A Discussion on the wall of separation of Church and State

Some time ago, a conversation ensued. This conversation focused on the idea of separation of Church and State. Originally, this conversation was posted as a note on my personal Facebook profile. I am reposting it here as it is always an ongoing discussion between Christians and non-Christian believing folk.

The following is a discussion I had with someone concerning the concept of separation of Church and state and the wall of separation. Apparently, they had posted a picture of someone’s hand on the Bible with the following statement:”On Wednesday, March 1, 2006, at a hearing on the proposed Constitutional Amendment to prohibit gay marriage, Jamie Raskin, professor of law at American University, was requested to testify. At the end of his testimony, Republican State Senator Nancy Jacobs said: “Mr. Raskin, my Bible says marriage is only between a man and a woman. What do you have to say about that?” Raskin replied: “Senator, when you took your oath of office, you placed your hand on the Bible and swore to uphold the Constitution. You did not place your hand on the Constitution and swear to uphold the Bible.” The room erupted into applause.”

I responded on the issue and problematic false understanding of Separation of Church and State that many Atheists and Liberals attempt to argue. My point in the criticism is that the Wall of Separation of Church and State is historically defined differently than what the modern argumentation allows for it to be defined. Yet, instead of providing a reasonable and objective counter-argument, the individual responded with eloquent vitriol against myself without even answering or providing an intellectual response against my own criticism. This, therefore, is how the discussion unfolded.

  • Timothy Berman Part of the Constitution of the United States stipulates that Congress shall make no law concerning the freedom of speech, respect of religion, or the freedom of the press. Freedom of Religious expression includes the ability to speak out against immoral and immorality issues that face American Citizens without the fear of being silent. So, the person that stated that the Senator did not place her hand on the Constitution to support the Bible, but the Bible to support the Constitution fails to recognize that to support the Constitution includes the freedom to speak out against sexual immorality. Let us put off the special pleading when we do not like a particular statement.
  • Ilyn Ross This video evinces Santorum’s DECEIT and his advocacy of the DARK-AGES. He equivocates between public & government. Public religious activities by PRIVATE individuals are in the realm of private faith. Churches, temples, or mosques are usually open to the public. Whereas, GOVERNMENT is FORCE. Since no one has a right to coerce rights respecters, force must be separated from religion, economics, science, education, art…Santorum’s EGREGIOUS LIE is his attribution of the WALL of SEPARATION to JFK and to the KKK. The man who uttered the WALL of SEPARATION is the author of the Declaration of Independence, the Father of religious freedom, the advocate of the Bill of Rights, the President who abolished the slave trade, and the unjustly maligned man who fought slavery all his life: THOMAS JEFFERSON. The anti freedom, like the Texas Education Board, want to delete Jefferson from history. Many lie about him to tear him down. But glorious men, like ABE LINCOLN, extol him: “The principles of Jefferson are the DEFINITIONS and AXIOMS of FREE SOCIETY… All honor to Jefferson – to the man, who in the concrete pressure of a struggle for national independence by a single people, had the coolness, forecast, and sagacity to introduce into a merely revolutionary document an abstract truth, applicable to all men and all times, and so embalm it there that to-day and in all coming days it shall be a rebuke and a stumbling-block to the very harbingers of reappearing tyranny and oppression.”

