My daughter felt I should post this and although I have posted on the separation of church and state once before, this goes into more depth. This is my persuasive speech that I will be giving for class. I hope to get feedback from this. Any and all comments are welcome no matter which side of the debate you are on.
The separation of church and state was an important piece of our founding fathers beliefs in a government not ruled by the volatile reaction religious factions can incur. Thomas Jefferson and James Madison were two founding fathers of this great nation we are all proud to live in. Both of these men were adamant that the church would have no influence over governmental issues.
Jefferson wrote our Declaration of Independence while Madison is largely responsible for our Bill of Rights. Both of these documents stress the importance of our basic human rights. Their foresight to put in writing those strongly held beliefs gave us the freedoms we hold dear today and were intended to ensure we were not governed by church doctrine. In their experience, Europe, specifically England, had been ruled by the Catholic Church.
When Madison wrote the first amendment, the intention was to establish our basic rights. Part of that was our freedom to practice the religion we choose and not have the government dictating that choice. Several years after he wrote the first Amendment, he wrote of “total separation of the church from the state”. He went on to write, "We are teaching the world the great truth that Govts. do better without Kings & Nobles than with them. The merit will be doubled by the other lesson that Religion flourishes in greater purity, without than with the aid of Govt." For Jefferson’s part in a letter to the Danbury Baptists, he wrote, "make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof," thus building a wall of separation between Church & State.”
These men are considered to be responsible for two of our most revered documents. And they fully believed in the separation of church and state. They understood that when we use religion as the basis for laws, we are reverting back to the days when we were ruled by Kings and Queens. This country was founded on the idea that men would rule, not religious zealots. Nor would they be able to bend their religion to suit their wants. Men fought and died for that very freedom so that each of us would have a choice.
When we infuse laws with religious ideas, we take away some very basic human rights. Some might argue there are laws taken directly from religion. I agree. We have laws regarding murder, theft, and lying in court. But is that really a huge leap to religion? If we murder someone, we have violated their right to live which is a human rights offense. If we steal from them, we have violated their right own property. If we commit perjury in a court of law, we could change the outcome of a trial to the detriment of the system. That would either turn a guilty person loose in society or convict an innocent person. That would violate someone’s rights on either outcome.
Even the most prominent and respected Baptist minister in New England, Rev. Isaac Backus, believed there should be a separation of church and state. In 1773, he stated that "church and state are separate, the effects are happy, and they do not at all interfere with each other: but where they have been confounded together, no tongue nor pen can fully describe the mischiefs that have ensued."
When the Constitution was written, the writers took an enormous amount of time, over 3 months, to finish it and to ensure the wording was such that the word “God” did not appear in any part of the Constitution. Even the Declaration of Independence, although not the law in the United States, makes only one reference to a higher being. The phrase is “they are endowed by their Creator”.
The fact is that the idea for separation of church and state began very early in our country’s history. Throughout history battles have been fought to change that. They have been unsuccessful so far and there are significant reasons for their failed campaigns.
There have been many wars fought with country’s declaring that God is on their side. For almost 200 years, The Crusades were fought in an effort to impose Christianity on the Holy land and drive out Muslims. They continued through the 15th century in Spain and Italy. The major problem with that stance is simple. Religion comes in all sizes and theologies. One religion advocates one thing and another will advocate for just the opposite and it boils down to this. Religion teaches us to look down on certain types of people or their actions. It teaches discrimination. This is why there has to be a separation.
Church teaches us to ostracize those who are different from us. It takes away our choices because of the rigid rules. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 finally gave voice to those who were being discriminated against; however; it started before that was passed and has evolved into a Human Rights Issue. There are a couple of issues that garner the most attention.
Abortion is one of them. When a woman is not allowed a choice in her own reproduction, it forces her to bear a child without regard to the emotional or physical toll it may take on her. What of rape or financial issues? We are not walking in her shoes.
Gay Marriage is also a hot button topic. The church states it is a sin to practice homosexuality and therefore gays should not be allowed to marry. They will somehow eat away at the very fabric of the family unit. With less than 3% of all humans being homosexual, it seems unlikely to take over the number of marriages in the world.
When religion is considered as part of the government and its ideas are incorporated into law, we find situations like what has happened in Texas with their Board of Education and the changes they recently made. Not only did they take the word “slavery” out of the curriculum, which negates the actual human toll it took, they removed Thomas Jefferson from the list of writers who influenced our country’s intellectual origins because he was a Deist. The man wrote our Declaration of Independence.
The bottom line is simple and logical. Using religion as a guide for laws and teachings gives a decidedly one sided slant that discriminates. We must remember that our country’s founding fathers knew from experience and history that the separation of church and state was a necessity if we were going to ensure equality for all.