A case for separation of church and state
Clearly one of the most misunderstood issues is that of the separation of church and state. We know it is inherent in the constitution but how it is implemented creates much division that wouldn’t be there if we only understood not only how it protects citizens from those who want to impose their religion on them but for religion who has concerns about state control.
As a retired teacher, principal and one who has taught education law at the university level, I find this issue quite interesting. The State may not promote nor hinder religion nor may religion intermingle with the State. What does that mean?
To go back in history, the first Supreme Court case regarding religion in the public schools was the Gideon Bible case. The Gideon’s wanted to pass out Bibles in school to those whose parents approved. The courts said, of course, that it was a violation of separation of church and state. And the State may not promote the Gideon’s over others. But who sided for the case and who was against it. For it, of course, were the Gideon’s. However, fighting it tooth and nail were the Baptist, the Catholics, the Methodists and many more who didn’t want the Gideon Bible in the public school.
The courts basically said that no religion would be allowed to intermingle in public schools, an arm of the state. Think for a minute about what would happen if this wasn’t the case. Which religion would be allowed into public schools? That decision would be, of course, made by the administration of public school, an arm of the state. So now we have the state controlling which religion will be allowed in and under what terms. Do we really want that? And what would they do to get their religion into the public schools? Religion, mingling with the state, was one cause of the problems in Ireland. The Catholics and Protestants were at war for 500 years over that and other issues. ISIS is at war over that issue, as is the Taliban and the Nazi’s during the holocaust and we would also eventually be at war over that issue, Christians vs Christians.
But how is religion protected? Take the case of Kim Davis in Kentucky. I agree that she, as an individual, has the right to stand by her religious convictions. However, the State does not. In her case she not only said that she would not grant same sex marriage, but she would not allow it in her office. That is where she broke the law. If only she would have passed it on to another, the problem would have been solved. And if she disagreed with the State, she had the opportunity not to work for them.
But some say beware, soon they will make churches perform same sex marriages. Not a possibility. Why, because of separation of church and state. The state has no right to tell churches whom to marry or whom not to marry. So that will never happen. The same goes for paying taxes. Churches do not pay taxes under the protection of the concept of separation of church and state. Do we really want to change that?
And my favorite issue is prayer in public school. Of course children can pray in public schools. I did it all the time especially before a big test. But the state may not control it. If you want to pray, you must pray in a way that does not impose your religion on the school / State. Simply, as Jesus says, pray in the closet.
So if you want to stand by your religious convictions, avoid doing as ISIS does, as the Taliban does as the Nazi’s did or the Christians in Ireland did to force their religion on others. Do so in the closet when it conflicts with laws that protect your religion.