Separation and the City:
An ‘Inconsistent Conservative’s” View of Religious Liberty

Religious Liberty — By on April 17, 2004 at 9:41 pm

Baylor professor Francis Beckwith has recently come under fire from the crowd over at Panda’s Thumb for his writings on the Establishment Clause. One curious criticism from Pacific Legal Foundation attorney Timothy Sandefur is that Beckwith is espousing an ‘extreme view” of separationism that clashes with conservatism. In response, Beckwith posts on his blog:

I am first a Christian and then a conservative. And whenever the former conflicts with the latter, I lean toward the former. I’m more convinced that Jesus was right than I am about William F. Buckley, Jr.’s opinions. Part of my understanding of Christian theology and its relationship to the state is that the state should not be in the business of coercing people to be Christians, either directly or indirectly. It should respect the rights of all believers and unbelievers to believe as they will and to make life choices consistent with these beliefs as long as they do not violate the public good or infringe on the rights of others (I know that there is a can of worms here with ‘public good,” but I’m just articulating the general principles). So, in that sense I am a church-state separationist.*

This corresponds with both my own uneasy alliance with conservatism and with my view of religious liberty. As fellow blogger David T. Koyzis writes in his excellent book Political Visions and Illusions,

‘Our desire to protect such religious freedom issues not out of indifference or skepticism toward our ultimate beliefs but out of a recognition that in the present age, in [Leslie] Newbignin’s words, God wills to provide a space and time for people freely to give their allegiance to his kingdom. The state thus refrains from prematurely foreclosing on this divinely permitted freedom. This implies considerable tolerance of religious diversity in between the times.” (pg. 204)

This is one of the reasons that idea of a ‘theocracy” is anathema to me and why I feel so strongly that Christians should be hesitant to embrace the idea that America once was or should be a ‘Christian nation.” As an evangelical I believe that we have a responsibility to be politically engaged and carve out our place in the public square. We should be model citizens and, in a liberal democracy, that requires that we challenge and work to transform our culture. But we should never lose focus on our mission in this world. For we should constantly remind ourselves that our calling is not to build a ‘city on a hill” but rather to seek the ‘kingdom of God”.
*Hat tip: Our Daily Thread for the link to Dr. Beckwith’s blog.



  • Anonymous

    well said!

  • http://www.cultureisnotoptional.com rob vg-r

    well said!

  • http://sandefur.blogspot.com/ Timothy Sandefur

    First of all, allow me to reiterate yet again that I speak only for myself on Panda’s Thumb, and not on behalf of PLF, its employees, clients, or donors.
    Secondly, I’m sorry if it sounded like I was suggesting that Prof. Beckwith or you or anyone should put politics before religion. It’s not only appropriate that Prof. Beckwith put Christianity first, before any particular view, but so obvious to me that I would be shocked were it otherwise. And indeed, as John Milton and Thomas Jefferson and James Madison and Alexis de Tocquville and countless others have pointed out, Christianity is not only consistent with–but is positively benefitted by–the separation of church and state.
    But none of this has anything to do with my point. The point of my posts was to ask Prof. Beckwith a questiona about his his extreme separationism view–which I consider a legitimate opinion, although I personally disagree with it, as does the United States Supreme Court, and many Christian conservatives. (Usually, you see this extreme separationism advocated by the more secular, liberal crowd.) My question to him was not whether he ought to prioritize religion over politics, but whether he saw the contradiction: whether he understood that his extreme separationism view inherently clashes with the rationale behind Zelman, and Witters, and Rosenberger; whether he understood that his extreme separationism view would be very troubling to most religious conservatives. If he does see that, but nevertheless embraces his extreme separationism view because he believes it is more consistent with Christianity, then I respect his consistency. But despite my repeated invitations–indeed, my imploring–Prof. Beckwith has failed to respond to this question.