Presidential hopeful Rick Santorum rejects JFK’s separation of church and state

Merrimack, N.H., Dec 14, 2010 / 12:31 am (CNA).- During a symposium exploring Ca

  • Timothy Berman Many people who use the argument “Separation of Church and State” fail to realize that what it implies is a two-edged sword. Separation of Church and state, the true and historical definition by Thomas Jefferson is that the Government shall not intrude on the practice and expression of religious faith. Has the Government intruded on the practice of religious expression? Yes it has through the nefarious court systems in denouncing and penalizing people for speaking in public forums about Religion or expressing their religious perspective. This includes the religious acts of public prayer, preaching, posting the Ten Commandments, et al. Likewise, the Church is separate from the Government and actually is to hold the Government in check where it concerns the citizenship of the United States. They are the voice of the people where moral issues are concerned and through that medium of voice, are protected under the First Amendment where they have the ability to speak out against any injustices launched against the faith community by the Federal and Local Government. If you are going to speak historically, get the facts straight and quit with the regurgitation of the liberal lies of the Atheistic community and ACLU. The true people who are intolerant and violate the Separation of Church and State are the Atheists and Liberal communities who violate the First Amendment Right of religious expression – to include speaking out against immoral injustices imposed by a Federal Government. It is not the Faith community that is violating and intolerant, it is the liberal and atheists who are in violation and intolerant and practice the most vile Religious bigotry to-date
  • David Woodfield Go “Green,” “Go God,” what exactly is the difference today? The intent of the founding fathers was not to eliminate or even separate religion the way you describe. It was meant to stop another governing authority such as the Vatican from having a say in our governance. It wasn’t meant to stop the placement of a cross on a billboard along the highway and I would argue that today a GO GREEN sign is exactly the same.
  • Ilyn Ross The wall of separation expresses FREEDOM. Jefferson wrote very clearly.
  • Ilyn Ross It is good to fight THEOCRACY warriors: those who LUST TO IMPOSE.
  • Timothy Berman Yes, freedom from the oppression a State religion places upon a society. Study your history and you will see that when religion becomes a state Religion, it is inseparable from the Political arm and becomes a political arm in and of itself and that is where you get the severe persecution that people fled from.
  • Timothy Berman It is good to fight Autocratic thugs who want to remove religion out of the market place of ideas
  • Ilyn Ross THEOCRACY includes imposing religion-based policies.
  • Ilyn Ross Timothy: your mind, debilitated from religious bondage, cannot fathom freedom.
  • Timothy Berman Autocracy imposes religious bigotry and imposes, imprisons, and penalized those. Would you rather have a society that is forced to not believe in God and have public hangings and crucifixions of those who simply read from a sacred book or record and practice their faith? Or, would you allow the person the freedom to practice their religious expression without Government Ruling and oppression?
  • Ilyn Ross Go find your mind. You have lost it.
  • Timothy Berman Ilyn, sorry to disagree with you but you just made an ad hominem. Why don’t you go back and really study the historical truth behind Separation of Church and State and you will see that the Liberal mind has it confused and uses the false dichotomy of separation of Church and State to silence religious oppression which is a direct violation of the First Amendment.
  • Timothy Berman Ilyn, again, ad hominem.
  • Timothy Berman Do you support the Constitution of the United States? Do you support the First Amendment which protects the freedom of Religion?
  • Ilyn Ross Reasoning with you is like administering medicine to the dead.
  • Timothy Berman Separation of Church and State means that the Government (Executive, Judicial, and Legislative Branches) cannot rule and impose, limit or disallow the freedom of Religion. That is what you are stating is false.
  • Ilyn Ross You do not know the meaning g of freedom. YOU ADVOCATE COERCION. That is the mark of EVIL.
  • Timothy Berman Ilyn, you can’t reason because you are not reasoning through intellectual discourse. I presented a valid criticism and instead of providing an intellectual rebuttal, you engage in ad hominem thrice.
  • Ilyn Ross Go to Iran. They do not have wall of separation there.
  • Timothy Berman Coercion. Hmm, okay. My step son is not allowed to pray openly in a public school. Why? Because someone might find it offensive. I can’t speak openly about my faith to another without having someone jump down my throat who does not believe in the same thing as I do. Now, who is coercing who?
  • Timothy Berman Ilyn, Iran is a prime example as to why we have the First Amendment. Again, do you support the Constitution of the United States of America and the First Amendment which guarantees the protection of the Freedom of Religion, which includes the freedom of Religious Expression, i.e., the freedom to worship, the freedom to exercise one’s faith, the freedom to practice that faith without Government ruling and interference? Yes or no? You have not answered this question, but suddenly launched into ad hominem how come?
  • Ilyn Ross You lie.
  • Timothy Berman Again, do you support the Constitution of the United States of America and the First Amendment which guarantees the protection of the Freedom of Religion, which includes the freedom of Religious Expression, ie, the freedom to worship, the freedom of Religious Expression, i.e., the freedom to worship, the freedom to exercise one’s faith, the freedom to practice that faith without Government ruling and interference? Yes or no? You have not answered this question, but suddenly launched into ad hominem how come?
