Church-state separation topic of movie, forum

Wednesday, March 26, 2008 | 8:37 p.m. CDT; updated 4:01 p.m. CDT, Wednesday, July 16, 2008

COLUMBIA — The notion of separation of church and state has been a long-debated issue in American democracy. On Wednesday, a national simulcast let Columbians weigh in on what form the issue should take.

First Freedom First aired a national simulcast for church-state separations in 37 theaters around the country, including Forum 8 Theaters in Columbia.

Roughly 70 people turned out for the program, which was titled "Everything You Always Wanted to Know about the Separation of Church and State ... but Were Afraid to Ask!” which featured a number of actors, musicians and comedians as well as several religious-liberty activists.

“We are trying to elevate the discussion of a number of church-state issues in time for the election,” said Rob Boston, assistant director of communications for Americans United for Separation of Church and State. Boston said the film is trying to give people some questions that they can ask their local, state and even presidential candidates.

First Freedom First is a partnership of The Interfaith Alliance Foundation and Americans United.

The simulcast focused on eight major church-state issues facing Americans today, including freedom of worship, reproductive health, alternative family structures and the role religion should play in democracy.

“The most important point is to get people talking about these issues,” Boston said.

Several people who attended the event agreed with the viewpoints and concerns of the simulcast.

One of them was John Wolf, a real estate agent, who was concerned about stem cells and respecting non-traditional families.

Matt Lammers, a cook, said that the information reaffirmed his beliefs about the issues presented in the film.

In particular, Lammers said that he wants to see that “science, not religion, is taught to children in science classes.”

Diana Townsend, a retired Columbia woman, thinks that “thinking people should see this film ... people who want to discuss these issues.”

David Bedan, a retired Columbia man, sees the continued separation of church and state as a vital issue.

“It’s important, both for the good of the country and of the churches,” Bedan said, citing examples of how government-supported churches have sometimes ended disastrously.

Many came to the simulcast without knowing what to expect, like Ron DeLaite, a real estate broker who said he was pleased with the film.

“Hopefully it will have an impact,” DeLaite said.

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