  • http://sandefur.blogspot.com Timothy Sandefur

    First of all, allow me to reiterate yet again that I speak only for myself on Panda’s Thumb, and not on behalf of PLF, its employees, clients, or donors.
    Secondly, I’m sorry if it sounded like I was suggesting that Prof. Beckwith or you or anyone should put politics before religion. It’s not only appropriate that Prof. Beckwith put Christianity first, before any particular view, but so obvious to me that I would be shocked were it otherwise. And indeed, as John Milton and Thomas Jefferson and James Madison and Alexis de Tocquville and countless others have pointed out, Christianity is not only consistent with–but is positively benefitted by–the separation of church and state.
    But none of this has anything to do with my point. The point of my posts was to ask Prof. Beckwith a questiona about his his extreme separationism view–which I consider a legitimate opinion, although I personally disagree with it, as does the United States Supreme Court, and many Christian conservatives. (Usually, you see this extreme separationism advocated by the more secular, liberal crowd.) My question to him was not whether he ought to prioritize religion over politics, but whether he saw the contradiction: whether he understood that his extreme separationism view inherently clashes with the rationale behind Zelman, and Witters, and Rosenberger; whether he understood that his extreme separationism view would be very troubling to most religious conservatives. If he does see that, but nevertheless embraces his extreme separationism view because he believes it is more consistent with Christianity, then I respect his consistency. But despite my repeated invitations–indeed, my imploring–Prof. Beckwith has failed to respond to this question.

  • Steve

    Thing is, it is a fact that this country was intentionally established upon Christian political principles, and that the Founders were well nigh unanimous that the Constitution was only fit for a “religious” — Christian — people.
    There was no denying the fact until in the late 40s and 50s when the Supreme Court arrogated to itself the authority of the citizens of the several States and tried to make the country “secular” — atheist– in an ultra vires diktat, which lacks any legitimate force of law.
    From the Declaration of Independence, to the Common Law, to the personal writings of the Founders, this was a Christian nation for more than 150 years of its existence. That is simple fact, easily discerned from reading sufficiently from the primary sources in context. That doesn’t mean a ‘saved’ nation or a ‘redeemed’ nation, but one where the principles of government, including the Kingship of Jesus Christ, and the laws were intentionally based upon Holy Scripture and the Christian philosophy of civil governance that had been developing for nearly 18 centuries.

  • Steve

    Thing is, it is a fact that this country was intentionally established upon Christian political principles, and that the Founders were well nigh unanimous that the Constitution was only fit for a “religious” — Christian — people.
    There was no denying the fact until in the late 40s and 50s when the Supreme Court arrogated to itself the authority of the citizens of the several States and tried to make the country “secular” — atheist– in an ultra vires diktat, which lacks any legitimate force of law.
    From the Declaration of Independence, to the Common Law, to the personal writings of the Founders, this was a Christian nation for more than 150 years of its existence. That is simple fact, easily discerned from reading sufficiently from the primary sources in context. That doesn’t mean a ‘saved’ nation or a ‘redeemed’ nation, but one where the principles of government, including the Kingship of Jesus Christ, and the laws were intentionally based upon Holy Scripture and the Christian philosophy of civil governance that had been developing for nearly 18 centuries.

  • http://www.blindmindseye.com/ Mike

    Once again someone has to bring out that old rubbish that America was founded on Biblical principles. And what might those Biblical principles be? The right to utter blasphemies and proselytize for false relgions (1st amendment, 10 commandments)? Being free to own firearms to protect individual rights against the government (2nd amendment, Romans 13:1-13:7)? How about the 4th, 5th and 6th amendment which empower juries to thwart the law of the land?
    Based on the Bible, America had no right to secede from the British Empire. We are an unlawful nation founded in rebellion against God according to the Book of Romans. The British monarchy was not violating any of God’s laws in America, therefore the colonies had no Biblical right to rebel.

