Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Separation of Church and State

One of the big lies that theocrats are spouting these days is that "separation of church and state" isn't in the U.S. Constitution.  This is akin to creationism because such a statement can only be based on willful ignorance and stupidity.

The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution states:

      "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."


The First Amendment clearly provides for separation of church and state.  To say that it doesn't simply because it doesn't literally say "separation of church and state" is dishonest sophistry of the worst sort.  If it actually said "separation of church and state", there would be no real way to apply what it said, because that isn't a legal rule, it's a description.

The First Amendment is written, for lack of a better term, in legalese.  Meaning, in this instance, that its phrasing is meant to provide a rule that judges and other Government officials can apply when handling matters before them.  "Separation of church and state" sounds like an overly vague zoning ordinance if you try to actually apply it as if it were a legal rule.

As I explained in my post on prayer in public schools:

The very first thing the First Amendment says is "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion..."  This means quite clearly that the Government cannot adopt an official state religion.  The word "respecting" means that the Government can't even enact laws that amount to less than official establishment if those laws might be part of such official establishment.

Thus, "no law" that could be part of an official establishment of religion can be enacted.  It is difficult to imagine how a rule of law separating church and state could be more clearly written.

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