Seems time to trot out this essay again. I remember nicking it from someone's blog somewhere back in the day. Apologies... I wish I could remember who actually wrote it, but it pretty much covers what I need to say.
Essays on separation of church & state, from “Motley_Cool” on FC blogs:
I like the idea of religious freedom. I also like freedom of speech and I especially like the idea of speaking out against theocrats attempting to turn our U.S. into a "Christian Nation". These evangelists have gone so far as to proclaim that anyone who isn't a Christian should not be able to hold high public office.
I remember back in the summer of 2004 when Ron Reagan, the President's son had just delivered an most eloquent and moving tribute to his father. Reagan was the working alongside Chris Matthews at MSNBC as a commentator and was being interviewed by Matthews shortly after his brilliant eulogy. Matthews turned to Ron Reagan and gushed about how great an orator he was and would we be seeing him as a political candidate one day? Reagan Jr. smiled and very matter of factly stated that he couldn't possibly run for public office because he was unelectable because he was an atheist. I was stunned. I mean, it hadn't been put to me in such stark terms before and this is the reality for any non-theist...you can run but you'll never be elected. I've never forgotten that moment. There are stilllaws on the books in seven U.S. states that openly prohibit non-believers from running for office. Here they are...
THE UNITED STATES CONSTITUTION
"... but no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States."
"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;"
State Constitutions that Discriminate Against Atheists
Arkansas State Constitution, Article 19 Section 1 ("Miscellaneous Provisions")
No person who denies the being of a God shall hold any office in the civil departments of this State, nor be competent to testify as a witness in any court.
Maryland's Declaration of Rights, Article 36
"That as it is the duty of every man to worship God in such manner as he thinks most acceptable to Him, all persons are equally entitled to protection in their religious liberty; wherefore, no person ought by any law to be molested in his person or estate, on account of his religious persuasion, or profession, or for his religious practice, unless, under the color of religion, he shall disturb the good order, peace or safety of the State, or shall infringe the laws of morality, or injure others in their natural, civil or religious rights; nor ought any person to be compelled to frequent, or maintain, or contribute, unless on contract, to maintain, any place of worship, or any ministry; nor shall any person, otherwise competent, be deemed incompetent as a witness, or juror, on account of his religious belief; provided, he believes in the existence of God, and that under His dispensation such person will be held morally accountable for his acts, and be rewarded or punished therefore either in this world or in the world to come."
Massachusetts' State Constitution, Article 3
"Any every denomination of Christians, demeaning themselves peaceably, and as good subjects of the commonwealth, shall be equally under the protection of the law: and no subordination of any one sect or denomination to another shall ever be established by law."
Comment: Apparently Non-Christians are not "equally under the protection of the law".
Mississippi State Constitution. Article 14 ("General Provisions"), Section 265
No person who denies the existence of a Supreme Being shall hold any office in this state.
North Carolina's State Constitution, Article 6 Section 8
"Disqualifications of office. The following persons shall be disqualified for office: First, any person who shall deny the being of Almighty God."
Pennsylvania's State Constitution, Article 1 Section 4
"No person who acknowledges the being of a God and a future state of rewards and punishments shall, on account of his religious sentiments, be disqualified to hold any office or place of trust or profit under this Commonwealth."
South Carolina's State Constitution, Article 4 Section 2
"No person shall be eligible to the office of Governor who denies the existence of the Supreme Being; ..."
Note: If you continue reading you will find that (in Section the Lieutenant Governor must also meet the same qualifications as the Governor.
Tennessee's State Constitution, Article 9 Section 2
"No person who denies the being of God, or a future state of rewards and punishments, shall hold any office in the civil department of this state."
Texas' State Constitution, Article 1 Section 4
"No religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office, or public trust, in this State; nor shall any one be excluded from holding office on account of his religious sentiments, provided he acknowledge the existence of a Supreme Being."
P.S. I'll pull up a chair. I think I'm going to like this thread.
Christian religion is a gentle one (ok, minus Southern Baptists) which has compatible values with a working democracy. Plus, your founding fathers were all believers in the Christian faith. They were the ones who created the rules about separating church and state, and I am pretty sure they still would be dumbfounded by most comments."
Most of this is just factually incorrect. Christianity is a "gentle" religion? I guess that would be correct if we didn't count the Crusades, the Inquisition and Salem Witch Trials. The myth of the early colonists coming to America for religious freedom is just that, a myth. They didn't come here voluntarily, they were kicked out of Britain for being religious troublemakers. And once here and free of "persecution" they did their own persecuting when they were in a position to do so. And most of the founding fathers were deists who had open hostility attitudes towards religion. This re-writing of history by the pious has been constant and unending. I call it the Walt Disney version of American History. Pious founding fathers praying to Jesus for guidance. Rubbish. Here are a few quotes from our most important and intellectually relevant founding fathers, it would be difficult to misunderstand their intention so let's start with Thomas Jefferson.