  • http://www.blindmindseye.com Mike

    Once again someone has to bring out that old rubbish that America was founded on Biblical principles. And what might those Biblical principles be? The right to utter blasphemies and proselytize for false relgions (1st amendment, 10 commandments)? Being free to own firearms to protect individual rights against the government (2nd amendment, Romans 13:1-13:7)? How about the 4th, 5th and 6th amendment which empower juries to thwart the law of the land?
    Based on the Bible, America had no right to secede from the British Empire. We are an unlawful nation founded in rebellion against God according to the Book of Romans. The British monarchy was not violating any of God’s laws in America, therefore the colonies had no Biblical right to rebel.

  • Mazur al-Ibrahim

    Joe
    Interesting post.
    “As an evangelical I believe that we have a responsibility to . . . carve out our place in the public square.”
    I think this is the part that causes the sensitive readers sense to tingle, as it is unclear how this carve-out mission relates to the Establishment Clause.
    When Beckwith says that “the state should not be in the business of coercing people to be Christians, either directly or indirectly,” I certainly can not argue with that!
    But my understanding of the point of the Establishment Clause (which says nothing about Christians) is that it protects individuals from exposure to religious views in venues where that exposure might appear to be Federally sanctioned and where that exposure is essentially inescapable. “Coercive” exposure is certainly included, but the exposure I’m talking about need not includ the words “the government says that you must . . .”
    While I understand why religious groups (nearly always Christians, because they are by far the dominant religion in this country) sometimes feel that the Establishment Clause is being used to “attack” or “suppress” them, I do not have much sympathy for them. Religion (especially Christianity) has always thrived in the United States, it’s thriving now, and I’ve no doubt it will continue to thrive for the lifetime of the nation. Second, it is a rare day indeed where I hear a Christian (especially an evangelical Christian in a public forum) state their appreciation for the fact that life for agnostics and atheists (and non-Christians) in this country includes daily exposure to well-publicized religious (mostly Christian) expression from individuals, including our representatives in government, and virtually NONE from people admitting to be atheists or agnostics. Religious groups (mostly Christians) will complain about all the “secular” junk they are “forced” to endure, but that ignores the fact that most of that junk is created thanks to the great efforts of individuals who are themselves sincerely religious (and mostly Christian). And most of the people who buy and pay for the junk are also religious (and mostly Christian).
    Bottom line, Christians have more liberty to express their views than nearly any group in the country. I understand their desire to keep the status quo but I question their strategy of attacking scientists (for example) in order to achieve that end.

  • Mazur al-Ibrahim

    Joe
    Interesting post.
    “As an evangelical I believe that we have a responsibility to . . . carve out our place in the public square.”
    I think this is the part that causes the sensitive readers sense to tingle, as it is unclear how this carve-out mission relates to the Establishment Clause.
    When Beckwith says that “the state should not be in the business of coercing people to be Christians, either directly or indirectly,” I certainly can not argue with that!
    But my understanding of the point of the Establishment Clause (which says nothing about Christians) is that it protects individuals from exposure to religious views in venues where that exposure might appear to be Federally sanctioned and where that exposure is essentially inescapable. “Coercive” exposure is certainly included, but the exposure I’m talking about need not includ the words “the government says that you must . . .”
    While I understand why religious groups (nearly always Christians, because they are by far the dominant religion in this country) sometimes feel that the Establishment Clause is being used to “attack” or “suppress” them, I do not have much sympathy for them. Religion (especially Christianity) has always thrived in the United States, it’s thriving now, and I’ve no doubt it will continue to thrive for the lifetime of the nation. Second, it is a rare day indeed where I hear a Christian (especially an evangelical Christian in a public forum) state their appreciation for the fact that life for agnostics and atheists (and non-Christians) in this country includes daily exposure to well-publicized religious (mostly Christian) expression from individuals, including our representatives in government, and virtually NONE from people admitting to be atheists or agnostics. Religious groups (mostly Christians) will complain about all the “secular” junk they are “forced” to endure, but that ignores the fact that most of that junk is created thanks to the great efforts of individuals who are themselves sincerely religious (and mostly Christian). And most of the people who buy and pay for the junk are also religious (and mostly Christian).
    Bottom line, Christians have more liberty to express their views than nearly any group in the country. I understand their desire to keep the status quo but I question their strategy of attacking scientists (for example) in order to achieve that end.

