September 27, 2019

Willful ignorance: Robert Jeffress, Texas megachurch pastor and one of Trump’s closest spiritual advisors, claims “there is no such thing as a separation of church and state in the Constitution.”

Appearing in front of the National Quartet Convention, a gospel music gathering in Tennessee held earlier this week, Pastor Jeffress responded to a question concerning the separation of church and state. Jeffress said in part:

There is no such thing as a separation of church and state in the Constitution…

We have allowed the secularists, the atheists, the humanists to hijack our Constitution and pervert it into something our forefathers never intended.

Jeffress continued his ignorant rant by defending President Trump, and declaring “Thank God we have a president like Donald J. Trump who understands that (there is no such thing as a separation of church and state in the Constitution)”:

And I’m gonna say this. I’m gonna say this, and it may cost me some book sales, but I’m gonna say it anyway. Thank God we have a president like Donald J. Trump who understands that. I don’t like seeing my friend under attack like he is under right now, but I don’t like the prospect of what’s going to happen in America if we allow the left to seize control of this country again.

And I believe one of the great ironies of history is gonna be this: When the historians look back, they are gonna say with great surprise, that it was a secular, billionaire real estate tycoon from New York City who became the most pro-life, pro-religious liberty, and pro-Israel president in history.

In a superficial, and shallow sense, Jeffress is correct – the words “separation of church and state” are not found in the U.S. Constitution. However, Jeffress is being disingenuous and dishonest when he says “there is no such thing as a separation of church and state in the Constitution.”

In fact, there is no question that the sentiment and meaning behind the phrase “separation of church and state” is contained within the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…

The actual phrase “separation of church and state” is derived from a letter written by President Thomas Jefferson in 1802 to Baptists from Danbury, Connecticut, and published in a Massachusetts newspaper soon thereafter. The following is an excerpt from Jefferson’s famous Letter to the Danbury Baptist Association:

I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should “make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,” thus building a wall of separation between Church & State.

In the letter, Jefferson makes clear that the separation of church and state is contained within the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Yet despite the irrefutable historical and constitutional evidence, Christian extremists like Jeffress continue to deny the separation of church and state.

Jeffress, an obviously ignorant and small-minded man, is no stranger to controversy. Last month this “good Christian” warned Jews that they and their children would be cursed by God if they voted for Democrats.

And earlier this month Jeffress made the ridiculous claim that climate change is an “imaginary crisis” because God’s rainbow means “that the polar ice caps aren’t going to melt and flood the world again.”

The stupid, it burns.

Bottom line: Texas megachurch pastor Robert Jeffress claims “there is no such thing as a separation of church and state in the Constitution.”

Robert Jeffress: ‘There’s No Such Thing As Separation Of Church And State’
Robert Jeffress: ‘There’s No Such Thing As Separation Of Church And State’
December 7, 2018

Theocracy alert: Trump’s Attorney General Pick William Barr is a Catholic conservative who rejects the separation of church and state, calls secularists “fanatics,” and blames secularism for “moral decline.”

Earlier today Trump announced he would nominate William Barr to succeed Jeff Sessions as the nation’s attorney general. Barr previously served as attorney general under the late President George H.W. Bush.

Barr is a states’ rights, religious conservative who believes women do not have a constitutional right to abortion, that Roe vs. Wade was wrongly decided, and that the legality of abortion should be determined by individual states.

As attorney general under the late President George H.W. Bush, Barr was the architect of  America’s failed war on drugs and the current punitive criminal justice system. Barr was and is a big proponent of mass incarceration, despite the fact that research shows such a system fosters and promotes racial discrimination.

In addition to the racism and misogyny one would expect from a conservative Catholic, Barr is also a bigot when it comes to non-religious people and others who respect the separation of church and state.

In a 2011 address to “The Governor’s Conference on Juvenile Crime, Drugs and Gangs,” Barr condemned church/state separation in public schools:

This moral lobotomy of public schools has been based on extremist notions of separation of church and state or on theories of moral relativism which reject the notion that there are standards of rights or wrong to which the community can demand adherence.