  • Ilyn Ross You do not know the meaning of wall of separation. That is how debilitated your mind is.
  • Timothy Berman Again, ad hominem which is a logical fallacy. A logical fallacy employed where the opponent attacks the person instead of engaging in the actual conversation and provide an adequate and objective response based on logical and intellectual reasoning.
  • Ilyn Ross Repost -This video evinces Santorum’s DECEIT and his advocacy of the DARK-AGES. He equivocates between public & government. Public religious activities by PRIVATE individuals are in the realm of private faith. Churches, temples, or mosque are usually open to the public. Whereas, GOVERNMENT is FORCE. Since no one has a right to coerce rights respecters, force must be separated from religion, economics, science, education, art…Santorum’s EGREGIOUS LIE is his attribution of the WALL of SEPARATION to JFK and to the KKK. The man who uttered the WALL of SEPARATION is the author of the Declaration of Independence, the Father of religious freedom, the advocate of the Bill of Rights, the President who abolished the slave trade, and the unjustly maligned man who fought slavery all his life: THOMAS JEFFERSON. The anti freedom, like the Texas Education Board, want to delete Jefferson from history. Many lie about him to tear him down. But glorious men, like ABE LINCOLN, extol him: “The principles of Jefferson are the DEFINITIONS and AXIOMS of FREE SOCIETY… All honor to Jefferson – to the man, who in the concrete pressure of a struggle for national independence by a single people, had the coolness, forecast, and sagacity to introduce into a merely revolutionary document an abstract truth, applicable to all men and all times, and so embalm it there that to-day and in all coming days it shall be a rebuke and a stumbling-block to the very harbingers of reappearing tyranny and oppression.” Merrimack, N.H., Dec 14, 2010 / 12:31 am (CNA).- During a symposium exploring Ca…See More
  • Ilyn Ross You can’t reason with one with no mind.
  • Timothy Berman It is apparent that instead of providing a more appropriate, adequate, and objective response that is based on logical reasoning’s and intellectual discourse, you employ Ad hominem as well as special pleading. Special pleading is where you make the criticism but remove yourself from the same exact criticism that may be launched to disprove your position. If you feel that I am wrong, then stop employing ad hominem and special pleading and engage in a more appropriate flow of discussion by presenting adequate logical sound reason to support your position.
  • Ilyn Ross You have the mark of evil.
  • Ilyn Ross I’ll try if you answer my questions. Do you agree with George Washington that government, the state, is FORCE?
  • Timothy Berman Again, refusal to engage in an intellectual and objective conversation to substantiate your claim. Instead, you falter and show your foolishness by relying more on ad hominem than intellectual discourse. Not once have you addressed my criticism. Not once have you provided a difference of opinion that is based on facts and logical reasoning. not once have you stated your position in a more accurate and objective manner. Instead, you engage in nothing more than a third grade bullying mentality and name calling.
  • Timothy Berman I agree that the Government is to protect her citizenry with appropriate laws and regulations that provide and sustain the citizens. If that is what you define as a governing force, then yes I will agree
  • Ilyn Ross Do you hold that no one has a right to coerce rights respecters?
  • Timothy Berman Within that force, the Government is separate and autonomous from Religion. Religion is not to be controlled by the Government, unless where that Religion or faith threatens the safety and life of the particular citizenry and is in direct violation of governing laws of the land. What are the governing laws of the land that a religious faith may come under scrutiny? If it requires the shedding of human blood, if it teaches contrary to the established social norms of acceptable society. Praying is not against the Government. Reading a Bible is not in violation of law. Preaching that certain immoral acts are against the decrees of a Supreme Being is not a violation of law. The only times these latter things become a violation of Law is when that Governing force oversteps its bounds and tries to control the Church. When the Governing force oversteps its bounds, it is in violation of its own decree to protect the freedom of Religious faith, religious practice, religious expression by trying to force it, coerce it into accepting particular rituals, doctrines and beliefs that may be in direct contradiction of its religious stance. Well, that is a very ambiguous question because if you agree that no one has the right to coerce someone to believe or accept something, then you have violated that yourself because you must denounce the coercion of the ACLU and Atheist communities that try to force their opinions and thoughts on there not being any God. Also to coerce and to prevent someone from enjoying the freedom of Religious expression which is in direct contradiction and violation of the First Amendment. That is defined as hypocrisy and goes back to the logical fallacy of special pleading. That my friend is a violation of Separation of Church and State and it is the true Wall of Separation. But hey, I am a mindless evil imbecile for believing this and proving you in error of your thinking because, well heck, I just don’t know what I am talking about now huh? Until you provide a more intellectual and objective response, the one that needs to put down the tainted kool-aid and stop being a mindless robot think tank that regurgitates the false teachings of the liberal community is the one that is making the ad hominem attacks and refusing to engage in intellectual discourse.
  • Ilyn Ross Anti freedom.
  • Timothy Berman Again, more personal attacks (ad hominem) and no intellectual discourse.

