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Separation of Church and State
Separation of Church and State
Many people seem to be confused over the meaning of the term “separation of church and state”. (certainly Christine O'Donnell who ran for the Senate from Delaware is an example) How is it relevant to our lives in America?
The very concept of the “separation of church and state” dates back to Roger Williams and the founding of Rhode Island in 1636. He was the first American to advocate and activate complete freedom of conscience, dissociation of church and state, and genuine political democracy. He also founded the first Baptist Church in North America. He settled in Providence with 13 other householders and in one year formed the first genuine democracy, as well as the first church-divorced and conscience-free community in modern history. Williams felt that government is the natural way provided by God to cope with the corrupt nature of man. But since government could not be trusted to know which religion is true, he considered the best hope for true religion rests with the protection of the freedom of all religion, along with non-religion, from the state. In that way, whichever religion was true would never find itself subservient to one that was false. The truth of a religion doesn’t lie in the number of its believers but in its message.
Separation of Church and State
The logic behind the concept is flawless, and we owe a debt of gratitude to the forward thinking of the founders of this country. With the diversity inherent in a pluralistic society, including a multitude of Christian sects, as well as representation of every faith on the planet, including those with no beliefs at all, the only conceivable way to ensure that no amount of favoritism is shown through legislation to any one belief, in preference to any other, is to create an environment in which all religious beliefs compete with each on a level playing field based on their own merits.
Some have argued that what that does is establish atheism as something having a favored religious status. Nothing could be further from the truth. Atheism is not a religion. It’s the absence of religion. It holds a secular position. The default position of the government is one that shows no favoritism to any religious view. That is the definition of secular. In order to maintain religious freedom, which is the core of democracy, government must not concern itself with religious subjects. In this way each religion rises or falls of its own accord without the assistance of the government. The success and purity of a religion should be based on faith, which is its message. Not government sponsorship. Government corrupts religion.
The atheist has no interest in religion and simply holds the same default position, and that position is one of democracy. Religious freedom and the freedom of one’s conscience is fundamental to democracy. Atheism, for example, doesn’t introduce something into the legislative action of government based upon a belief. It doesn’t concern itself with belief at all. Therefore it, like the government, which must address the needs of all of its people, can only address matters that effect everyone regardless of their beliefs. Knowing that no religion can prove itself as more real or accurate than any other, government can’t possibly legislate the beliefs of one over the beliefs of another on issues that are simply matters of faith. The only result from that kind of action is religious tyranny. Society is reduced to a matter of who has the most adherents to a belief. Having more believers doesn’t mean that the belief is necessarily true.
Jefferson said, “Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between man and his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legislative powers of government reach actions only, and not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should “make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,” thus building a wall of separation between Church and State.”
Holding to this principle insures the concept of religious freedom that is the cornerstone of democracy. Opposition to this principle begs the question put forth by Justice O’Connor when she asked, “Those who would renegotiate the boundaries between church and state must therefore answer a difficult question: why would we trade a system that has served us so well for one that has served others so poorly?“ Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor on the Ten Commandments ruling, June 27, 2005.
The Separation of Church and State principle is a part of our historical, legal and political/social heritage and preserves and protects our religious liberty.
Which brings us to the current issue of the day. The building of an Islamic Community Center that some people feel is too close to Ground Zero in New York City. People seem to feel offended by this. That it is an affront to those who lost loved ones on 9/11. It has been labeled the Ground Zero Mosque. It isn’t a mosque at all. It’s a community center and the two upper floors are designated as prayer rooms, so I guess that qualifies it as a mosque to some people.
Joe Conasan wrote an excellent piece in which he said,” Nothing tests a president like standing up against a wave of fear and prejudice, even at potentially great cost to his own party and prospects. That is what Lyndon Baines Johnson did when he signed the civil rights acts he knew would forfeit the South to the Republicans for a generation or more.
This is proving true as President Obama has come out in support of the building of the center. Obama, the constitutional scholar, sees a clear reading of the 1st Amendment in play here which states, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;”Despite calls for the government to step in and demand that it be built elsewhere, this is strictly forbidden under our constitution, a constitution that our “strict constructionist” conservatives are ignoring at the moment.