In a 2017 article published by The Catholic Lawyer, Barr bemoaned the rise of secularism and offered an answer to the challenge of “representing Catholic institutions.” Discussing what Barr termed as “The Breakdown of Traditional Morality” the new attorney general nominee writes:

We live in an increasingly militant, secular age…  As part of this philosophy, we see a growing hostility toward religion, particularly Catholicism. This form of bigotry has always been fashionable in the United States. There are, today, even greater efforts to marginalize or “ghettoize” orthodox religion…

In the article Barr uses the example of equal rights for LGBT people as an indication of the breakdown of traditional morality, claiming that equal treatment for LGBT rights groups at Georgetown University was actually an attack on morality:

The second way in which secularists use law as a weapon is to pass laws that affirmatively promote the moral relativist viewpoint. Such laws seek to ratify, or put on an equal plane, conduct that previously was considered immoral…Another example was the effort to apply District of Columbia law to compel Georgetown University to treat homosexual activist groups like any other student group. This kind of law dissolves any form of moral consensus in society. There can be no consensus based on moral views in the country, only enforced neutrality.

Bottom line: William Barr is a dangerous religious conservative who rejects the separation of church and state, rejects equal rights for LGBT people, calls secularists “fanatics,” and blames secularism for the nation’s supposed “moral decline.”

(H/T GLAAD)

Trump’s Attorney General Pick William Barr Rejects Separation Of Church And State (Image via Screen Grab)
Trump’s Attorney General Pick William Barr Rejects Separation Of Church And State (Image via Screen Grab)
September 8, 2017

Theocracy alert: Trump’s new federal judge nominee is a dangerous religious extremist who rejects the separation of church and state.

Earlier today President Trump nominated Jeff Mateer to be a District Judge on the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas, Sherman division. Currently Mateer is the First Assistant Attorney General of Texas.

Calling Matteer’s nomination to the bench a “gift to the anti-LGBT and religious-right activists who have supported him (Trump) since the campaign,” Texas Freedom Network President Kathy Miller said:

This is a clear a signal that President Trump intends to make our federal courts the place where civil rights go to die.

Miller has good reason to be concerned. Before he began working for the Texas Attorney General’s office, Mateer spent years with the prominent, religious-right, anti-LGBT litigation group First Liberty Legal.

Mateer served as general counsel and executive vice president of First Liberty, which describes itself as “the largest legal organization in the nation dedicated exclusively to protecting religious liberty for all Americans.”

Remember, when conservatives talk about “religious liberty,” they usually mean special rights and protections for conservative Christian bigots. Mateer is no exception to this rule.

Perhaps more alarming than his open bigotry in the name of conservative Christian values, Mateer also rejects the separation of church and state.

Speaking at a conference at the University of St. Thomas in Houston in 2013, Mateer explains what he tells students about the separation of church and state:

I’ll hold up my hundred-dollar bill and say, ‘for the first student who can cite me the provision in the Constitution that guarantees the separation of church and state verbatim, I’ll give this hundred dollar bill.’ … It’s not there. … The protections of the First Amendment protect us from government, not to cause government to persecute us because of our religious beliefs.

In other words, Mateer deceives students, feeding them discredited anti-American propaganda in service to his conservative Christian values.

In a superficial, and shallow sense, Mateer is correct – the words “separation of church and state” are not found in the U.S. Constitution. However, Mateer is being disingenuous when he says “It’s not there.”

In fact, there is no question that the sentiment and meaning behind the phrase is contained within the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…

The actual phrase “separation of church and state” is derived from a letter written by President Thomas Jefferson in 1802 to Baptists from Danbury, Connecticut, and published in a Massachusetts newspaper soon thereafter. The following is an excerpt from Jefferson’s famous Letter to the Danbury Baptist Association:

I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should “make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,” thus building a wall of separation between Church & State.

In the letter, Jefferson makes clear that the separation of church and state is contained within the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Yet despite the irrefutable historical and constitutional evidence, Christian extremists like Mateer continue to deny the the separation of church and state.

Bottom line: Rejecting the separation of church and state is either willful ignorance or deliberate deceit. As such, anyone who rejects the separation of church and state is simply not qualified to serve as a federal judge. Full stop.

 Federal Judge Nominee Jeff Mateer Rejects Separation of Church and State (Image via Screen Grab)
Federal Judge Nominee Jeff Mateer Rejects Separation of Church and State
(Image via Screen Grab)
May 29, 2017

John F. Kennedy defended the separation of church and state, and opposed using taxpayer money to fund private religious schools.

