Separation of Church and State

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The Wall of Separation Controversy

Separation of Church and State has been a major political issue for many years. There are loopholes and grey areas that we have yet to resolve. John Locke, William Blackstone, Roger Williams, John Witherspoon, Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, and Wilbur F. Crafts were major players in the issue of Religion in Politics. These people have given various reasons as to why or why not religion must be separate from politics in a democracy. I will breakdown the most influential views and the people in which they belong and also include my thoughts on where they went wrong or when they were right.

Sir William Blackstone was an influential individual regarding unification of religion and politics. He believed in the unification of Church and State. He believed that government had the obligation to teach religious doctrine and punish those who dissented religious teachings. He also emphasized the suppression of Catholics. Blackstone wrote “Of Offences Against God and Religion”. He believed that “such crimes and misdemeanors, as more immediately offend Almighty God, by openly transgressing the precepts of religion either natural or revealed.” Basically saying that the State should be compelled by the word of God to punish those who reject Christianity because it directly offends God Almighty. Non-Conformity is an offence also. There are two types of non-conformists: those who are absent from worship in an established church, and those who offend through a mistaken or perverse zeal. As you can see with the small portion of text from his writings, Blackstone was a radical Christian and he strongly believed that the Church and state should be unified.

John Witherspoon also had a view of whether or not Church should be separate from State. He believed that the Church and the State should be unified and he argued firmly for the religious freedoms as quoted, “God grant that in America true religion and civil liberty may be inseparable and that unjust attempts to destroy the one may in the issue tend to the support and establishment of both”. He wrote “The Dominion of Providence over the Passions of Men”. In this sermon he argued for the “divine support for American independence while emphasizing the religious foundations for an organized government” shifting the focus on the public interest of religion, which is “Zeal for the Glory of God and the good of others”. He also clarified that no one should be angrily zealous for the cause of religion. “I do not wish you to oppose any body’s religion, but every body’s wickedness.” Witherspoon was more tolerant of other religions but he believed that it didn’t excuse them from being ungodly as far as their actions.

John Locke, on the other hand, was quite opposite. He wanted a disestablishment of Church and State, meaning he did not want government to support any one religion. He wrote “A Letter Concerning Toleration” giving both religious and non-religious reasons as to why Church and State should be separate. He insisted that Jesus Christ rejected the idea of the union of the church and state. He started his letter off saying, “I esteem that toleration to be the chief characteristic mark of the true church…” He claimed that government should not force members of society into one religion or another. He calls religion “voluntary organizations”. Locke can be summed up in a simple quote, “That none may impose either upon himself or others, by the <pretences> of loyalty and obedience to the prince, or of tenderness and sincerity in the worship of God; I esteem it above all things necessary to distinguish exactly the business of civil government from that of religion and to settle the just bounds that lie between the one and the other…” Locke gives three reasons as to why the Church and State should be separate. His first reason is because the care of souls is not committed to the civil magistrate, any more than to other men. Locke argues that God...
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