  • Rob Ryan

    Some people read their primary sources differently from others, Steve. Let’s take a look at some of our nation’s founders. Washington and Franklin were Deists. Jefferson was downright hostile to Christianity, although he found much to admire in the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth. Adams concurred to a large extent with Jefferson, which is clear to anyone who reads their correspondence. The framers of the Constitution deliberately avoided any mention of a “higher power” by any name, and the intent of the First Amendment is made clear in a letter Jefferson wrote to the Danbury Baptists. The Adams administration signed off on a treaty that explicitly stated that the U.S. was in no sense a Christian nation. You can do the Bill O’Reilly reading, or you can be a real scholar. The founders wisely sought to protect government and religion from the mutual corruption that is inevitable when the two come together. Americans who believe in a deity with an elephant’s head, or no deity at all, have just as much a right to feel at home here as Christians.

  • Rob Ryan

    Some people read their primary sources differently from others, Steve. Let’s take a look at some of our nation’s founders. Washington and Franklin were Deists. Jefferson was downright hostile to Christianity, although he found much to admire in the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth. Adams concurred to a large extent with Jefferson, which is clear to anyone who reads their correspondence. The framers of the Constitution deliberately avoided any mention of a “higher power” by any name, and the intent of the First Amendment is made clear in a letter Jefferson wrote to the Danbury Baptists. The Adams administration signed off on a treaty that explicitly stated that the U.S. was in no sense a Christian nation. You can do the Bill O’Reilly reading, or you can be a real scholar. The founders wisely sought to protect government and religion from the mutual corruption that is inevitable when the two come together. Americans who believe in a deity with an elephant’s head, or no deity at all, have just as much a right to feel at home here as Christians.

  • Alan

    I think many people think that the seperation of church and state is a good thing, however, I think it is based on the misconception that a national structure can be ‘neutral’ to christianity, or any other particular world view.
    The ‘seperatists’ seem to want to throw out the baby with the bathwater so to speak. Even here we see comments about ‘directly or indirectly’ coercing people (Beckwith). What does that mean exactly? Do we really think that by secularizing our schools we are not indirectly coercing people to secular humanism? Are we not sending them the message that our worldview doesn’t matter in ‘public’?
    I am all for not forcing people to believe anything, however I think the concept of removing even the mention of christianity as it may ‘indirectly’ coerce someone is not correct.

  • Alan

    I think many people think that the seperation of church and state is a good thing, however, I think it is based on the misconception that a national structure can be ‘neutral’ to christianity, or any other particular world view.
    The ‘seperatists’ seem to want to throw out the baby with the bathwater so to speak. Even here we see comments about ‘directly or indirectly’ coercing people (Beckwith). What does that mean exactly? Do we really think that by secularizing our schools we are not indirectly coercing people to secular humanism? Are we not sending them the message that our worldview doesn’t matter in ‘public’?
    I am all for not forcing people to believe anything, however I think the concept of removing even the mention of christianity as it may ‘indirectly’ coerce someone is not correct.

