There are a few questions about church/state separation that pop up more often than others:
- Are persons elected or nominated to serve as government officials required to place their hands on the Bible when making oaths or affirmations?
- May elected officials reference religious ideas and discuss their personal religious beliefs while operating in their official capacities?
- May the government erect temporary holiday displays that contain some religious elements such as a crèche or a menorah?
- May public schools lead students in a voluntary recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance with the words “under God” at the beginning of the school day?
Every few months, it seems, another one of these issues is brought to the forefront of political discussion
The Center for Religion and Public Affairs at the Wake Forest University School of Divinity has put together a statement on Religious Expression in American Public Life (PDF).
It’s a handy guide to answering those questions, stripped of any ideology, just limited to what the law says. Definitely a useful educational resource.
… While there is disagreement among us about the merits of some of the court decisions and laws mentioned in this document, we agree that current law protects the rights of people to express their religious convictions and practice their faiths on government property and in public life as described here. Thus, we hope this document will help settle the debate about whether current law provides any protection for the right of religious expression and practice in these settings (it clearly does) and focus our attention on the merits of specific laws and court decisions in this area. Finally, when engaging in these more focused discussions, we hope this document will help Americans describe current law as accurately as possible. That certainly will not end our debates, but it will help make them more productive.
(Thanks to Debbie for the link!)