be compelled to pray at any public function. You can't make the whole team pray, no matter how bad their win-loss record.

Regards from Rosie
 

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Government never compels any religious practices. It was this clause that removed prayer from the public schools because it compelled a religious practice. Public schools are free from or of religion. So is the rest of the US.

Regards from Rosie

I agree government cannot compel religious practices, but this does not mean freedom from religion by any means. It means we have a secular government, nothing less. Public schools do not teach religion, this does not make them "free from" religion. You can pray in the open, they have Bible clubs etc. You are using the wrong term.
 

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No..there is no state enforced religion. That really is being free from religion. There is no quartering soldiers in private homes. You're free from soldier quartering, too. There is no compulsion to testify against yourself. You're free from....ya see where this is going?

Regards from Rosie
 

Black Dog

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No..there is no state enforced religion. That really is being free from religion. There is no quartering soldiers in private homes. You're free from soldier quartering, too. There is no compulsion to testify against yourself. You're free from....ya see where this is going?

Regards from Rosie

The government not endorsing a state religion or making laws based on religion is not freedom from religion. It is freedom to practice it as you see fit, with no government intrusion. This is the essence of freedom of religion.

Congress opens with a prayer every session. You are trying to use a simple term to oversimplify a matter that is a tab bit more involved.
 
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SheWolf

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Nah, that was some overstepping of boundaries I think. I would agree if prayer were forced, but it wasn't. There were a lot of changes from moments of silence in the morning, to having a prayer meeting outside by the flag pole or something. Not all of it violates Church and State. I think that if a group of students and teachers of like faith wish to gather in the morning before school starts on school grounds and have a prayer group or something; that there's nothing wrong with that. Why not? No one is forced to participate. And I think we've taken it so far as to not allow any discussion of theism in classes. However, religion has had a profound impact on the course of human history and thus I think it to be a valid topic of intellectual and scholarly discourse. Maybe we shy away from it because there could be some preaching instead of teaching; but it's not like we couldn't handle it properly. And then you wouldn't have any debate on evolution/creationism because creationist theories can be discussed in some theism course whereas evolution can remain in the science course.

If we just use a bit of reason and logic I think there are ways to at least slightly satisfy all sides. That is, if we want to use a bit of reason and logic.

At first I was thought you were arguing the SCOTUS overstepped in Wallace v. Jaffree.

Wallace v. Jaffree, 472 U.S. 38 (1985), was a United States Supreme Court case deciding on the issue of silent school prayer.

An Alabama law authorized teachers to set aside one minute at the start of each day for a moment of "silent meditation or voluntary prayer," and sometimes the teacher of the classroom asked upon a student to recite some prayers.

The specifications are different from having prayer groups before school starts on school grounds.. and I think that seems fine. I don't think that is controversial at all.

But in case of Wallace v. Jaffree, I think the court did the right thing. It appears that the teachers were encouraging prayers in class and having the students lead them, which is very wrong. Jaffree complained his children were being ostracized because of their religion and indoctrinated.

The thing about this moment of silence/prayer is that it seems to favor the Christian religion only. Christians don't really have strict tenants about praying, when, how, and how many times a day. So if the school wants to a give moment of silence in the morning it will also have to give a moment of silence in the afternoon for Minchah prayers/moment of silence for Jews, proper time for Muslims to have a moment of silence too, and other faiths.

Even if the school is all Christian it still isn't right for them to encourage student lead prayers, because it's a public school. A student of a different religion could come in, and be ostracized and easily feel unwelcome. School just doesn't seem like the place to do it. I don't see any problem with clubs or letting students pray together before class as you said. I don't even see a problem with a school allowing time for people in religion to pray or follow dietary or any other tenants in school, the school and teachers just shouldn't lead the entire school in one direction or the other. I do think it will just cause the student body to start singling out minority students in some fashion, and some people like their religion to be private.
 

SheWolf

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The government not endorsing a state religion or making laws based on religion is not freedom from religion. It is freedom to practice it as you see fit, with no government intrusion. This is the essence of freedom of religion.

Congress opens with a prayer every session. You are trying to use a simple term to oversimplify a matter that is a tab bit more involved.

Which prayer does Congress use?
 
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