  • Mazur al-Ibrahim

    Alan:
    “I am all for not forcing people to believe anything, however I think the concept of removing even the mention of christianity as it may ‘indirectly’ coerce someone is not correct.”
    My world history class included numerous mentions of Christianity and other religions, as people’s religions have played many important roles through history (e.g., Crusades, the Inquisition etc.). Christianity’s contribution to science, on the other hand, is meaningless *in science class*, except perhaps to provide context when relating the story of how certain scientists were persecuted by the prevailing Church for their discoveries.
    “Do we really think that by secularizing our schools we are not indirectly coercing people to secular humanism? Are we not sending them the message that our worldview doesn’t matter in ‘public’?”
    Assuming by “our” you mean “Christian,” if you’ve ever seen a debate in Congress on C-span, you can rest assured that your “worldview” is well-represented, including citations from the Gospels, in the only public venue which counts in our democracy (a system which I revere, by the way, in spite of its shortcomings). What percent of Congress is Christian? What percent is Jewish? What percent is agnostic or atheist? I will eat my hat if the latter figure is greater than 1% (at least ten times lower than the percentage of atheists and agnostics in society).
    Regarding “indirect coercion” to “secular humanism,” how is that supposed to work? Is it really the case that if a Christian sits in a Federal courthouse or public school for 7 or 8 hours a day without having his religion validated by the Judge or teacher that the Christian starts to wonder if he or she should “switch over” to “secular humanism” (whatever you mean by that)? I can’t believe that’s the case, mainly because if it were true there would hardly be any churches left in my town, where the populace as been educated for generations in public schools which accorded full respect to the Establishment Clause (with the exception of the ridiculous Pledge of Allegiance which none of us understood a word of when we were required to recite it in grade school).
    After tonight’s 60 minutes, I now feel confident that George Bush’s fundamentalist-style Christianity will become one of the keys to understanding why his Presidency failed. Hopefully that will merit some mention in the history books, particularly when explaining the lengthy drawn out period of conflict with the Middle East which we are now entering into a very big way.

  • Mazur al-Ibrahim

    Alan:
    “I am all for not forcing people to believe anything, however I think the concept of removing even the mention of christianity as it may ‘indirectly’ coerce someone is not correct.”
    My world history class included numerous mentions of Christianity and other religions, as people’s religions have played many important roles through history (e.g., Crusades, the Inquisition etc.). Christianity’s contribution to science, on the other hand, is meaningless *in science class*, except perhaps to provide context when relating the story of how certain scientists were persecuted by the prevailing Church for their discoveries.
    “Do we really think that by secularizing our schools we are not indirectly coercing people to secular humanism? Are we not sending them the message that our worldview doesn’t matter in ‘public’?”
    Assuming by “our” you mean “Christian,” if you’ve ever seen a debate in Congress on C-span, you can rest assured that your “worldview” is well-represented, including citations from the Gospels, in the only public venue which counts in our democracy (a system which I revere, by the way, in spite of its shortcomings). What percent of Congress is Christian? What percent is Jewish? What percent is agnostic or atheist? I will eat my hat if the latter figure is greater than 1% (at least ten times lower than the percentage of atheists and agnostics in society).
    Regarding “indirect coercion” to “secular humanism,” how is that supposed to work? Is it really the case that if a Christian sits in a Federal courthouse or public school for 7 or 8 hours a day without having his religion validated by the Judge or teacher that the Christian starts to wonder if he or she should “switch over” to “secular humanism” (whatever you mean by that)? I can’t believe that’s the case, mainly because if it were true there would hardly be any churches left in my town, where the populace as been educated for generations in public schools which accorded full respect to the Establishment Clause (with the exception of the ridiculous Pledge of Allegiance which none of us understood a word of when we were required to recite it in grade school).
    After tonight’s 60 minutes, I now feel confident that George Bush’s fundamentalist-style Christianity will become one of the keys to understanding why his Presidency failed. Hopefully that will merit some mention in the history books, particularly when explaining the lengthy drawn out period of conflict with the Middle East which we are now entering into a very big way.

  • Ed Jordan

    Assuming that most people agree that nobody wants a theocracy, is our nation still allowed to have a moral basis for its laws? That is, are the motive forces for our laws allowed, constitutionally, to emanate from a worldview shaped by the religions of its citizens?
    To put it more specifically: Suppose I (as a Christian, Jew, or Muslim) believe the Bible disallows same-sex marriage — am I allowed to pass a law against same-sex marriage on those grounds, or does that establish a theocracy?

