Constitutionality and the separation of church and state

In summary: The doctrine of separation of church and state is based on the idea that the two institutions are not institutions at all, but are instead one and the same. There is no established church in America. The state allows religious expression, but the church does not have any say in the running of the state. This is why public schools are allowed to put up a cross (or any other religious symbol) in a classroom, but a copy of the bible cannot.
  • #1
ForMyThunder
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I was just wondering if there are any written documents which give the views of the United States founding fathers' views towards separation of church and state. The constitution reads, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof" and Jefferson himself wrote in a letter, "...legislature should 'make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,' thus building a wall of separation between Church & State." But where exactly is it mentioned that having a Bible on display at a governmental institution, a president mentioning God in his speech, etc. is unconstitutional or unethical (by the opinions of the founding fathers)?

I'm not religious and I don't consider myself part of any religion, but it's been bugging me when people mention separation of church and state along with the founding fathers and constitution as justification for not allowing public schools to put a cross in a classroom (yes, I do believe it to be distasteful, since it may offend some students and their parents) and I was just wondering where this thinking originated. Could anyone mention a quote or document that mentions what I have outlined?

Again I'm looking specifically for a "strict" separation of church and state: which prohibits politicians to even mention their own religion in speeches and the like. My own opinion from what I have found is that there is no evidence that "strict" separation was endorsed by the founding fathers. I do remember hearing a quote by one of them which goes along the lines of we need religion to keep our moral values from deteriorating but I cannot remember who said it so I cannot provide a reference.

I want to reiterate that this question is not about the truth or falsity of religion in general but just the U.S. Constitution and the founding fathers' views for or against the separation of church and state.

Thank you.
 
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  • #3
Separation of church and state is vital. Separation of religion and politics is impossible.
 
  • #4
ForMyThunder said:
The constitution reads, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof" and Jefferson himself wrote in a letter, "...legislature should 'make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,' thus building a wall of separation between Church & State." But where exactly is it mentioned that having a Bible on display at a governmental institution, a president mentioning God in his speech, etc. is unconstitutional or unethical (by the opinions of the founding fathers)?

I'm not religious and I don't consider myself part of any religion, but it's been bugging me when people mention separation of church and state along with the founding fathers and constitution as justification for not allowing public schools to put a cross in a classroom...
Obviously the constitution nither can nor should be required to mention all specific circumstances, but the view of the courts is that a cross in a classroom "establishes" christianity as the official, government sanctioned religion of that classroom, thus violating the establishment clause.
 
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  • #5
America came from Britain. British monarchs have risen and fallen because of the intertwining of the state and the church. This is one basis why America separates the church from the state.
 

Related to Constitutionality and the separation of church and state

1. What is the separation of church and state?

The separation of church and state is a concept in the United States Constitution that refers to the division between religious institutions and the government. It ensures that the government does not establish or favor any particular religion and that individuals are free to practice their own beliefs without interference from the government.

2. Is the separation of church and state explicitly stated in the Constitution?

No, the phrase "separation of church and state" is not explicitly mentioned in the Constitution. However, it is derived from the First Amendment, which states that "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof."

3. How does the separation of church and state impact public schools?

The separation of church and state prohibits public schools from promoting or endorsing any particular religion. This means that public schools cannot lead or participate in religious activities, such as prayer or Bible readings. However, students are still allowed to practice their own religion and express their beliefs in a non-disruptive manner.

4. What are some examples of cases that involve the separation of church and state?

One notable case is Engel v. Vitale (1962), in which the Supreme Court ruled that school-sponsored prayer in public schools is unconstitutional. Another example is Lemon v. Kurtzman (1971), in which the Supreme Court established the "Lemon test" to determine whether a law violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.

5. Is the separation of church and state absolute?

No, the separation of church and state is not absolute. There are certain situations where the government may interact with religion, such as providing chaplains for the military, granting tax-exempt status to religious organizations, and allowing for religious exemptions to certain laws. However, these interactions must not show preferential treatment to any particular religion and must not interfere with individuals' rights to practice their own beliefs.

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