You Gotta Keep ‘Em Separated…

Acknowledging the lyrics in the title above from a popular Offspring song are about gang warfare and not the separation of church and state, the sentiment holds true in either situation – one could say the battle of church and state is gang warfare. The founding fathers had sound reasons for constructing the US Constitution’s language regarding religion and the separation of church and state as they did. The history of their forefathers in England, as well as throughout Europe was rife with a horrific history of just what can happen when church and government are either one in the same or are politically indebted to one another. The United State is to be different.

 Today in a federal courthouse in Wisconsin Judge Barbara B. Crabb ruled in favor of the plaintiff, Freedom From Religion Foundation, Inc., against President Obama and his press secretary Robert L. Gibbs. The case revolved around the yearly presidential proclamation of National Prayer Day each May – the White House purported that this was only an announcement to the fact that prayer and religion play an important part of the history of the United States. The plaintiff’s argument hinged on the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment that sets forth that the government cannot endorse a religion or a religious practice. Judge Crabb explained that National Prayer Day is an endorsement of the government to the citizenry to engage in prayer and “its sole purpose is to encourage all citizens to engage in prayer, an inherently religious exercise that serves no secular function…the government has taken sides on a matter that must be left to individual conscience.”[1]

 Many people in our nation pray daily, weekly or when the mood strikes. Many never pray and do not believe. All of these ways of spiritual or non-spiritual life are valid and protected by the First Amendment. The danger arrives when the government begins to endorse religious practice and religion. On the surface it may seem like no big deal – pray if you want – no one is forcing you to. The hard reality is that if the government endorses a prayer day people who do not go along are in danger of being marginalized and not being accepted as full and valid citizens. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor had these well stated words in a concurring opinion in 1989 “government cannot endorse the religious practices and beliefs of some citizens without sending a clear message to nonadherents that they are outsiders or less than full members of the political community.”[2]

 The United States of America was founded on principles of personal liberty and freedom – government endorsement of prayer and religion cannot be tolerated. These deeply personal decisions are just that, they are between the individual and their conscience and the government has no right to be involved in participating in the individual’s decision. 


[2] Allegheny.  492 US 573 at 627


One Response to “You Gotta Keep ‘Em Separated…”

  1. Larry Says:

    You know you are on solid ground when Sandra Day O’Connor carries the day with her sane judgment!

    This is another disappointing day for those of us who voted for Obama. His plan to acknowledge the day of prayer is just a political move to deflect the right’s assertion that he’s a socialist or worse. I hope Judge Crabb’s ruling holds up.

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