"Separation of Church and State" Isn't in the Constitution!

So many believers have been dropping by in response to me hammering on Michael Egnor.  None of them seem to have read the first section of the Constitution, but they love to point out that the phrase “separation of church and state” doesn’t appear in the it.  This is a specious, semantic game to avoid arguing against the concept and the framework for it being there.

The phrase “separation of chuch and state” is used as a shorthand description for what the constitution calls for. You might as well say the word “monogamy” isn’t in the bible, so the framework and concept of monogamy isn’t in there. As I pointed out earlier, Article 3 gives the SCOTUS the authority to make the call on separation, and they have made it.

There is no question that the overwhelming majority of church/state separation cases in what has undoubtedly and unarguably been a nation of Judeo-Christian background have nevertheless come down on the side separation. Let’s face it: until recently the population has been around 90% Judeo-Christian.  That is the background of every single Supreme Court Justice ever, and clearly and consistently “separation” has been the winner. They haven’t done this because of their religious beliefs, but in spite of them.

You may kick and scream and insist that this country’s 100% Judeo-Christian Justices have, for decades, pushed a subversive “agenda” of separation, but that idea is absolutely ludicrous. Do you even hear what you are suggesting? Does that make any kind of sense?

What you think the constitution means, or what you think the founders intended, does not matter. You can whine all you want that atheists and the courts don’t get it. It is nothing but sour grapes on your part. The legal precedents are well established, that bell is rung, and you can’t unring it.

People who aren’t well-educated or very bright will believe they know more about applicable legal historical context than generations of Supreme Court justices, but no objective on-looker will buy that story.

The sad part is that Cranston is full of people who are not objective (you can thank deep, unflinching faith for helping them get there) who are going to continue pissing away education dollars on frivolous court cases destined to be lost.

And make no mistake all you godly folk in Rhode Island, you have lost. I suggest you do what the precious prayer banner you are squealing about said to do: be good sports and accept your losses with a smile.

It is a pipe dream for you to hope that people will believe your constitutional knowledge, wisdom, and interpretation is better than decades of jurisprudence and Supreme Court justices. If that it what you are selling, surely the only people buying are those with equally little knowledge.


About JT Eberhard

When not defending the planet from inevitable apocalypse at the rotting hands of the undead, JT is a writer and public speaker about atheism, gay rights, and more. He spent two and a half years with the Secular Student Alliance as their first high school organizer. During that time he built the SSA’s high school program and oversaw the development of groups nationwide. JT is also the co-founder of the popular Skepticon conference and served as the events lead organizer during its first three years.

  • Brownian

    Hi believers:

    JT is lying. It’s 100% absolutely true that the founders wanted a Christian country, but they were unable to figure out how to elect Jesus the ancient Swede from the shores of Galilee as President for Life and Afterlife, so they wrote up this big document that you can worship without ever having read (like the bible!), but don’t worry—it mostly contains details on how to prevent the British from showing up and forcing you to learn math, or other such European witchery.

    Nonetheless, this document has been constantly under attack by liberals, atheists, homosexuals, ethnics, communists, feminists, scientists, and Canadians. Make no mistake, we won’t stop until all the rich people you delusionally think you’ll one day be sipping Dom Perignon with are taxed within an inch of their lives and the only being your children will be allowed to pray to in school is El Diablo (that’s Mexican for “Black Democrat President” or “Democrat Woman President”, whichever makes Yahweh—the god we won’t admit we believe in just so we can have leather daddy parties—cry more).

    And we’re taking away your guns.


    • http://www.thealders.net Doug Alder

      Damn you Brownian @1 you gave it all away

      • Brownian

        Oh, they know what’s what. Denying it won’t help.

        Besides, I like to taste the fear in my meat.

  • http://twitter.com/#!/VeritasKnight VeritasKnight

    Do you know who wrote that the 1st Amendment was designed to create a separation of church and state? Madison and Jefferson. Who wrote the Bill of Rights? Madison and Jefferson.


  • Reginald Selkirk

    “Separation of Church and State” Isn’t in the Constitution!

    My favourite comeback to that is, “Show me where the word ‘trinity’ appears in your Bible.”

    • http://umlud.blogspot.com Umlud

      To put a thorn in the side of American Christianists, I like to point out that “America” isn’t in the Bible, either… (Heck, most of the world isn’t in the Bible; nor is much of the Roman bloody Empire!)

      So how can we be a Christian country when the infallible and all-knowing word of the Christian God didn’t put its existence in his book? I mean, Israel is definitely in there as his country, why not America? Huh?

  • Reginald Selkirk

    You might as say the word “monogamy” isn’t in the bible, so the framework and concept of monogamy isn’t in there.

    Heck, you might say the framework and concept of monogamy isn’t in the Bible. If you’re confused about, maybe you should discuss it with someone really smart, like Solomon. And his 700 wives and 300 concubines.