  • Ed Jordan

    Assuming that most people agree that nobody wants a theocracy, is our nation still allowed to have a moral basis for its laws? That is, are the motive forces for our laws allowed, constitutionally, to emanate from a worldview shaped by the religions of its citizens?
    To put it more specifically: Suppose I (as a Christian, Jew, or Muslim) believe the Bible disallows same-sex marriage — am I allowed to pass a law against same-sex marriage on those grounds, or does that establish a theocracy?

  • Alan

    mazur: My world history class included numerous mentions of Christianity and other religions, as people’s religions have played many important roles through history (e.g., Crusades, the Inquisition etc.).
    Did it also mention the non-christian effects such as the islamic religion being spread by the sword and the atheistic governments of stalin et al and their carnage?
    mazur: Christianity’s contribution to science, on the other hand, is meaningless *in science class*, except perhaps to provide context when relating the story of how certain scientists were persecuted by the prevailing Church for their discoveries.
    That’s an interesting point. I would think the history of science and the philosophy of science would be a good place to discuss all of the effects of christianity on science. Including how the scientists of galileo’s day tried to use the church to supress the idea of the earth revolving around the sun, and perhaps the whole basis for believing in a rational universe in which science is actually possible is based on the christian worldview.
    Mazur:if you’ve ever seen a debate in Congress on C-span, you can rest assured that your “worldview” is well-represented, including citations from the Gospels, in the only public venue which counts in our democracy (a system which I revere, by the way, in spite of its shortcomings)
    This is a somewhat confusing statement? Are you saying that no other public venue counts in the US? That is a pretty big claim. I am sure quite a few people may be a little shocked that their public contributions do not count.
    Mazur:Is it really the case that if a Christian sits in a Federal courthouse or public school for 7 or 8 hours a day without having his religion validated by the Judge or teacher that the Christian starts to wonder if he or she should “switch over” to “secular humanism”
    No. It is more like people being taught that their religion is not regarded as true enough to be included in all of their life. It is essentially an enforced pluralism that degrades all religions.
    Except secular humanism that is… Are you saying
    that the proportion of atheists and agnostics has not increased in the US?

  • Alan

    mazur: My world history class included numerous mentions of Christianity and other religions, as people’s religions have played many important roles through history (e.g., Crusades, the Inquisition etc.).
    Did it also mention the non-christian effects such as the islamic religion being spread by the sword and the atheistic governments of stalin et al and their carnage?
    mazur: Christianity’s contribution to science, on the other hand, is meaningless *in science class*, except perhaps to provide context when relating the story of how certain scientists were persecuted by the prevailing Church for their discoveries.
    That’s an interesting point. I would think the history of science and the philosophy of science would be a good place to discuss all of the effects of christianity on science. Including how the scientists of galileo’s day tried to use the church to supress the idea of the earth revolving around the sun, and perhaps the whole basis for believing in a rational universe in which science is actually possible is based on the christian worldview.
    Mazur:if you’ve ever seen a debate in Congress on C-span, you can rest assured that your “worldview” is well-represented, including citations from the Gospels, in the only public venue which counts in our democracy (a system which I revere, by the way, in spite of its shortcomings)
    This is a somewhat confusing statement? Are you saying that no other public venue counts in the US? That is a pretty big claim. I am sure quite a few people may be a little shocked that their public contributions do not count.
    Mazur:Is it really the case that if a Christian sits in a Federal courthouse or public school for 7 or 8 hours a day without having his religion validated by the Judge or teacher that the Christian starts to wonder if he or she should “switch over” to “secular humanism”
    No. It is more like people being taught that their religion is not regarded as true enough to be included in all of their life. It is essentially an enforced pluralism that degrades all religions.
    Except secular humanism that is… Are you saying
    that the proportion of atheists and agnostics has not increased in the US?

