Separated at Birth?
American Church-State Separation Revisited

 - At the very hour of this writing, administrators at a major state-sponsored university wrestle with the implications of banning "JESUS" video giveaways to faculty and staff in recognition of Easter week. Meanwhile, Tufts University's student judicial body has "de-recognized" InterVarsity Christian Fellowship there because they refuse to give leadership status to an open lesbian. Ohio's state motto, "With God, all things are possible," was struck down as unconstitutional by a Federal appeals court this week. Also this week, the Supreme court hears a case on the constitutionality of disallowing homosexual Scoutmasters. In the recent heyday of separatism, even Christmas creches were rendered illegal.

However, things may be changing, according to Jeffrey Rosen of the New York Times Magazine. "The Supreme Court is on the verge of replacing the principle of strict separation with a very different constitutional principle that demands equal treatment for religion," writes Rosen. Regardless of any swing in the conservative direction among judges and other opinion-makers regarding this volatile subject, the vast majority of Americans seem woefully ignorant of the core issues and their ramifications. Partly to blame: revisionist history. And part of the confusion is caused by the ubiquitous phrase "separation of church and state," which in the minds of many means, "Keep religion out of public life."

Is that what the Founding Fathers intended when they authored the First Amendment to the Constitution? Or was their forebears' flight from a state church (Church of England) the basis for a concept that meant the reverse--"Keep the state out of religion"? What are the rights of students, teachers and other citizens to express their faith publicly? Our special focus addresses these and other concerns.

—Byron Barlowe, Editor/Webmaster, Leadership University

Featured Articles:

A New Order of Religious Freedom
Richard John Neuhaus
First Things founding editor Richard John Neuhaus states, "The great problem today is not the threat that religion poses to public life, but the threat that the state, presuming to embody public life, poses to religion."

Trial and Error: The ACLU and Religious Expression
George Grant
The author concludes that, "If we attack public expressions of the Christian faith--as the ACLU would have us to do--we actually attack our very foundations of justice and liberty."

God in the Closet: Why Christ Is Unwelcome in Contemporary Culture
Chuck Colson
"According to University of Texas Professor J. Budziszewski, author of a great new book, The Revenge of Conscience: Politics and the Fall of Man, Christians face unofficial pressure to conceal the implications of biblical faith for every sphere of life. The shapers of opinion react with amazing hostility to the mere mention of God."

The Catholic Public Servant
James L. Buckley
Former judge James L. Buckley discusses the popular misconceptions that federal judges need ordain law as well as interpret it and that rulings or other influences derived from religious principles should be necessarily rejected.

While We're At It: First Things founding editor's take on New York Times Magazine cover story, "Church and State: How the Wall Came Tumbling Down"
Richard John Neuhaus
Neuhaus critiques this recent assessment of the church-state issue, giving it a thumbs up. Although he doubts the basis for great hope as a result of what the author describes as the judicial trend of "moving away from the 'wall of separation' metaphor to concepts of 'equal regard' and 'nondiscrimination'," Neuhaus nonetheless sees reason to be glad. Things have improved for people of faith since the reviewer wrote The Naked Public Square in 1984, but need to keep moving toward the balance intended by the Founders. Note: see also the section, "Judicial Line-Drawings" in the same document for an update on the issues surrounding the Supreme Court's future ruling on prayer at Texas high school football games.
[cover story online:]

Religion and State in the American Jewish Experience
Elliot Abrams
Authors Jonathon D. Sarna and David G. Dalin argue in their new book, "Religion and State in the American Jewish Experience," that the Jewish movement toward the separationist position has not always been this way. Reviewed by Elliot Abrams.

Special Resource:

Faith and Freedom
The Christian Roots of American Liberty

by Benjamin Hart
(full-length book)

Hart provides an extensive history of the relationship of church and state back to Augustine, through Constantine, Charlemagne, Cromwell, the Puritans and America's founders. He makes a compelling case that true separation of church and state was based on the church throwing off the dictates of an imposing state rather than vice versa. In later chapters, he applies this understanding to today's prevalent but very misunderstood controversy: From Chapter 22: The True Thomas Jefferson--"The basic political conflict in American society today is between those who believe God is the ultimate ruler of human affairs and those who think man is the final arbiter of truth.... Nowhere is this religious or philosophical collision more evident than in the controversy over the relationship between faith and politics, often mislabeled 'church and state.' The conflict has become so violent precisely because the issue goes straight to the heart of one's belief as to which creed should provide the foundation for the American political order: Judeo-Christian theism, or agnostic civil humanism."

Hart continues, "No issue in American politics today is prone to more egregious distortion than the entire controversy over separation of church and state. The religion clause of the First Amendment has been interpreted by the courts in recent decades to ban religious expression in the public schools - from prayer to the posting of the Ten Commandments - as an assault on the liberties of nonbelievers. How the posting of the Ten Commandments, or how publicly expressing thanks to our Creator for all He has given us threatens the liberties of anyone, no one has explained satisfactorily. But one would have to have a very warped perspective on American history to believe the Founding Fathers intended or foresaw the federal government being used to bludgeon Christianity."

Religion and Public Education:

Faculty Ward Off Censorship
Real Issue Journal, Christian Leadership Ministries
"Hello, this is The Michigan Daily. I'm calling to say we've decided not to run your ad on Tuesday. A quorum of editors will vote to decide if we'll run it at all." Thus began an attempt by a campus newspaper to censor an ad placed by Christian faculty because of religious content. In the end, the story has a happy ending.

An "Agenda of Intolerance"
John Myers
In a severe breach of academic freedom, professor Dilawar Edwards was summarily relieved of his teaching duties when a student lodged an informal complaint claiming that Dr. Edwards was indoctrinating the class with his Christian beliefs.

Academic Freedom and the Rights of Religious Faculty
John Whitehead
John Whitehead, founder of The Rutherford Institute, documents how the U.S. court system has repeatedly guaranteed the rights of religious persons in public institutions--especially educational ones--through case law. He presents an overview of important cases with extensive footnotes for further study.

Student Rights
Don Closson
An overview of rights enjoyed by Christians in our public schools as well as some of the history that has brought about our current situation.

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