Although Jefferson believed in a Creator, his concept of it resembled that of the god of deism (the term "Nature's God" used by deists of the time). With his scientific bent, Jefferson sought to organize his thoughts on religion. He rejected the superstitions and mysticism of Christianity and even went so far as to edit the gospels, removing the miracles and mysticism of Jesus (see The Jefferson Bible) leaving only what he deemed the correct moral philosophy of Jesus.
"I have recently been examining all the known superstitions of the world, and do not find in our particular superstition one redeeming feature. They are all alike, founded upon fables and mythologies."
-- Thomas Jefferson, letter to Dr. Woods (undated), referring to "our particular superstition," Christianity, from John E. Remsburg, Six Historic Americans: Thomas Jefferson, quoted from Franklin Steiner, Religious Beliefs of Our Presidents (1936), "Thomas Jefferson, Freethinker"
"We find in the writings of his biographers ... a groundwork of vulgar ignorance, of things impossible, of superstitions, fanaticisms and fabrications."
-- Thomas Jefferson, to William Short, August 4, 1822, referring to Jesus's biographers, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.
"The day will come when the mystical generation of Jesus, by the Supreme Being as his father, in the womb of a virgin, will be classed with the fable of the generation of Minerva in the brain of Jupiter."
-- Thomas Jefferson, letter to John Adams, April 11, 1823, quoted from James A. Haught, "Breaking the Last Taboo" (1996)
"The priests of the different religious sects ... dread the advance of science as witches do the approach of daylight, and scowl on the fatal harbinger announcing the subdivision of the duperies on which they live."
-- Thomas Jefferson, letter to Correa de Serra, April 11, 1820
"If by religion we are to understand sectarian dogmas, in which no two of them agree, then your exclamation on that hypothesis is just, "that this would be the best of worlds if there were no religion in it."
-- Thomas Jefferson, in a reply to John Adams' letter, quoted by Joseph Lewis in his address "Jefferson the Freethinker," delivered at a banquet of the Freethinkers' Society of New York on the evening of April 13th, 1925, at Hotel Belleclaire, 77th Street and Broadway, New York City, in honor of the 182nd anniversary of the birth of Thomas Jefferson.
"I am not afraid of the priests. They have tried upon me all their various batteries, of pious whining, hypocritical canting, lying and slandering, without being able to give me one moment of pain."
-- Thomas Jefferson, letter to Horatio Gates Spafford, 1816
How about James Madison? This should be interesting...
"Religious bondage shackles and debilitates the mind and unfits it for every noble enterprise."
The Madisons by Virginia Moore, P. 43 (1979, McGraw-Hill Co. New York, NY) quoting a letter by JM to William Bradford April 1, 1774,
"During almost fifteen centuries has the legal establishment of Christianity been on trial. What have been its fruits? More or less in all places, pride and indolence in the Clergy, ignorance and servility in the laity, in both, superstition, bigotry and persecution."
James Madison, A Biography in his Own Words, edited by Joseph Gardner, p. 93, (1974, Newsweek, New York, NY) Quoting Memorial and Remonstrance against Religious Assessments by JM, June 1785.
And Benjamin Franklin...
"As to Jesus of Nazareth, my Opinion of whom you particularly desire, I think the System of Morals and his Religion...has received various corrupting Changes, and I have, with most of the present dissenters in England, some doubts as to his Divinity; tho' it is a question I do not dogmatize upon, having never studied it, and think it needless to busy myself with it now, when I expect soon an opportunity of knowing the Truth with less trouble."
He died a month later, and historians consider him, like so many great Americans of his time, to be a Deist, not a Christian.
"If we look back into history for the character of the present sects in Christianity, we shall find few that have not in their turns been persecutors, and complainers of persecution. The primitive Christians thought persecution extremely wrong in the Pagans, but practiced it on one another. The first Protestants of the Church of England blamed persecution in the Romish church, but practiced it upon the Puritans. These found it wrong in the Bishops, but fell into the same practice themselves both here [England] and in New England."
From an essay on "Toleration."
There is no doubt that some of our founding fathers were overtly religious but most of the framers of our Constitution were not. Our country was inspired by the Enlightenment and by the concept of religious freedom but it was not founded on Christianity. The Treaty of Tripoli is a little known but legal document written in the late 1700s explicitly reveals the secular nature of the United States to a foreign nation. Officially called the "Treaty of peace and friendship between the United States of America and the Bey and Subjects of Tripoli, of Barbary," most refer to it as simply the Treaty of Tripoli. In Article 11, it states:
"As the Government of the United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian religion; as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquillity, of Musselmen; and as the said States never have entered into any war or act of hostility against any Mehomitan nation, it is declared by the parties that no pretext arising from religious opinions shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries."
I guess I could cite more examples but I think this is sufficient. Much of our history is being deliberately nowadays by religious conservatives for their own partisan and vested interests. I hope to burst that bubble when and where I can.