There is enough confusion to last us a lifetime when we start discussing or deciphering this concept. Without proper citation no justice can be done to a study of the separation of church and state, either. And since that is so, I’d like to state only a few points here, which, hopefully, would provide some food for thought. Many resources are available on the Internet and elsewhere if one would like to self-study the matter.
The obvious place to start would be the wording of the Constitution or more precisely, the First Amendment. This Amendment has two basic concepts, which are called the Establishment Clause and the Free Exercise Clause. Let’s look at how it’s phrased:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…
In 1802, Thomas Jefferson was the first to refer to this clause as “a wall of separation between church and state” when he wrote to a group called the Danbury Baptists. As one studies the relationship between church and state in history, one sees a common thread in the argument for a state religion as well as the one against it: the church side is referred to as the spiritual or sacred side while the state side is referred to as the secular or civil side.
Why is this of any importance? In my view both the opponents and proponents recognized that the state shouldn’t be in the soul-saving business prescribing how, who or where people should worship. Similarly, the church should not be the civil administrator of the people, making and enforcing laws that regulate civil society. The relationship between these two concepts, the civil and the religious, have been referred to in history as the Doctrine of the Two Kingdoms, first articulated by Martin Luther and later adopted by James Madison.
So, if a perfect application of this “wall” has been established, say, then nobody should be concerned or threatened by people praying or expressing their faith in public, neither should the government prescribe to parents how they should raise or educate their children. There should also be no concern when people express their absence of faith in anything, or how they raise and educate their children. Regardless of one's religious belief or absence thereof, the civil laws are instituted to maintain outward order and peace, making everybody subject to the civil law.
Why, then, would one ask, is prayer, for instance, prohibited in schools by citing the First Amendment? Because the people, who were supposed to protect the First Amendment, failed their duty in keeping the government out of the education of our children. Once we mandated that the civil government would be the Pater of our children’s education we foolishly demanded that the civil magistrate should also be a person of religion, violating the First Amendment.
Similarly, churches are dependent upon 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status here in the U.S., thereby avoiding having to pay taxes on tithes and other gifts the churches receive to run their operations. Both a tax-exempt and a tax are yokes on churches principally violating the First Amendment. In some cases this exposes them to reprimand and punishment from the government if they should preach certain “unacceptable” doctrines from the pulpit, which could be defined in legislation putting them at risk of violating the civil law.
In the same manner government was allowed to differentiate between married people and unmarried people by providing married couples with tax incentives and certain contractual benefits over their unmarried counterparts – another violation of the First Amendment. Marriage is a religious institution, which became dependent upon the civil magistrate’s licensing and approval and for favors and incentives. A violation of the First Amendment.
Many other violations of the First Amendment have been introduced into our society and the keepers of the gates were asleep at their posts when one would have expected them to remain loyal to the simple language of the Constitution. Were they duped by the benefits such legislation bring to their religion causing a blind spot over the admonition of the Constitution against it?
Perhaps one shouldn’t be too hard on them for not grasping the unintended consequences of seemingly innocent legislation, but it is never too late to petition and succeed at the reversal of these atrocities against the Constitution. It is also never too late to learn from their mistakes by reading into the simple language of the Constitution things that are not there. Those gate-keepers should be removed from their posts lest they, too, would impose unintended consequences on our posterity. "Unintended" is not an excuse any longer.
Religion or the absence thereof is an unalienable right of each individual and no coercion by incentive or threat of punishment should be tolerated from the other Kingdom. Ever.
To be continued.