Friday, July 2, 2010

[lie d'jour] Separation of Church & State

"The tenet of the separation of church and state is an unconstitutional doctrine," she said.

"The separation of church and state arises out of the Constitution," Ralston replied.

"No it doesn't, Jon," Angle said. "Thomas Jefferson was actually addressing a church and telling them through his address that there had been a wall of separation put up to protect the church from being taken over by a state religion, and that's what they meant.

Washington Post, 30 June 2010, Amy Gardner, Sharron Angle grilled on Social Security, Medicare, and 'taking Harry Reid out', retrieved 1.Jul.2010

Now, I will certainly admit that the Founding Fathers probably didn't envision the current understanding of this separation. And, I suppose someone might technically argue that she is correct, in that the separation of church and state is actually in the Bill of Rights, and not the original Constitution. This doesn't change my assessment of this as a Lie.

A church being taken over by the State...?
They would have LTAO.

Lecturing to a congregation to fear the government's actions? This would be the same Thomas Jefferson who espoused:
"Question with boldness even the existence of a God; because, if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason, than that of blind-folded fear." [emphasis mine]
as well as
"Because these Pseudo-evangelists pretended to inspiration, as much as the others, and you are to judge their pretensions by your own reason ..."
Letter from Thomas Jefferson to Peter Carr, Aug. 10, 1787*

This would be the same Thomas Jefferson who, with James Madison (another Founding Father) waged "a long and successful campaign against state financial support of churches in Virginia." [emphasis mine]

These early American Citizen-Politicians' experiences would have been that the State already had a religion (The Church of England), and they were Out of Luck if they wanted to hold office and weren't Anglican. If you were Roman Catholic, you were just fucked. The majority (Protestants) were probably just pissed that they were being lumped in with the Catholics by being denied.

The C of E had the power, and the American colonists wanted it. The King was the head of the C of E (like the Pope, but with more wives). So, the Founding Fathers' experience was that the only way to get real political freedom was to get rid of the British Government which was run by the British Parliament, which required you to be Anglican to get in, and which required you to consider George III God's Vicar here on Earth.

So - their solution was to eliminate the possibility of an entire government be stuck adhered to one specific sect. How? Prohibit anyone in the new government from setting their flavor of Christianity as the Preferred Choice. In other words: "Let's have no state-mandated religion so we can all equally seek earthly power".

Their solution:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Anyone who is running for a seat in the U.S. Senate should be expected to know and understand the contents of the Constitution of the United States of America. Which is unfortunate, since I am under the impression that the only parts of the Constitution most politicians read is a few sentences within the Commerce Clause. They tend to be much more likely to quote from the Bill of Rights, especially the First, Second and Fifth Amendments.

It is doubly unfortunate they don't read it, since it is one of the shortest constitutions in the world. This one document has had a greater impact on the entire world in the past 220 years than anything imagined by the men who wrote it. I think they would be shocked at the scope of the impact of these 4 pages.

I think the early Americans would also be shocked at the idea of acknowledging the populist religion (evangelical/pentacostal Christianity) as the de facto Religion of Choice for the operation of the government.

*Thomas Jefferson, letter to his nephew Peter Carr, from Paris, August 10, 1787; Merrill D. Peterson, ed., Thomas Jefferson: Writings, New York: Library of America, 1994, pp. 900-906.

as an afterthought ... I really hope she isn't elected; I might have to add another woman to the euphemistic category She Who Must Not Be Named.


1 comment:

Peter T said...

I don't like Sharron Angle and hope that Harry Reid will defeat her. I agree, however, with her statement that a separation or a wall of separation between church and state is neither in the original Constitution nor in the Bill of Rights. Those expression were instead unearthed from Jefferson's correspondence by one supreme court justice in the 1950s(? Blackmun?) who looked for legal ammunition to prohibit school prayer and the like. The people in the 1790s did add the first amendment to the constituition and not Jefferson's correspondence with some baptists in Virginia.