  • Mazur al-Ibrahim

    Ed Jordan:
    “To put it more specifically: Suppose I (as a Christian, Jew, or Muslim) believe the Bible disallows same-sex marriage — am I allowed to pass a law against same-sex marriage on those grounds, or does that establish a theocracy?”
    If the only justification you (the hypothetical legislator) can provide for a law is that “the Bible says so” I would argue at least that you would have an easier time passing the law if, instead of living in the U.S., you lived in a theocracy whose constitution explicitly stated that a Biblical teaching alone (pick your version of the Bible) was sufficient to justify a particular law.
    Of course, even if we did live in such a theocracy, we would no doubt have very vigorous debates on which parts of the Bible should be given more weight in the event of conflict and which parts (if any) should be ignored or determined to be unenforceable (in which latter case God would be the final arbiter, I guess). Such debates actually occur in modern day theocracies and so-called religious democracies.
    In any event, laws such as those you propose have been passed by various U.S. legislatures with little more support than the Authority you cite. For what it’s worth, God’s Plan was also used in support of laws against inter-racial marriage, as I recall. The issue boils down to Constitutionality, of course, and in these instances it’s not about the Establishment Clause but about whether the Constitution guarantees that individuals be free from discrimination based on their sexual orientation (a subject for another thread).
    The United States is not a theocracy but I believe it is the next best thing for those who might want a theocracy: it’s a democracy with a vast religious majority that includes a very conservative and politically adept plurality.
    Thank goodness the Framers put a lot of effort into preventing the problems associated with “too much democracy.” We might very well have a theocracy by now if they hadn’t had such foresight. For the same reason, it’s inconceivable to me that we’ll ever have a Constitution like France’s, which fairly explicitly places secularism near the top of its goals [note: as in the U.S., it's not difficult to find a place to pray in France; in fact, some of the nicest places to pray are there].

  • Mazur al-Ibrahim

    Ed Jordan:
    “To put it more specifically: Suppose I (as a Christian, Jew, or Muslim) believe the Bible disallows same-sex marriage — am I allowed to pass a law against same-sex marriage on those grounds, or does that establish a theocracy?”
    If the only justification you (the hypothetical legislator) can provide for a law is that “the Bible says so” I would argue at least that you would have an easier time passing the law if, instead of living in the U.S., you lived in a theocracy whose constitution explicitly stated that a Biblical teaching alone (pick your version of the Bible) was sufficient to justify a particular law.
    Of course, even if we did live in such a theocracy, we would no doubt have very vigorous debates on which parts of the Bible should be given more weight in the event of conflict and which parts (if any) should be ignored or determined to be unenforceable (in which latter case God would be the final arbiter, I guess). Such debates actually occur in modern day theocracies and so-called religious democracies.
    In any event, laws such as those you propose have been passed by various U.S. legislatures with little more support than the Authority you cite. For what it’s worth, God’s Plan was also used in support of laws against inter-racial marriage, as I recall. The issue boils down to Constitutionality, of course, and in these instances it’s not about the Establishment Clause but about whether the Constitution guarantees that individuals be free from discrimination based on their sexual orientation (a subject for another thread).
    The United States is not a theocracy but I believe it is the next best thing for those who might want a theocracy: it’s a democracy with a vast religious majority that includes a very conservative and politically adept plurality.
    Thank goodness the Framers put a lot of effort into preventing the problems associated with “too much democracy.” We might very well have a theocracy by now if they hadn’t had such foresight. For the same reason, it’s inconceivable to me that we’ll ever have a Constitution like France’s, which fairly explicitly places secularism near the top of its goals [note: as in the U.S., it's not difficult to find a place to pray in France; in fact, some of the nicest places to pray are there].

  • Rob Ryan

    Ed: Of course passing a law against same-sex marriage does not establish a theocracy. We already have many laws based on biblical moral values. Many are shared by other worldviews as well. While I don’t support the legislation you mention, I would not object to it on a separation of church and state basis. It is a moral issue, not just religious. While morals and religion are related, they also exist independently of one another.