Born a hundred years ago, May 29, 1917, John F. Kennedy served as the 35th President of the United States from January 1961 until his assassination in November 1963.

On November 22, 1963, Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, Texas. Yet however short his term in office, Kennedy leaves behind a powerful legacy that reaffirms the secular values upon which this nation was founded.

As a presidential candidate, Kennedy gave a major speech to the Greater Houston Ministerial Association on the issue of his religion. At the time, many Americans questioned whether Kennedy’s Roman Catholic faith would allow him to make decisions as president independent of the church. Kennedy addressed those concerns by reaffirming his commitment to the U.S. Constitution, and the separation of church and state.

The following is an excerpt of Kennedy’s historical address to the Greater Houston Ministerial Association, delivered September 12, 1960, at the Rice Hotel in Houston, Texas:

I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute; where no Catholic prelate would tell the President — should he be Catholic — how to act, and no Protestant minister would tell his parishioners for whom to vote; where no church or church school is granted any public funds or political preference, and where no man is denied public office merely because his religion differs from the President who might appoint him, or the people who might elect him.

I believe in an America that is officially neither Catholic, Protestant nor Jewish; where no public official either requests or accept instructions on public policy from the Pope, the National Council of Churches or any other ecclesiastical source; where no religious body seeks to impose its will directly or indirectly upon the general populace or the public acts of its officials, and where religious liberty is so indivisible that an act against one church is treated as an act against all.

In his address Kennedy clearly and boldly affirms the separation of church and state as a cornerstone of life in America.

However, in the 21st century, many conservative Christians reject the separation of church and state, and are currently engaged in a long term struggle to remake the United States into a Christian theocracy.

Yet despite the Christian extremists who would deny the separation of church and state, there can be no doubt that the sentiment and meaning behind the phrase is contained within the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…

The actual phrase “separation of church and state” is derived from a letter written by President Thomas Jefferson in 1802 to Baptists from Danbury, Connecticut, and published in a Massachusetts newspaper soon thereafter. In that letter, referencing the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, Jefferson writes:

Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between Man & his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, & not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should “make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof”, thus building a wall of separation between Church & State.

Yet despite the long and great tradition of keeping church and state separate, currently the Trump administration is complicit in a plot to remake the United States into a Christian theocracy.

In fact, there is no better example of the dangers the U.S. is currently facing from Christian extremists then Education Secretary Betsy DeVos.  

Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos is a radical Christian extremist who wants to use American schools to “advance God’s kingdom.”

Making good on her promise to use American schools to “advance God’s kingdom,” the new education budget from Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos would drastically cut public education while funneling hundreds of millions of tax dollars into private religious schools.

One can only imagine the outrage that Kennedy and other great Americans who fought and died to preserve the secular values of this nation would feel at the prospect of Betsy DeVos and other Christian extremists trying to bring theocracy to the U.S.A.

Bottom line: John F. Kennedy defended the separation of church and state, and opposed using taxpayer money to fund private religious schools.

John F. Kennedy Defended Separation of Church and State (image via Facebook)
John F. Kennedy Defended Separation of Church and State (image via Facebook)
January 31, 2017

Neil Gorsuch, Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, is a gift to conservative Christians, and poison for the separation of church and state.

The New York Times reports Gorsuch has “a strong record of favoring religious freedom over other values.” Recall, when conservatives claim to value “religious freedom” what they really mean is conservative Christians first, everyone else to the back of the bus.

Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) explains some of the concerns with the Gorsuch nomination:

Neil Gorsuch, who serves on the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, joined that court’s Hobby Lobby decision, holding that for-profit companies have a religious right to dictate their employees’ contraceptive choices. He dissented in a decision that removed roadside crosses from rights of way, and when the 10th Circuit voted not to rehear a case removing a Ten Commandments monument from a county courthouse in Oklahoma. Gorsuch advocated removing the “reasonable observer” test, used to determine whether religious displays appear to involve government endorsement of religion.

Commenting on the nominee, FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor said:

In short, Gorsuch is no friend to the separation of state and church.

In the Hobby Lobby case Gorsuch argued that corporations can have religious beliefs, and thus corporate management should have a say over what kind of contraception, if any, employees may purchase with company insurance.