Obama has defended the right of American Muslims to build this center. To his credit, he will not cave in to the xenophobia that is at work with this protest. He makes no comment on the wisdom of the site selection, but they certainly have the right to build this center on private property.
Conason goes on by pointing out that “Republican leaders, including top Congressional figures and aspiring presidential candidates, have stigmatized Muslim Americans and their faith in a manner that brings shame on us before the world and alienates our allies in the struggle against extremist violence.”
Washington Post writer, Matt DeLong quoted Newt Gingrich as saying,” Today, former House speaker and possible 2012 GOP presidential candidate Newt Gingrich went with a slightly different Holocaust metaphor when he compared the people behind the proposed mosque, whom he referred to as “radical Islamists,” to “Nazis” during an appearance on Fox News.
“Nazis don’t have the right to put up a sign next to the holocaust museum in Washington,”
Gingrich insisted, speaking of the museum where just a year ago a guard was killed by a white supremacist trying to enter the building with a gun.
“The former congressman and House Speaker, called President Obama and congressional Democrats “secular socialists” who represented “as great a threat to America as Nazi Germany or the Soviet Union once did.”
“There is no reason for us to accept a mosque next to the World Trade Center,” he said. Well…there is that thing called the 1st Amendment Mr. Speaker.
This is the text of what Gingrich said on the Website Renewing American Leadership.“There should be no mosque near Ground Zero in New York so long as there are no churches or synagogues in Saudi Arabia. The time for double standards that allow Islamists to behave aggressively toward us while they demand our weakness and submission is over.”
Gingrich is using the TuQuoque Fallacy here. The tu quoque fallacy is committed when it is assumed that because someone else has done a thing there is nothing wrong with doing it. This fallacy is classically committed by children who, when told off, respond with “So and so did it too”, with the implied conclusion that there is nothing wrong with doing whatever it is that they have done. This is a fallacy because it could be that both children are in the wrong, and because, as we were all taught, two wrongs don’t make a right.
Gingrich is making a plea for religious intolerance. We should be as intolerant as any other Theocratic regime. Ain’t that nice? Let’s be just like the thing we object to.
“The proposed “Cordoba House” overlooking the World Trade Center site – where a group of jihadists killed over 3000 Americans and destroyed one of our most famous landmarks – is a test of the timidity, passivity and historic ignorance of American elites. For example, most of them don’t understand that “Cordoba House” is a deliberately insulting term. It refers to Cordoba, Spain – the capital of Muslim conquerors who symbolized their victory over the Christian Spaniards by transforming a church there into the world’s third-largest mosque complex.” (Something that Newt fails to mention was When Córdoba was re-captured by the Christian Spanish king of Castile, Ferdinand III, in the 13th century, the mosque reverted to a Christian sanctuary. Then in 1523, the local clergy, with the support of Emperor Charles V, built a cathedral in the middle of the mosque. It has been a Christian cathedral ever since. He leaves that part out, and of course his listeners are left assuming that Cordoba is still a mosque…which it isn’t. But they’ll never bother to fact check this. Newt floated out his claim, and that’s all they’ll know)
“Today, some of the Mosque’s backers insist this term is being used to “symbolize interfaith cooperation” when, in fact, every Islamist in the world recognizes Cordoba as a symbol of Islamic conquest. It is a sign of their contempt for Americans and their confidence in our historic ignorance that they would deliberately insult us this way.” ( Newt is making an absolute statement here. He is telling you exactly what the mosque is. What the symbolism is. And of course he is infallibally correct. His theory of rationality is telling you this.) Newt is attempting to prove a general statement as a fact. He’s trying to build the case through inductive means. He’s telling you that this is true, but he cannot prove it so.“Those Islamists and their apologists who argue for “religious toleration” are arrogantly dishonest. They ignore the fact that more than 100 mosques already exist in New York City. Meanwhile, there are no churches or synagogues in all of Saudi Arabia. In fact no Christian or Jew can even enter Mecca.”“And they lecture us about tolerance.”
