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Separation of Church and State

The idea of the Separation of Church and State goes back to when the constitution was

first being made, and a group of people known as the Danbury Baptists were worried if their

religion was going to be safe under the new set of laws. Thomas Jefferson addressed their

worries claiming that there will be “a wall of separation between the church and state” and they

needn’t worry about it. Many of the most controversial arguments today revolve around or at

least involve the concept of the separation between church and state. In many arguments that

involve religion, the proponents of their church’s beliefs think that because the phrase

“separation of church and state” is never specifically brought up in the constitution that we

should not observe it. They also have other arguments like because our founding fathers were

Christians, or that because a majority of the people of the United States are christian, then we

should allow religion to aid in interpreting and determining of laws. Many argue, after these

arguments have failed, that the amendment specifically quotes that congress shall make no law,

not anyone else; or they have a specific argument for the topic of discussion. These arguments

beg the question, “Should we enforce the Separation of Church and state?” The answer to this

question is yes because while this statement is never actually stated in the constitution, the actual

text covers this by saying “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion,

or prohibiting the free exercise thereof”, ("The Constitution of the United States," Amendment

1). Judges have also observed through cases such as Emerson v. The Board of Education and

Engle vs Vitale. The idea of “separation of church and state” should be enforced because the

supporting clause is stated in the first amendment of the Constitution of the United States of

America, and by extension all arguments that use religion as a foundation -such as the gay

marriage or the abortion arguments- should be forced to restructure their arguments around
something that has not been decreed illegal to establish, because the laws of the United States of

America should not and can not conflict with one another.

The first argument that is not completely dismantled by restating the first amendment of

the constitution of the United States is that the founding fathers were Christian, and as a result

would want a Christian government. This is wrong in the sense that the United states government

has changed in the last 223 years. The government has made massive amounts of changes to the

constitution and court cases have established clarity to the laws of the United Stats, changing

their interpretation. Also, not all of the founding fathers were Christian. While some of the

founding fathers were christian, many were in fact deists. Deism is defined as

“[the] belief in the existence of a supreme being, specifically of a creator who does not

intervene in the universe. The term is used chiefly of an intellectual movement of the

17th and 18th centuries that accepted the existence of a creator on the basis of reason but

rejected belief in a supernatural deity who interacts with humankind”

by the Oxford dictionary; some of the more famous followers of this are: Thomas Jefferson

(though he claimed himself a Unitarian he expressed Deist beliefs), Benjamin Franklin, James

Madison, and John Adams. These men were Deists because of the age that they were a part of,

commonly known as the Enlightenment. The philosophies surrounding the Enlightenment were

heavily influenced by Deism and by default converting many to the religion. The lack of an

established church also contributed to the Deist philosophies followed by the Founding Fathers;

because of the lack of a church that was within travelling distance of every single person, many

were left to pray on their own time, allowing their beliefs to change into what we know as

Deism.
One of the more logical, yet less educated, arguments is that only congress is restricted to

the limitations of making laws, and we could convince some other branch of government to

make them for us. While it is true that only congress is specifically stated to have restrictions on

making laws, only congress is allowed to make laws. While Marbury v. Madison did establish

judicial review, it is only for determining the constitutionality of laws and for clarifying

previously made laws, as the job of the judiciary branch is to interpret laws. State legislature is

where the line becomes indistinct and people argue that state laws can be made in conformation

to certain religions. The line was drawn in the court case Emerson v. The Board of Education,

where Justice Hugo Black decreed that “Neither [the State or Federal governments] can pass

laws which aid one religion, aid all religions, or prefer one religion over another.” This

establishes that fact that no government, not even the judiciary branch, can pass `laws that are

heavily influenced by or will ingrain religion in to our constitution. These two sources refute the

argument that “only congress is limited.”

Many of the newly introduced arguments in question such as the argument about abortion

or gay marriage- claim to one of these arguments or ignore the law all together and use the bible

at an attempt at a reputable source. We have already established that this can not be use, but

others have a specific rebuttal. Gay marriage is a hot topic in the United States and is quite

argument specific. Gay marriage is similar to racism in the sense that we have killings and

oppression based on a small level of difference between the viewed stereotype of a person should

be what that person actually is. Society is in an uproar about it, and many people are extremely to

one side or the other about it. The big question is “should gay marriage be legalized?” The case

Loving v. Virginia is a case that provides some clarity on the topic. The case was about a White

man and a Black woman getting married and then returning to Virginia, only to find that their
marriage was deemed illegal because of their different races. The case was taken to the supreme

court who ruled the antimiscegenation law in violation of the fourteenth amendment, and

therefore unconstitutional. The fourteenth amendment itself states that “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

Constitution of the United States," Amendment 14). This case gives a great basis for the

argument by addressing a topic with similar issues and complications as the gay marriage issue.