In addition to the Hobby Lobby decision, Gorsuch has indirectly indicated that he would oppose abortion rights for women. Think Progress comments on a 2009 book entitled The Future of Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia, Gorsuch wrote:

(The book) is heavy with the kind of political rhetoric opponents of abortion deploy in the battle over reproductive choice. “Human life is fundamentally and inherently valuable,” Gorsuch wrote in his book, adding that “the intentional taking of human life by private persons is always wrong.”

As Ed Whelan, a former law clerk to Justice Scalia who writes frequently on the courts puts it, “Gee, might that principle have any application to abortion?

Discussing Gorsuch’s legal approach to cases involving religion, SCOTUS Blog notes that the judge provides conservative Christians with “a sense that the government can permit public displays of religion – and can accommodate deeply held religious views…”

Following the announcement of Gorsuch’s nomination to the court, Amanda Knief, American Atheists’ national legal director, released a statement noting that “Americans deserve better than a judge who would prioritize the ‘religious beliefs’ of a corporation over the right of a woman to make healthcare decisions for herself and the bigotry of some over the fundamental human rights of vulnerable communities.”

The following is an excerpt from that statement:

American Atheists has grave concerns about the nomination of Judge Neil Gorsuch to serve a lifetime appointment on the United States Supreme Court. Judge Gorsuch’s expansionist view of religion as a ‘Get Out of the Law, Free’ card is fundamentally at odds with the history of American jurisprudence and would allow religion to be used as a weapon against women, LGBT people, atheists, and others.

I strongly urge members of the United States Senate to fulfill their Constitutional obligation to look deeply at Judge Gorsuch’s record and determine whether or not his views about religious liberty are in line our American values.

Having examined his record myself, it is clear to me that Americans deserve better than a judge who would prioritize the ‘religious beliefs’ of a corporation over the right of a woman to make healthcare decisions for herself and the bigotry of some over the fundamental human rights of vulnerable communities.

Knief is right – Americans deserve better.

As for the process, it looks to be a long road to confirmation for Gorsuch. Democrats are promising to filibuster the nominee because Republicans refused to hold a vote on President Barack Obama’s Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland. For example, an animated Senator Jeff Merkley told Politico:

This is a stolen seat. This is the first time a Senate majority has stolen a seat. We will use every lever in our power to stop this.

Bottom line: As a Supreme Court Justice, Gorsuch would threaten the separation of state and church, and the cherished secular values upon which this nation was founded.

Watch: Trump Announces Neil Gorsuch as Supreme Court Nominee

Trump Announces Neil Gorsuch as Supreme Court Nominee (Image via Screen Grab)
Trump Announces Neil Gorsuch as Supreme Court Nominee (Image via Screen Grab)
January 9, 2017

Jeff Sessions, Trump’s attorney general, claims the separation of church and state is “unconstitutional.”

Sessions is a moral monster with a terrible record on race, women, and the LGBT community. However, perhaps most alarming, Sessions is a radical Christian extremist who rejects the separation of church and state.

Americans United, the Freedom From Religion Foundation, and other sources all report that Sessions believes the separation of church and state is an “extra-constitutional doctrine” and “a recent thing that is unhistorical and unconstitutional.”

Supporting the separation of church and state should not be a controversial issue. However, the sad fact is many Republicans, and many conservative Christians, dispute the existence of the separation of church and state in the U.S. Constitution.

Technically, the words “separation of church and state” are not found in the U.S. Constitution. However, the sentiment and meaning behind the phrase is contained within the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…

The actual phrase “separation of church and state” is derived from a letter written by President Thomas Jefferson in 1802 to Baptists from Danbury, Connecticut, and published in a Massachusetts newspaper soon thereafter. The following is an excerpt from Jefferson’s famous Letter to the Danbury Baptist Association:

I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should “make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,” thus building a wall of separation between Church & State.

Thus, Jefferson makes clear that the separation of church and state is contained within the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Yet despite the irrefutable historical and constitutional evidence, Christian extremists like Sessions continue to deny the the separation of church and state.

Bottom line: Anyone who claims the separation of church and state is an “extra-constitutional doctrine” and “a recent thing that is unhistorical and unconstitutional” is simply unqualified to serve as the attorney general of the United States.

Senator Jeff Sessions (Image via Gage Skidmore)
Senator Jeff Sessions (Image via Gage Skidmore)
January 27, 2016

On the campaign trail in Iowa Hillary Clinton defends the separation of church and state while rejecting faith-based legislation.