“If the people behind the Cordoba House were serious about religious toleration, they would be imploring the Saudis, as fellow Muslims, to immediately open up Mecca to all and immediately announce their intention to allow non-Muslim houses of worship in the Kingdom. ( While we’re at it, let’s demand that the Pope allow me to take communion in a Catholic church. Or...maybe get married in one.) They should be asked by the news media if they would be willing to lead such a campaign.”
“We have not been able to rebuild the World Trade Center in nine years. Now we are being told a 13 story, $100 million megamosque will be built within a year overlooking the site of the most devastating surprise attack in American history.”
“Finally where is the money coming from? The people behind the Cordoba House refuse to reveal all their funding sources.”
“America is experiencing an Islamist cultural-political offensive designed to undermine and destroy our civilization.” ( Cue O Fortuna...now that’s what I call an absolute definitive statement of what somebody is designing. Based on what we’ve learned, The Speaker is full of crap.) Sadly, too many of our elites are the willing apologists for those who would destroy them if they could.” “No mosque.No self deception. No surrender. The time to take a stand is now – at this site on this issue.”
In Ethics Daily, Alfredo Garcia wrote,” More than 40 Christian, Jewish and Muslim leaders say they are “deeply troubled” by the opposition to a proposed Islamic community center and mosque located two blocks from ground zero in lower Manhattan.” “The statement singles out remarks made by former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and former Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin in the divisive debate over the planned Cordoba House project.”
“We are deeply troubled by the xenophobia and religious bigotry that has characterized some of the opposition,” the statement said.”
“Gingrich, a Catholic, has “cast this debate in a way that demonizes all Muslims and exploits fear to divide Americans,” the statement said, and Palin, an evangelical Christian, is criticized for calling the center a “provocation.”
“Groups from Clergy Beyond Borders to the Islamic Society of North America to the National Council of Churches said both Gingrich and Palin “would make a more lasting contribution to our nation if they stopped issuing inflammatory statements and instead helped inspire a civil dialogue.”
“Individual signers said the project offers hope for interreligious understanding, not interfaith conflict.”
“This center will reflect not only the best of Islam, but the enduring hope that Christians, Jews and Muslims can together find common ground,” said the Rev. Peg Chemberlin, president of the NCC.”
“Chloe Breyer, executive director of the Interfaith Center of New York, said “Cordoba House is exactly the kind of initiative that we need here in New York—it will serve people of all faith traditions and enrich the city.”
“Rabbi Marc Schneier, president of the New York-based Foundation for Ethnic Understanding, said “Love thy neighbor” is a fundamental tenet of the Torah, but harder is the admonition to “Love the stranger, for you too were strangers in the land of Egypt.”
“The statement praised the Cordoba House as an example of efforts that “foster dialogue (and) break down barriers.”
“Fear-mongering and hateful rhetoric only undermine treasured values at the heart of diverse faith traditions and our nation’s highest ideals,” the statement said.”
Here’s the problem with the argument these people are making. They are casting a very wide net and condemning all of Islam for 9/11 when in fact it was the result of 19 radical fundamentalists. So they don’t want an Islamic Center built so close to Ground Zero. Maybe we should consider whether its ok to build a Catholic Church near a playground.
Islam didn’t sanction the 9/11 attacks. Islam didn’t order the attack. Muslims died on 9/11 and were also among the first responders.
This is the kind of mentality that rounded up all the Japanese during WWII and placed them into camps.
The attitude coming from the right is that the government should not permit the mosque to be built at Ground Zero. It isn’t. It’s about 4 ½ blocks away. And it isn’t even a mosque. It’s a community center with a gym, a swimming pool, a place to learn how to cook, and two prayer rooms which every Islamic Center has. Every Jewish Community Center offers the same thing, but that doesn’t make it a Synagogue or Temple.
The government cannot intercede on private matters involving religion. These people should know that. I’m sure that they do, however they have no respect for the constitution when it doesn’t allow them to be the obnoxious morons that they often like to be.
Right now we are witnessing an attack on an entire religion by the same fanatical non-logic that infects the minds of all fanatics just like the Taliban. Different religion, same intolerance.
The Separation of Church and State is a very real concept in this country and it protects extremists from imposing their self-righteousness on other beliefs than their own.