Notice that several times I attempted to request the individual to actually take the focus of personal attacks (ad hominem) and address the criticism presented against their understanding of what it means by Separation of Church and State and the Wall of Separation. Instead, the individual continued their pursuit of ad hominem without regard to intellectual discourse or discussion. They also engaged in a logical fallacy known as special pleading. This is the very reason critical thinking and flexibility in one’s discourses is very important and missing in our social context today.

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2 thoughts on “A Discussion on the wall of separation of Church and State

  1. You were quite patient in fending off and discouraging ad hominem attacks. Much of the discussion of separation of church and state, though, was off target I think.

    Separation of church and state is a bedrock principle of our Constitution, much like the principles of separation of powers and checks and balances. In the first place, the Supreme Court has thoughtfully, authoritatively, and repeatedly decided as much; it is long since established law. In the second place, the Court is right. In the Constitution, the founders did not simply say in so many words that there should be separation of powers and checks and balances; rather, they actually separated the powers of government among three branches and established checks and balances. Similarly, they did not merely say there should be separation of church and state; rather, they actually separated them by (1) establishing a secular government on the power of “We the people” (not a deity), (2) according that government limited, enumerated powers, (3) saying nothing to connect that government to god(s) or religion, (4) saying nothing to give that government power over matters of god(s) or religion, and (5), indeed, saying nothing substantive about god(s) or religion at all except in a provision precluding any religious test for public office. Given the norms of the day (by which governments generally were grounded in some appeal to god(s)), the founders’ avoidance of any expression in the Constitution suggesting that the government is somehow based on any religious belief was quite a remarkable and plainly intentional choice. They later buttressed this separation of government and religion with the First Amendment, which affirmatively constrains the government from undertaking to establish religion or prohibit individuals from freely exercising their religions. The basic principle, thus, rests on much more than just the First Amendment.

    It is important to distinguish between the “public square” and “government” and between “individual” and “government” speech about religion. The constitutional principle of separation of church and state does not purge religion from the public square–far from it. Indeed, the First Amendment’s “free exercise” clause assures that each individual is free to exercise and express his or her religious views–publicly as well as privately. The Amendment constrains only the government not to promote or otherwise take steps toward establishment of religion. As government can only act through the individuals comprising its ranks, when those individuals are performing their official duties (e.g., public school teachers instructing students in class), they effectively are the government and thus should conduct themselves in accordance with the First Amendment’s constraints on government. When acting in their individual capacities, they are free to exercise their religions as they please. (Students also are free to exercise and express their religious views–in a time, manner, and place that does not interfere with school programs and activities.) If their right to free exercise of religion extended even to their discharge of their official responsibilities, however, the First Amendment constraints on government establishment of religion would be eviscerated. While figuring out whether someone is speaking for the government in any particular circumstance may sometimes be difficult, making the distinction is critical.

    With respect to symbols and such, generally, if a monument is displayed “by” a government on its land, then that likely will be regarded as “government speech” to be assessed for compliance with the establishment clause. If a monument is displayed by a private person or group on government land, it may well be regarded as “individual speech” to be evaluated under the free exercise clause. In the latter case, the government, of course, cannot discriminate against particular religions and thus generally must allow other persons or groups equal opportunity to express their religious views on the government land. In sorting this out, much depends on the details of each case.

    Nor does the constitutional separation of church and state prevent citizens from making decisions based on principles derived from their religions. Moreover, the religious beliefs of government officials naturally may inform their decisions on policies. The principle, in this context, merely constrains government officials not to make decisions with the predominant purpose or primary effect of advancing religion; in other words, the predominant purpose and primary effect must be nonreligious or secular in nature. A decision coinciding with religious views is not invalid for that reason as long as it has a secular purpose and effect.

    The Constitution, including particularly the First Amendment, embodies the simple, just idea that each of us should be free to exercise his or her religious views without expecting that the government will endorse or promote those views and without fearing that the government will endorse or promote the religious views of others. By keeping government and religion separate, the Constitution serves to protect the freedom of all to exercise their religion. Reasonable people may differ, of course, on how these principles should be applied in particular situations, but the principles are hardly to be doubted. Moreover, they are good, sound principles that should be nurtured and defended, not attacked. Efforts to undercut our secular government by somehow merging or infusing it with religion should be resisted by every patriot.

    Wake Forest University has published a short, objective Q&A primer on the current law of separation of church and state–as applied by the courts rather than as caricatured in the blogosphere. I commend it to you. http://divinity.wfu.edu/religion-and-public-affairs/joint-statement/

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    1. Thank you for your thoughtful and engaging comment. Do not really see much of these types of comments. For the most part, I agree with all you are saying. I still believe that the government operates under checks and balances, I also hold to the understanding (from what I have read of the Federalist Papers, and the like) the Church is to hold the Government in check when said government oversteps bounds in the issue of Morality. This brings up a fine line of when is it the Government vs. the People that bring the issues related to morality up for vote. This is where the heart of the discussion ought to rest.

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