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
Trial and Error: The ACLU and Religious Expression
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
"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
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: www.nytimes.com/library/magazine/home/20000130mag-rosen2.html]
Religion and State in the American Jewish Experience
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.
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."
An "Agenda of Intolerance"
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
Academic Freedom and the Rights of Religious Faculty
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
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.
Go here to see our past Special Focus features.