Faust: Church-state separation the only way to go
April 1, 2010
If you have been reading the Summit Daily online for the last few weeks, you may have noticed the debate on religion that has come down to Christians vs. non-believers. Any time these debates come up, eventually the argument turns to whether or not the United Sates was founded on Christian principles and values. It comes as no surprise that people will use examples that support their own point of view. Christians are quick to point out the numerous examples of Christian signers of the Declaration of Independence, and non-believers just as easily point out the non-Christian signers such as Thomas Jefferson or Ben Franklin.
I do take some issue with the idea that we were founded on Christian values, because how do you even go about defining the term? Look at the Ten Commandments. The ideas of forbidding murdering, stealing, lying, etc. are hardly unique concepts to Christianity. These rules are pretty much universal in all societies without regard to their religions. You could claim that America was founded on Hindu values just as easily as Christian ones because the values aren’t really that different.
I think there is a more important issue to examine, and that was the decision to make the Establishment Clause the First Amendment to the U. S. constitution. This is the law that provides for the separation of Church and State. This law was part of a direct reaction to Church of England being the official Church of England and therefore the Colonies. The Founding Fathers felt the church had too much influence over the government in England. If we look at the framework of the Constitution, it is full of checks and balances to ensure the accountability of government to its people.
In 1776, the idea of a government being accountable to its people instead of the people being accountable to their government was a new concept. The problem with religion being allowed influence in government is that religion by its very definition has no accountability to the people. The idea of having an infallible Pope or bishop dictate government policy flew in the face of the idea of a government that was accountable to its people. They realized over 200 years ago that a secular government free from the will of religious interests was the only way to create a working government in a free society. They also realized the converse of this was that diversity of religions could best be allowed to flourish by making sure the government stays out of religion.
Whatever your views may be, the clear separation of religion and government in this country is the best way to ensure religious freedom and an accountable government.
Timothy Faust is a photographer who operates Altitude Fine Art Photography Gallery in Breckenridge.