The heavily religious community almost always swings no when asked “should gay

marriage be legalized?”. Their arguments about this are normally: the bible says it is wrong, it is

not natural, and marriage is a Christian institution and since we do not believe in it it should not

be legalized. The third argument is the only one that is valid and not taken apart by the first ad

fourteenth amendments, so that will be addressed. While the argument makes sense, it has a large

level of pretentiousness by completely ignoring other religions. Nearly every religion observes

some kind of marriage, such as Islam, Judaism, Hindu, even the believers of event deities such as

the ancient Greeks believed in marriage, and their methods and practices vary. While it is

understandable due to the overwhelming majority of Christians in the United States, it is

incorrect. If a church of any kind is willing to marry a gay couple, the according to Emerson v.

The Board of Education and Loving v. Virginia we have to allow it because we can not aid a

religion nor can we suspend someones rights without reason.

The abortion argument is another that holds a high level of controversy among the people

of the United States. Most of the people who are against abortion are Christians, and while there

are people who use scientific arguments, those who do not use the argument that the bible says
“Before I formed/you in the womb I knew you/before you were born I set you apart/I appointed

you as a prophet to the nations.” (Jeremiah 1:5) among other suggestions. Even though the

argument is based around religion, there is a case that provides clarification on the Supreme

Court’s ruling of the situation. Roe, a Texas resident, sought to terminate her child. In Texas, it

was illegal to have an abortion unless it was to save the woman’s life. The court ruled that

abortion fell under the right to privacy protected by the fourteenth amendment and stated that the

woman had total autonomy during the first trimester. While there are arguments about where the

line should be drawn for when a woman can or can not have an abortion, the fact of the matter is

that abortion is and has been legal and protected under the Constitution, so without a complete

rewriting of the constitution, it can not be illegalized.

The arguments that use religion as a foundation have little to no validity these days

because of the First Amendment of the Constitution and the court cases such as Emerson v. The

Board of Education and Engle v. Vitale. These cases and laws also answer the question “Should

separation of church and state be enforced?” with yes by destroying the dominion of one religion

over another.

Sources:

● "Roe v. Wade, U.S. Supreme Court Case Summary & Oral Argument." The Oyez Project

| U.S. Supreme Court Oral Argument Recordings, Case Abstracts and More. Web. 03

Jan. 2011. <http://www.oyez.org/cases/1970-1979/1971/1971_70_18>.


● "Loving v. Virginia, U.S. Supreme Court Case Summary & Oral Argument." The Oyez

Project | U.S. Supreme Court Oral Argument Recordings, Case Abstracts and More.

Web. 03 Jan. 2011. <http://www.oyez.org/cases/1960-1969/1966/1966_395>.

● "Engel v. Vitale, U.S. Supreme Court Case Summary & Oral Argument." The Oyez

Project | U.S. Supreme Court Oral Argument Recordings, Case Abstracts and More.

Web. 03 Jan. 2011. <http://www.oyez.org/cases/1960-1969/1961/1961_468>

● "Lemon v. Kurtzman, U.S. Supreme Court Case Summary & Oral Argument." The Oyez

Project | U.S. Supreme Court Oral Argument Recordings, Case Abstracts and More.

Web. 03 Jan. 2011. <http://www.oyez.org/cases/1970-1979/1970/1970_89>.

● "Everson v. Board of Education, U.S. Supreme Court Case Summary & Oral Argument."

The Oyez Project | U.S. Supreme Court Oral Argument Recordings, Case Abstracts and

More. Web. 03 Jan. 2011. <http://www.oyez.org/cases/1940-1949/1946/1946_52/>.

● "Reynolds v. United States, U.S. Supreme Court Case Summary & Oral Argument." The

Oyez Project | U.S. Supreme Court Oral Argument Recordings, Case Abstracts and

More. Web. 03 Jan. 2011. <http://www.oyez.org/cases/1851-1900/1878/1878_0>.

● BibleGateway.com: A Searchable Online Bible in over 100 Versions and 50 Languages.

Web. 03 Jan. 2011. <http://www.biblegateway.com

● Peterson, Jim. "Religion and the Founding Fathers." American History Message Board.

2007. Web. 03 Jan. 2011. <http://earlyamericanhistory.net/founding_fathers.htm>.

● Bastien, Richard. "Two concepts of separation of Church and State." Catholic Insight

May 2008: 34+. General OneFile. Web. 9 Nov. 2010.

● Williams, Bill. "The myth of America as a Christian nation." National Catholic Reporter

8 Feb. 2008: 9a. General OneFile. Web. 9 Nov. 2010.


● Harrington, Edward F. "The metaphorical wall: separation of church and state was meant

to protect religious rights, not to suppress them." America 17 Jan. 2005: 10. General

OneFile. Web. 9 Nov. 2010.

● "Bishop ignites row over separation of church and state." Conscience Spring 2004: 6+.

General OneFile. Web. 9 Nov. 2010.

● "Breaking Down the First Amendment.(Brief Article)." World and I Jan. 2004: 20.

General OneFile. Web. 9 Nov. 2010.