How should a Christian view the separation of church and state?


Clarify Share Report Asked July 01 2013 Mini Anonymous (via GotQuestions)

For follow-up discussion and general commentary on the topic. Comments are sorted chronologically.

Stringio Doron Bond

One should view it as it is....separate, and expect them to remain that way.

December 09 2013 Report

Mini Tim Gillette

The concept of separation is an American construct. Other nations, like the UK and Australia do not have it. There are several advantages, one of which is it allows for Christian education, training and teaching in the schools to be supported by the government.
This doesn't fly in the US.

October 06 2016 Report

Closeup Jennifer Rothnie

Plus, it is a later American construct. The Constitution simply says, "Congress shall make no law in regards to an establishment of religion" (such as mandating or prohibiting public participation in the Anglican church or Presbyterian church, etc), "nor prohibit the free exercise thereof" (for example, prohibiting a politician from mentioning God in a speech would be curtailing his free exercise.)

The phrase 'wall of separation' was from a letter from Thomas Jefferson to the Danbury Baptists assuring them that the government could not curtail their liberty because of the wall of separation the Constitution set up. (He also had differing beliefs than many of the founders of whether or not government could in general promote religion so long as they did not rule on an establishment of it.)

That phrase, out of context, was used in far later court cases rather than the Constitution to push a more secularized country and start chipping at freedom of religion.

October 06 2016 Report

Closeup Jennifer Rothnie

One great court case worth a read is "Church of the Holy Trinity vs. United States"

From the conclusion:
"If we pass beyond these matters to a view of American life, as expressed by its laws, its business, its customs, and its society, we find every where a clear recognition of the same truth. Among other matters, note the following: the form of oath universally prevailing, concluding with an appeal to the Almighty; the custom of opening sessions of all deliberative bodies and most conventions with prayer; the prefatory words of all wills, "In the name of God, amen;" the laws respecting the observance of the Sabbath, with the general cessation of all secular business, and the closing of courts, legislatures, and other similar public assemblies on that day; the churches and church organizations which abound in every city, town, and hamlet; the multitude of charitable organizations existing every where under Christian auspices; the gigantic missionary associations, with general support, and aiming to establish Christian missions in every quarter of the globe. These, and many other matters which might be noticed, add a volume of unofficial declarations to the mass of organic utterances that this is a Christian nation."

At least in 1892 it was still understood that the first amendment did not mandate complete separateness of religion and government, but rather that government could not force religion or curtail it.

October 06 2016 Report

Mini Robert Banks

Many of the founding fathers called themselves men of faith and yet many of them owned slaves ( American slavery).

April 06 2019 Report

Closeup Jennifer Rothnie

Not every founder who was a slave owner did so willingly - many inherited slaves. They then had to decide whether to free them knowing that they would have difficulty finding work, would have few social rights, and could potentially be recaptured and sold. So some made the choice to instead treat them well, provide food and shelter, and even some would educate their slaves so they and their children could have a better life. Christians (especially the Quakers) were instrumental in launching the abolition movement, and even before that Christians worked to make sure that slavery would eventually be phased out. (The 3/5ths clause was not to treat blacks as lesser, but to limit the power of slave-holding states as they wanted representation in congress due to "population" but not to give the slaves a vote. So slave-holding states wanted full representation to get extra house members, while non-slaveholding states wanted zero 'representation' of the non-voting slaves so those states would not have that extra power in congress.)

But that Christians sometimes do bad things the culture at large does or support bad social policies (like abortion) isn't a reason Christians should lose their religious freedom. The constitution only prohibits the establishment of religion (e.g. our nation is anglican/presbyterian/Catholic/Baptist) - not politicians or citizens acting in public on their own personal religion.

April 06 2019 Report

Open uri20160825 6966 rhyaou John Matthews

Jennifer, it has been interpreted by our courts that public institutions cannot profess a religious belief; i.e. that public schools cannot have corporate, school sponsored prayer. The First Amendment does not prohibit personal beliefs, just government sponsored religious beliefs. Should a public school student have to attend a religious function sponsored by the school? Absolutely not and the school should not offer anything of the sort. It is against the law and thank God for that. Does the First Amendment stop a child from praying? No.

Abortion is a perfect example. Abortion is a horrible form of birth control. But, the government does not force abortion on any female. Your personal religious beliefs are not compromised because the state condones abortion. You think abortion is murder and most Christians agree, but no one is forcing you to have one.

Liquor is legal, but no one forces you to have a drink, even though Jesus drank and, indeed, blessed wine. Again, no one forces you to partake.

Gay marriage falls into the same category. Marriage is spelled out in the Bible as one man and one or more women. The government is not forcing any Christian or other denomination into performing gay marriages in their church. The government is prohibited from telling a church how to believe, by constitutional law. This is probably the main reason why we are still alive and well as a republic based country, despite our current government dysfunctional situation.

April 06 2019 Report

Open uri20160825 6966 rhyaou John Matthews

Joyce Meyer had it very wrong. The First Amendment does keep the government out of our churches. It also is supposed to keep every religion out of our government. Unfortunately, that isn't always the case.

The United States is not a Christian nation; never has been. It is a Democratic Republic; nothing more, nothing less. Even given our current polarity in government, it's still the best in the world. Nothing else comes close.

Our constitutional framers knew what problems would erupt if any prevailing religious belief crept into our political arenas. So to hedge that problem, they made it illegal to establish a government religion. Brilliant!

April 06 2019 Report

Closeup Jennifer Rothnie

Originally, government buildings such as the Treasury building and Capitol hosted church services and the military band even doubled as the worship band. This was not considered an 'establishment' of religion because a) it was not required and b) the speakers rotated among different denominations and no one denomination was the 'official' one.

There is a vast difference between the government telling people what to believe or how they can worship (such as China does with the only 'allowable' Christian church being the Church of the Three Self and subject to huge restrictions and regulations) and a citizen who happens to be a politician calling for voluntary prayer or mentioning God in a speech.

And I am glad that the abolitionists didn't say, "well, no one is forcing us to have slaves so we should just shrug and move on." They saw a human rights violation and moved politically towards eradicating it. Eventually they even were willing to fight in a war to oppose it and keep the slaveholder states from seceding from the union to 'do their own thing.' In the same way, Christians now can vote for representatives and leaders who will act to protect all lives, not just ones that are allowed to vote.

April 06 2019 Report

Data Danny Hickman

Mr Matthews, I couldn't have said all you said any better than you said it. I believe EVERYBODY with an ounce of decency knows how horrible abortions are. You said it right. Nobody is forced by the elected representatives of the public (gov't) to perform them, or submit to getting an abortion.

The elected officials sell marriage licenses and requires and accepts blood test results from potential marriage candidates. I've never understood why the candidates for marriage should need these elected officials' approval to be married. It's not according to the bible, so that can't be the reason.

The church needs to get better at picking fights (Eph 6). Prevention is better than a cure, and easier to manage.

It's better to teach your children not to play with matches than it is to teach them how to put out fires.

The people who want to live in a "religion driven" nation need to be sure they know exactly what it is they're asking for. The worst that could happen is that they get to live in one.

April 15 2019 Report

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