The Separation of Church and State
I do not like talking about politics (on this blog or on Facebook ), but today I am wondering if it is possible to talk about the law and not talk about politics? Are politics, religion and the law now so intertwined that it is near impossible to separate them?
This NBC article concerns the passing of legislation in the State of Tennessee that endorses or gives preferential treatment to one religious book over all others - The Bible. This sort of thing seems to fly in the face of the First Amendment which prohibits our government from endorsing a religion.
This legislation raises many questions for me. The first question is the purpose of the legislation, which I will get back to toward the end of my post.
The second question I have is, is it possible for a politician to reject religious based legislation on constitutional grounds without being labeled as one who is rejecting the religion the legislation purports to endorse? The perception I have of the State of Tennessee, which I have only been to a few times, is that it is a predominantly conservative, Republican and Christian State. Even so, it should be clear that making a religious text your Official State Book clearly crosses the line of The Separation of Church and State contained in the First Amendment. If Governor Bill Haslam signs the Bill into law, my guess is that it would remain The Official Book of Tennessee unless someone challenges the legislation in Court.
When I think about legislation such as this, I try to think about it with as clear of a mind as possible and not allow emotion or personal views get in the way. We need to think critically and not interpret the law the way we want but by what the law actually is. Our Founding Fathers thought this freedom from State sponsored religion so important that they made mention of it in the First Amendment of the Constitution. However, this legislator disagrees:
"State Sen. Kerry Roberts, R-Springfield, who voted in favor of the bill, said he understood the difficulty in deciding on the issue, The Tennessean reported. However, he noted that George Washington's inauguration contained many religious references. "The very founding of our nation — the very form of government that we have today — was put forth by men of faith, based on their faith, based on what they read in Holy Scripture," he said."
Sen. Roberts may believe that because the Founding Fathers were all Christians that we can or should use their religion as a reason to legislate Christianity into law. The irony here is, that Sen. Roberts' party is usually the party touting the original intent of the Founding Fathers as how laws should be interpreted. However, Thomas Jefferson, perhaps the most important Founding Father, helped establish the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom and President John Adams, another Founding Father, signed the Treaty of Tripoli in 1797, which was read to the entire Senate and received unanimous ratification. The Treaty declared:
"The Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion..."
So who challenges the legislation in court? Based on my experience of reading news and articles such as this, it would most likely be someone affiliated with or backed by the ACLU, an organization which has predominantly been associated with liberal causes and is not talked about in the best of terms on Fox News. So now party lines have been drawn, simply by pointing out that the legislation violates the First Amendment, liberals (read: Democrats) are viewed as being against the law and therefore against Christianity and I am sure conservative talk radio can really fire up their base to go our there and stick it to those God-less liberals, when in reality, the very people questioning the law may be loyal Christians themselves.
So back to my first question, the purpose of this legislation. It is pointless. Who cares what the official book is. Does Wisconsin even have one? My guess is this was thought up by some think-tank for the sole purpose of firing up voters, to further divide our country. A think-tank funded by billionaires. This is what they do. God, religion, guns, abortion, same-sex marriage, affirmative action. A bunch of divisive social issues that don't matter, but that people get very upset about, that we can fight over and so as to not pay attention to what those in power are really up to.