Justin Scott, an Iowan who takes his politics seriously, asked the Democratic presidential candidate for her thoughts on politicians who “pass laws that are based on religious beliefs and end up discriminating against people,” asking:

How do we stop that?

Clinton replied:

Well, look, I think we’ve gotta stick with our founding principles, separation between church and state. And remember: It was done in the beginning mostly to protect religion from the state. So we need to stick… We need to stick with what has worked.

This is not the first time Clinton has promoted the separation of church and state. Speaking at a townhall meeting in Las Vegas last August Clinton praised the separation of church and state, declaring:

I am very supportive of the separation of church and state. I think it’s good for both the state and religion. And we have so much diversity of thinking in the country, and part of the reason why this American experiment has lasted is because there’s a lot of different ways for people to express themselves, to believe what they want to believe, or choose not to believe, so I think the separation of church and state has served us very well, and I will certainly defend it.

Supporting the separation of church and state should not be a controversial issue. However, the sad fact is many Republicans, and many conservative Christians, dispute the existence of the separation of church and state in the U.S. Constitution.

By daring to state the obvious, by daring to support the separation of church and state, Clinton is standing up for the progressive, secular values upon which this nation was founded.

Bottom line: Clinton should be applauded for defending church state  separation, and by the same reasoning, any presidential candidate who refuses to support the separation of church and state is simply not qualified to hold the office.

(H/T Justin Scott)

(Image via Screen Grab)
(Image via Screen Grab)

 

 

January 18, 2016

Secular values: Martin Luther King Jr. defended humanists, supported the separation of church and state, and approved of the Supreme Court’s decision striking down government-sponsored prayer in public schools.

While conservative Christians often try to claim King as one of their own, the fact is the heroic civil rights leader was a progressive liberal who defended secular values.

For example, King supported the landmark Supreme Court decision striking down government-sponsored prayer in public schools. Speaking about the ruling in a January 1965 interview with Playboy magazine, King said:

I endorse it. I think it was correct. Contrary to what many have said, it sought to outlaw neither prayer nor belief in God. In a pluralistic society such as ours, who is to determine what prayer shall be spoken, and by whom? Legally, constitutionally or otherwise, the state certainly has no such right. I am strongly opposed to the efforts that have been made to nullify the decision…

More to the point, King was suspicious of many conservative Christian churches, who he believed to be perpetuating institutional racism instead of fighting it. Indeed, King was more worried about working towards social justice than checking the religious credentials of his fellow civil rights activists.

In fact, King was a staunch supporter of atheists, agnostics and other freethinkers active in the social justice movement. In his book, Strength to Love, King writes:

I would be the last to condemn the thousands of sincere and dedicated people outside the churches who have labored unselfishly through various humanitarian movements to cure the world of social evils, for I would rather a man be a committed humanist than an uncommited Christian.

Make no mistake, King was a Baptist minister and considered himself to be a man of God. Yet more important, King was America’s greatest social justice activist, who led the Civil Rights Movement in the United States from the mid-1950s until his death by assassination in 1968.

Bottom line: King transcended religious superstition in his noble fight for social justice.

(H/T Rob Boston)

(Image via nationalservice.gov)
(Image via nationalservice.gov)

 

December 23, 2015

A confused Wisconsin lawmaker claims the separation of church and state is a complete fabrication.

Wisconsin Rep. Jesse Kremer, R-Kewaskum, sent the following tweet earlier this week:

The tweet reads:

Labeled an “extremist” for this factual comment to a Dane County lefty who told me, “We ARE NOT a Christian nation.”

Attached to the tweet is an image of Kremer with the following text:

We are a Judeo-Christian country and separation of church and state is a complete fabrication

 Kremer’s tweet is not “factual.” The U.S. is not a Christian nation, and the separation of church and state is not “a complete fabrication.”

While it is true that the words “separation of church and state” are not found in the U.S. Constitution, the sentiment and meaning behind the phrase is contained within the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…

The actual phrase “separation of church and state” is derived from a letter written by President Thomas Jefferson in 1802 to Baptists from Danbury, Connecticut, and published in a Massachusetts newspaper soon thereafter. In that letter, referencing the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, Jefferson writes:

Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between Man & his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, & not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should “make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof”, thus building a wall of separation between Church & State.

However, given the nature of Kremer’s rhetoric, it is doubtful the lawmaker is familiar with the history pertaining to the U.S. Constitution and the separation of church and state.

