BIAS ALERT: I'm a liberal and I'm half asleep XD
I hate when I hear some half informed half wit proudly tot the "the line 'separation of church and state never appears in the Constitution'" and then smugly smile as though now he has license to say that prayer should be put back in schools (it never really was taken out but shhhhhhhhhhhhh! don't tell anyone ;) and that this country was founded on Judeo-Christian principles (which they never go into detail on) etc
For those of us who actually care about history and our country, let’s check facts.
The phrase "wall of separation between church and state" was coined by Thomas Jefferson in 1802 in a letter to a church in Connecticut.
You can read it in the above link. It’s a beautiful letter and a fundamental part of not only United States history, but of the history of Freethought in general.
Anyway, back to the issues. In the letter Jefferson says that the Establishment clause of the Constitution built said wall "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or the free exercise thereof". The problem however with the Establishment clause is that its incredibly difficult to draw a fine line on any issue, for example a church in New Mexico uses LSD drugs during a services and its perfectly legal (free exercise thereof). You could write a whole other blog about how religion undermines the rule of law (someone go do that! I'm too sleepy ;)
What the establishment clause really says is that while you technically can do something (like flop on the floor like a fool in church (on LSD or not) or dance with snakes in another or shout at your followers who they should vote for or have Congress pray for something or even have your cabinet pray (lousy Bush......) etc) that doesn't mean you should.
What religion was then and what it is now are miles apart. The Founding Fathers were all deeply religious men but it was understood that religion was something between you and your God, whatever you perceive him to be, and that it was for the most part private. Only during really stressful times (like during the formation of the Constitution which they deliberately left God out of) was there a prayer and it was mostly done to get a modernizing effect going on the participants. Anyway, The Founders thought that people would be reasonable and not try and push religion into politics. They made a clear stopping point (make no law respecting an establishment...) but for the most part left a wide door open for religion to creep though. They also were sick of being told by the King how and when to worship.
I believe that the Founders thought that people would be reasonable and keep their religious motivations to themselves. They were wrong.
As always with religion, it tried to creep into law (and often succeeded) but was checked by a small but fierce brand of skeptics and tolerant believers.
However, times change. Now the secular tradition in America has largely been marginalized, it doesn't have the kind of ground it used to.
Religion has poisioned politics and civic discourse like never before in the US. The Founders would have been appalled at what has happened to this country. From faith based initiatives to protect marriage amendment, from sodomy laws to the speeches made by certain unmade Supreme Court Judges and certain Presidents who shall remain nameless, the devastation is almost impossible to fully document.
As long as religion isn't directed stated (family values, teach the contraversy etc) it gets a free pass.
The only way to combat this is for us regain the kind of ground we used to have and fight back against the poisonous influence that religion now wields over our government. Thomas Jefferson was right. The wall of separation may not directly be in the Consistution, but it is the guiding spirit of it and to neglect it is to neglect one of the founding principles entirely. Just because people can do something doesn't mean they should and just because some bamboozled religious zealot visited a right wing website and thinks he’s informed doesn’t mean that he is.
Hope you enjoyed my half asleep rambling, usually when I’m awake I do better.