  • Rob Ryan

    Ed: Of course passing a law against same-sex marriage does not establish a theocracy. We already have many laws based on biblical moral values. Many are shared by other worldviews as well. While I don’t support the legislation you mention, I would not object to it on a separation of church and state basis. It is a moral issue, not just religious. While morals and religion are related, they also exist independently of one another.

  • JBP

    Rob,
    Yes, Franklin was probably a deist, but the modern “scholarship” that paints all the founding fathers as deist and non Christians is silly in light of the evidence.
    George Washington, for example, served as a vestryman in a church he helped establish.
    In his circular letter to the States on June 8, 1783, Washington said that we have won the war but we should not forget that “the characteristics of the Divine Author of our blessed Religion, and without an humble imitation of whose example in these things, we can never hope to be a happy Nation.” Washington once admonished students “You do well to wish to learn our arts and our ways of life and above all, the religion of Jesus Christ.”

  • JBP

    Rob,
    Yes, Franklin was probably a deist, but the modern “scholarship” that paints all the founding fathers as deist and non Christians is silly in light of the evidence.
    George Washington, for example, served as a vestryman in a church he helped establish.
    In his circular letter to the States on June 8, 1783, Washington said that we have won the war but we should not forget that “the characteristics of the Divine Author of our blessed Religion, and without an humble imitation of whose example in these things, we can never hope to be a happy Nation.” Washington once admonished students “You do well to wish to learn our arts and our ways of life and above all, the religion of Jesus Christ.”

  • Rob Ryan

    JBP,
    Washington also never took communion at the church he attended, and in reponse to inquiries about Washington’s faith, his clergyman, a Dr. Abercrombie, replied, “Sir, Washington was a Deist.” But it doesn’t matter; noone in America has to believe what Washington or any of the founders believed. By the way, if you’ll review my posts you will note that I never claimed that all founders were non-Christians. The fact is, of course, that most were Christians, at least nominally. Several prominent ones were not. I don’t know who is claiming otherwise, as you seem to think is the case. Please tell me which scholars claim that none of the founders were Christians, and I will join you in discrediting them. All I’m saying is that the founders, Christian and non- Christian alike, were wise enough to omit the divisive element of religion from the Constitution.

  • Rob Ryan

    JBP,
    Washington also never took communion at the church he attended, and in reponse to inquiries about Washington’s faith, his clergyman, a Dr. Abercrombie, replied, “Sir, Washington was a Deist.” But it doesn’t matter; noone in America has to believe what Washington or any of the founders believed. By the way, if you’ll review my posts you will note that I never claimed that all founders were non-Christians. The fact is, of course, that most were Christians, at least nominally. Several prominent ones were not. I don’t know who is claiming otherwise, as you seem to think is the case. Please tell me which scholars claim that none of the founders were Christians, and I will join you in discrediting them. All I’m saying is that the founders, Christian and non- Christian alike, were wise enough to omit the divisive element of religion from the Constitution.

  • http://www.june24.net/antioch-road/ Jason Steffens

    This is a good discussion, but it seems to me to be missing a key element: namely, that the Constitution’s prohibition of an established national church was effected so as to allow states to continue to do what they wanted, including having established state churches (and all such established churches were denominations of Christianity).

  • http://www.june24.net/antioch-road/ Jason Steffens

    This is a good discussion, but it seems to me to be missing a key element: namely, that the Constitution’s prohibition of an established national church was effected so as to allow states to continue to do what they wanted, including having established state churches (and all such established churches were denominations of Christianity).

  • Jon

    Jason: the 14th amendment has long been interpreted as requiring state governments to respect nearly all of the rights contained in the Bill of Rights. So you’re right as a matter of original intent, but original intent is irrelevant in the face of a modifying Constitutional amendment.

  • Jon

    Jason: the 14th amendment has long been interpreted as requiring state governments to respect nearly all of the rights contained in the Bill of Rights. So you’re right as a matter of original intent, but original intent is irrelevant in the face of a modifying Constitutional amendment.

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