  • Mattir

    Brownian, I love you. Really. Even if you’re one of them Canadian types.

    • Brownian

      I’ll always remember my first gay sex partner. ;)

  • http://www.youtube.com/saucefoall Tevin Townsend

    “As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion.”

    Treaty of Tripoli – Article 11


    • sqlrob

      And almost as importantly -

      Approve unanimously, without comment. You’d think that the Christians in Congress would have a problem with that.

      • http://www.youtube.com/saucefoall Tevin Townsend

        Yep, reminds me of an episode from theatheistexperience where Matt explains the same thing. :)

  • Jenesa

    Two things:

    1) The constitution is written by fallible men, who knew they were fallible, and because of that they intentionally put into the constitution the ability to change it. So if separation of church and state isn’t in the constitution then it should be. Whether or not something is in the constitution is irrelevant to whether or not it is a good or bad idea. So people arguing that it’s not in the constitution aren’t really getting themselves anywhere, as you then still have to argue why it shouldn’t be.

    2) Separation of church and state helps the church just as much as it helps the state. When the two are merged the state gets to tell you what to do in church, and given the varied opinions within Christianity it is unlikely any merger of church and state would appeal to more than half the populace. When the two are kept separate, who people pray to and how and how often is their own damn business. When one church gets into government the government inevitably gets into the rest of the churches

  • Aquaria

    For all the other believers who have been dropping by (and who continue to drop by) in response to me hammering on Michael Egnor who haven’t even read the first section of the Constitution but who love to point out that the phrase “separation of church and state” doesn’t appear in the Constitution, would you use the same specious semantic game to argue against the concept and the framework for it being there?

    I always like to tell them that “freedom of religitardery-er, religion” isn’t in there, either.

    Go ahead, christslime: Show us where the constitution specifically says “freedom of religion.”

    I’ll fucking wait.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1159674804 robertbaden

    Freedom of Association isn’t explicitly in the Constitution either.

  • Aquaria

    By the way, it doesn’t say anything about double jeopardy, or separation of powers, either.

    But both are accurate descriptions of what was meant with the 5th Amendment protection not to be tried twice for the same crime, and having the government divided between an executive, legislative and judiciary branch as a check on each other’s powers.

    Sucks to be you, christslime.

  • Randomfactor

    Make it simple. Where in the Constitution does it say “God,” “Jesus” or “Christian.”

  • LeftSidePositive

    JT, I love you muchly, but this piece really smacks of argument from authority. Yes, in this case and similar ones, Supreme Court decisions have actually espoused decent values, but in so many cases now and throughout history they have not. Let alone Plessy vs. Ferguson, I’ve been reading up on the court’s various narrow-minded, circular, self-satisfied justifications for “ceremonial deism” and it seriously makes me want to throw up. So, I’m sort of turned off by the whiff of “because the courts decided it, it must be right…” attitude I’m getting from this piece. There are plenty of issues on which I’m damn sure I have better judgment than the SCOTUS (Citizens United, Lilly Ledbetter, Bush v. Gore, etc.), so I don’t think the “do you think you know better, huh?” gambit is necessarily productive. The difference being that unlike the Cranston folk, I could actually make a coherent argument against their reasoning in the cases I find objectionable (I won’t here, for obvious brevity considerations!). So, maybe a better way to say it would be something along the lines of, “So, if you think you can compete with the court’s impeccable reasoning in this case, please go ahead–I look forward to your sophisticated and cogent arguments!”

    After all, courts have before (and will again) rule against non-believers, so let’s not fetishize the judicial opinions of highly fallible people…

    • LeftSidePositive

      Argh. Make that “in this case and similar ones, *lower and* Supreme Court decisions…”

    • Robert B.

      This. I was just coming down to post a comment making the same argument.

      Some folks in Cranston seem not to be aware that this verdict was utterly predictable, and they should never have expected to win and would not win an appeal. On that point, the legal precedents are important. Other than that, I’d much rather see you arguing from the quality of the court’s opinions, which is what makes them right, rather than the frequency or legal authority of those opinions, which do not.

  • Hypatia’s Daughter

    #11 Randomfactor
    Yes. Flip it around. If you wanted America to be a “xtian nation”, and you were writing its Constitution, wouldn’t you have actually, like, put that into the Constitution? Maybe something like “This nation, founded by the will of God, in the name of His Son, Jesus Christ, Our Savior…….”

    Instead of “We, the people,….” – possibly the 3 greatest words ever put into the founding document of a government.

  • Usernames are stupid

    So, I wanted to yell “Fire” in a crowded theater. Freedom of speech, right? I mean, I was just joking.

    Well, someone pointed out that I didn’t have that right.

    So, I read the constitution. Some of the words were long and stuff, but I didn’t see the word “fire” in there anywhere, so I know they didn’t put it in as being against the law!!

    You liberals and activist judges are trying to take away our rights. And you’re doing it by VIOLATING OUR CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHTS!!