Q & A on Separation of Church and State

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1- Define the concept of “separation of church and state”
Separation of Church and State is one of the governing principles under the Constitution of the United States, which forbids any interference of religion in affairs of the state. At the time of the inclusion of this provision in the American constitution, it was seen as a revolutionary and progressive policy to adopt.

2- Where did it originate? Is it the US constitution, what did Thomas Jefferson mean when he spoke of maintaining “a wall of separation between church and state?”
First coined by Thomas Jefferson in his letter to Danbury Baptists Association in 1802, the phrase ‘separation of church and state’ does not appear as such in the Constitution. But, in the First Amendment to the constitution, it is noted that Congress “shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof”, which in spirit translates to the sentiment expressed by Jefferson in his letter. Later, when the Supreme Court quoted Jefferson’s original phrase in one of its cases, it got assimilated into American legal parlance.

3- What is the secular or liberal point of view?
This governing principle is celebrated by liberal sections of American society. At the time of the country’s founding a vast majority of its people were believers of Christian faith. So, while separation of church and state was accepted at a nominal level, there was seldom any need to enforce it. But as more waves of immigrants arrived on the country’s shores, bringing with them their native religious and cultural legacies, this principle found more frequent application in matters of public dispute. To this extent, liberal politicians and commentators much appreciate this separation.

4-What was the intent of the founding fathers
Even among the group of intellectuals now recognized as the founding fathers of the country there were arguments and disagreements. Some were pro-slavery while others were against it. Some were devout Christians while some others were non-religious and secular. So they were able to foresee how religious establishments could come in conflict with administrative works. And to avoid such conflicts in the future, the founding fathers made it clear that this wall of separation should be imposed.

5-is there evidence that our America government was influenced by Judeo Christian principles? What are Judeo-Christian principles or values?
Another reason why some founding fathers (especially Thomas Jefferson) emphasized on the ‘wall of separation’ was because they knew how powerful an influence Judeo-Christian doctrine was. Toward the end of the eighteenth century, most colonialists were highly religious people and wanted to adopt its values and virtues as laid out in the holy texts. But since in the Judeo-Christian doctrine issues like homosexuality or slavery were not dealt with fairly, a wholesome adoption of Judeo-Chrisian values and principles would have undermined civil governance. Hence, in hindsight, it is a blessing that the personal beliefs of most of our founding fathers were not transferred to the constitution.

6-discuss the 1st amendment and “freedom of religion” what does actually saying?
Why was religious freedom important to the pilgrims and other religious groups that came to America?
The First Amendment to the Constitution neither endorses nor condemns religious practices in public spaces. Instead, it clearly states that the State will have no role to play in what is an individual’s personal belief system. Citizens are free to practice any religion that they choose, as long as it does not harm other people in society or undermine law and order in any way. This makes sense, especially because the early immigrants to America came from diverse religious sects such as Puritans, Quakers, the Pilgrims, etc.

7- Did the Founding Fathers intend for God and the bible to be push out of the public arena as some have today?
Well, the Founding Fathers could not have foreseen the present debate surrounding this issue, for the country has changed a lot in the 230 years of its existence.

8-what about religious expression? How much is religious expression part of American culture? Did the founders mean that the name of Jesus could not even be mentioned at a public high school graduation or that you couldn’t have a nativity scene in front of city hall during the holiday season?
Free religious expression is a fundamental right extended to all citizens of the country. Indeed, the United States is the most religious country in the Western Hemisphere, with more than 80 percent of the population claiming allegiance to one or the other major religions. But free religious expression should be confined to the private sphere. Once objects of religious reverence such as the Ten Commandments are placed in public buildings and spaces, a case could be made for abusing First Amendment rights.

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