The following is an excerpt of Kennedy’s historical address to the Greater Houston Ministerial Association, delivered 12 September 1960 at the Rice Hotel in Houston, Texas; an address in which Kennedy clearly and boldly reaffirmed the separation of church and state:

I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute; where no Catholic prelate would tell the President — should he be Catholic — how to act, and no Protestant minister would tell his parishioners for whom to vote; where no church or church school is granted any public funds or political preference, and where no man is denied public office merely because his religion differs from the President who might appoint him, or the people who might elect him.

I believe in an America that is officially neither Catholic, Protestant nor Jewish; where no public official either requests or accept instructions on public policy from the Pope, the National Council of Churches or any other ecclesiastical source; where no religious body seeks to impose its will directly or indirectly upon the general populace or the public acts of its officials, and where religious liberty is so indivisible that an act against one church is treated as an act against all.

 Kremer is a religious extremist and a deeply flawed politician. Yet there can be no more certain proof of his intellectual incompetence than his failure to understand the simple fact that the separation of church and state is central to the U.S. Constitution and the secular values upon which this nation was founded.

(Image via Twitter)
(Image via Twitter)

 

August 25, 2015

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton promises that if elected she will defend the separation of church and state.

Clinton was speaking at a townhall meeting in Las Vegas last week when Daniel Little, a college student and a member of the Secular Student Alliance, asked the former secretary of state her opinion on the separation of church and state.

Clinton replied that she supports the separation of church and state, and promised to defend it if elected. The following is a transcript of the question and answer via Friendly Atheist:

Little: Hello. My name is Daniel Little and I’m at CSN currently — the College of Southern Nevada. I’m a current political science major. And I’m a part of the Secular Student Alliance. Have you heard of that? Okay, basically, it’s a group of freethinkers and skeptics in schools. And currently — there’s a little fact here for you — in a few states, their Constitution has it written… that it is illegal for a nonbeliever to hold public office. With that, I wanna know: What are your current opinions about the separation of church and state.

Clinton: Well. I am very supportive of the separation of church and state. I think it’s good for both the state and religion. And we have so much diversity of thinking in the country, and part of the reason why this American experiment has lasted is because there’s a lot of different ways for people to express themselves, to believe what they want to believe, or choose not to believe, so I think the separation of church and state has served us very well, and I will certainly defend it.

(Audio available on C-SPAN)

Supporting the separation of church and state should not be a controversial issue. However, many Republicans, and many conservative Christians, dispute the existence of the separation of church and state in the U.S. Constitution, because the words “separation of church and state” are not found in the U.S. Constitution.

However, the sentiment and meaning behind the phrase “separation of church and state” is contained within the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…

The actual phrase “separation of church and state” is derived from a letter written by President Thomas Jefferson in 1802 to Baptists from Danbury, Connecticut, and published in a Massachusetts newspaper soon thereafter. In that letter, referencing the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, Jefferson writes:

Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between Man & his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, & not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should “make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof”, thus building a wall of separation between Church & State.

Yet despite these historical facts, many Republicans refuse to acknowledge and seek to abolish the separation of church and state. GOP presidential candidate Rick Santorum has even gone so far as to make the absurd claim that the separation of church and state is not an American idea, but a communist idea.

The good news: A majority of U.S. citizens prefer presidential candidates who believe religion has no place in government, according to a CNN poll released earlier this year.

As for Clinton, in a fiery speech delivered last April at the sixth annual Women in The World Summit, Clinton made a powerful argument that deep seated religious beliefs must be changed so that everyone can enjoy full participation in every aspect of society. After discussing the pressing social justice issues of domestic violence and women’s reproductive health, Clinton said:

Laws have to be backed up with resources and political will. And deep-seated cultural codes, religious beliefs and structural biases have to be changed.

By daring to state the obvious, by daring to support the separation of church and state, and daring to say that deep seated religious beliefs must be changed, both in the U.S. and around the world, Clinton is taking a bold stand for social justice, and the progressive, secular values upon which this nation was founded.

Bottom line: the separation of church and state is central to the U.S. Constitution and the secular values upon which this nation was founded. Any presidential candidate who refuses to support the separation of church and state is not qualified to hold the office.

(Image via Wikimedia)
(Image via Wikimedia)
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