Separation Between Church and State

Topics: Separation of church and state, State religion, First Amendment to the United States Constitution Pages: 8 (2987 words) Published: August 15, 2013
There have been many quarrels on the phrase “separation between church and state”. It has been a common metaphor used all around meaning that the state staying out of the church’s business and church staying out of the state’s business. This phrase has been very common that many begin to believe that it was found in our Constitution. The “wall of separation” was created by Thomas Jefferson in a letter to the Danbury Baptists in 1802 (Jefferson). It has grown to become part of the organic law of the United States. We have adopted it into our political system. The Constitution’s First Amendment has allowed the citizens to accept any religious belief and engage in religious activity and prohibited the government from favoring a specific religion by passing legislation to establish a national religion. Although the Declaration of Independence includes the words “Nature’s God” and the “Creator”, the Constitution made no reference to Christianity and included that the establishment of any church or creed is forbidden in the First Amendment. The Founding Fathers insisted that religion ought to be a private matter in which the state should not interfere. In the modern world, religion does not play a role in our everyday lives. The Constitution has helped confirm the separation between the two and to keep them out from each other’s business as much as possible. The founders did consider religion an important source of social morality, but they also knew that religious broils could destabilize government. “In the late eighteenth century many people believed that without a close alliance between church and state a nation would be too unstable to survive” (American Eras Vol.4 pg. 329). At the time of constructing the Constitution, the founders, along with many other Americans, saw that separating the two was not an easy process for Americans, even with their willingness that they could strive without a state church. The free exercise clause and the establishment clause are two very important clauses in the First Amendment. The two clauses apprehend the relationship of government to religion. The clauses seem to be very similar to one another, but tension has grown between the two. Because of the two, many issues have grown from them, such as prayer in school, financial aid or transportation for religious schools, and so on. The two clauses seem to go hand in hand, but both have specific implications which create a fine line between the two. The free exercise clause prevents the government from "prohibiting the free exercise" of religion. This definition of this clause means that government cannot tell Americans what religious beliefs they should have or interfere with them. The word exercise means more than just belief. Americans are also allowed to engage themselves in religious activity. When deciding if a law violated the First Amendment, the U.S. Supreme Court said that no law may discriminate against one religion and therefore treat all religions with the same fair treatment. The establishment clause prevents the government from forming a national religion. The clause was created to prevent the government from declaring an official religion, such as the Church of England. It means that government can’t interfere in religious business. In deciding where the wall of separation applies, the Court developed a three-part test to decide under what circumstances government involvement in religious activities is improper. The test is called the Lemon test. The involvement of government is said to be constitutional if it meets these tests. 1. If it has a secular purpose. 2. Its primary effect neither advances nor inhibits religion. 3. It does not foster an excessive government entanglement with religion (Wilson pg. 112). If any of the requirements are violated the act is deemed unconstitutional. Our country has lived in a democracy where the wall of separation between church and state has been very...
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