Separation of church & state

Some of my coworkers are perplexed over the news that a Hindu will be allowed to offer the opening prayer in the US Senate on July 12. When asked my opinion, I simply replied, “If a Christian can pray in front of the Senate, then a Hindu should be able to.” I know at least one of those asking my opinion believes that this is a Christian nation and that only Christian prayers should be allowed in government proceedings. I disagree; I don’t think public prayer should be allowed in the Senate, no matter which religion it celebrates.

I’ve long been a proponent of separating church and state. I don’t believe in prayer in schools (although a moment of silence is acceptable), I think “In God We Trust” should be removed from our currency and that religion should never be invoked during government ceremonies. I do not believe that court houses should be allowed to post the 10 Commandments on their lawns or that state-funded schools should hang them on the wall. It’s a no-brainer, really.

This country may have been founded on Christian principles (which is still debated), but this is now a democracy, not a theocracy, and the government has no right to endorse or shove any form of religion or belief in a higher power down any citizen’s throat. The Bible makes it clear that religion is a personal choice and a personal matter. Jesus even criticized praying in public, telling us to enter into our closets to pray and to refrain from using too many words.

And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full.

But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words.

Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.

– Matthew 6:5-7

Allowing the government to endorse or promote any religion is dangerous and this is evident in many countries around the world. It becomes impossible for a person to make a personal decision about which religion he wants to practice, or even if he wants to be a believer, when the government forces him to abide by the teachings and practices of a specific dogma. Sexuality and modes of dress no longer become ways of expressing one’s identity, but can become tools of oppression with dire consequences for those that do not comply.

As our citizenship becomes more diverse in its religions practices, it would seem that the proper course of action would be less religion in politics, not more. While my opinion on this subject may not be entirely popular in a country that still embraces its religious heritage, I do believe that Americans are finally beginning to understand that there are dangers in the marriage of church and state. If we truly respect our religious freedom, we should remove religion from our government offices and institutions and keep it in the sanctuary.

Author: Brian

Blogger. Bookworm. Michael Jackson fanatic. Lives in Kentucky with partner of 12 years and three fabulous felines.

6 thoughts on “Separation of church & state”

  1. I sooooo disagree with some of what you are stated. However, I feel that as a American, you are certainly entitled to your opinion just as much as mine.

    I will say this that I personally feel that the reason that Amercia is like it is, is because we have allowed too much separation from GOD and His principles.

    Also, Jesus said to pray are hearts desire in secret because the devil can hear our thoughts/desires spoken ALOUD but only God knows the secrets of our hearts!!!!!

    BTW: I don’t care what religion prays in the Senate. I just glad that someone still prays!!!! ;)

  2. Also, Jesus said to pray are hearts desire in secret because the devil can hear our thoughts/desires spoken ALOUD but only God knows the secrets of our hearts!!!!!

    Do you have a Bible reference for that, because I don’t remember ever hearing that before.

    Thank you!

  3. Brian,
    Thanks for another interesting and provocative post!

    I agree with you 100% that “If a Christian can pray in front of the Senate, then a Hindu should be able to.” This is not a “Christian nation”, it is a pluralistic nation that grants the freedom of religious expression to all of its citizens. Thanks to the First Amendment to our nation’s Constitution no one is forced to believe a specific way. Citizens not only have freedom of religion, but freedom from religion if they so choose.

    The state in which I live (Virginia) used to have an official state religion (Anglican) and all citizens were taxed to pay clergy salaries and support the state-church. People of other faiths and other Christian denominations were beaten and imprisoned for following their own traditions.

    Thankfully, with men like Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and Rev. John Leland leading the charge for change the commonwealth abolished the church-state union and established religious freedom.

    I, too, am a strong supporter of separation of church and state–government has no business “poking its nose” into the affairs of religious entities or enacting laws restricting the religious practices of its citizens; providing those religious expressions do not infringe on someone else’s rights.

    I disagree with you, however, that public prayers should be disallowed in the Senate, those prayers should, however, represent a variety of faith tradtions. While the nation was not founded as a “christian nation”, it was founded in large part by men of different faiths who moved to protect the public expression of religious beliefs–religions don’t have to stay confined to the “church house”.

    It is this freedom of religious expression that makes America unique and strong. Your co-workers are ignorant of what Freedom of Religion really is. We don’t need to silence the religious expression in public (even government) places. We need to let people (even religious people) from all walks have a voice.

    While religion is personal, if it is worth anything it is not just private–it is lived out in public to make a positive difference in our communities. I agree that “the government has no right to endorse or shove any form of religion or belief in a higher power down any citizen’s throat.” But government should also not silence the religious expression of its citizens.

    “Allowing the government to endorse or promote any religion is dangerous and this is evident in many countries around the world.” Agree.

    I believe government should stay out of religion altogether–not promoting or restricting any religious expression that doesn’t harm others. If we truly respect our religious freedom, we should not remove religion from the public square, but show respect to all faiths without favoritism to any one faith in particular.

    I may be wrong, but that’s how I see it from where I stand. Thanks for letting me throw in “my two cents worth”. I love your site.

    JimT

  4. JimT,

    I love it when you “throw in your two cents worth”, so don’t stop!

    We don’t need to silence the religious expression in public (even government) places. We need to let people (even religious people) from all walks have a voice.

    I agree that all people should have a voice, I just feel that those voices should be raised in the sanctuary or in grievances to a representative. Removing prayer and other religious activities from government should not threaten anyone’s personal relationship with God. We can still pray, believe, attend church, and we can still vote for the candidate that we are most in sync with on moral and social issues.

    Let’s say a senator is an atheist (which is his/her personal right) and they don’t go to church or practice any religion. However, during their workday, they have to stand by as prayers are read and direct references are made to God.

    While they may be in the minority, they are still being forced to participate in something that they don’t want to. Removing prayer from that situation doesn’t harm any of the believers, as they can still offer a prayer silently or visit their chapel on the way home.

    That’s why I feel the way I do and I hope I clarified it a little better. ;)

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