ROSE NOLEN: Separation of church and state important in America

Tuesday, March 22, 2011 | 12:01 a.m. CDT; updated 9:52 p.m. CDT, Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Some people have a hard time accepting the separation of church and state. And for some reason, government officials and people who surely know better seem reluctant to make this clear to the public at large. In fact, such acts as adding the words "under God" to the Pledge of Allegiance only add to the confusion.

Usually people don't want to accept this separation because they want badly to believe that America is a Christian nation. The fact that we are a democratic republic where people are free to believe whatever they choose is not good enough. On the one hand, these people say that we are a country where people are equal under the law, but on the other hand, they think we should be able to determine who people can marry based upon our religious beliefs. All this, of course, is because of what individuals have been taught in their homes. Shame on us.

Children should be taught in school from the first grade onward what form of government we have. Ultimately, this would eliminate the problem. Unfortunately, too many teachers prefer to go along with the fiction, in which case they only add to the problem. Many kids therefore believe they are not allowed to pray in school because evil people have put a stop to it. As a Christian, I have been instructed by the Scriptures to pray in my closet, so I find it confusing that people wish to pray in schools or other government-controlled arenas. I'm also confused as to why they expect non-Christians to live according to Christian doctrines. The fact that many of these people are being persuaded in their churches to believe these things is obvious.

Furthermore, when people talk about prayer in school, I am convinced they are only talking about Christian prayers. After all, Muslims pray five times a day. Would they be allowed to practice their religious freedom, too? In one town where I lived, children were excused to celebrate Christmas, but Jewish children were marked absent when they observed their religious holidays, and Christians didn't seem to find that unfair at all.

This confusion some people have about church and state has given opportunists the opening they need to use religion as a way of influencing political opinions. A person has to be very vigilant these days to make certain that events that are advertised as religious are, in fact, not political gatherings being held by groups who have a political agenda. Some groups are using religion as a way of assembling crowds to advance their political opinion.

Some politicians have no qualms about doing anything they can to get votes and to advance their agenda. Some people are still determined, for example, to get prayer back in the schools, and if they feel that the politician agrees with their point of view, they will buy whatever else he or she is selling. And politicians are aware of this.

It is unfortunate that some religious leaders don't realize or are oblivious to the fact that they are sometimes setting up the members of their churches to be pawns in the hands of unscrupulous politicians who only wish to serve their own self-interests.

We are a nation of laws, not a nation of faith. A person's religious beliefs should be a personal matter. This business of questioning a person's religious faith as a qualification for election to public office is way out of hand. These attempts to mix religion with politics reveal just another flaw in our failed effort to educate the populace.

Personally, I wouldn't like living in a theocracy where a person is required to adopt a specific religious faith. Just think how it would feel having a faith chosen for you before you were born.

Separation of church and state makes sense to me, and I'm glad that the founders were wise enough to put it in the Bill of Rights. Even so, we still have people who wish to bend our will to theirs. We can only imagine what it would be like without safeguards.

Politics can be addictive to people whom like to play games. Religion is serious business for a lot of us. Like oil and water, some things don't make a good mix.

In the case of religion and politics, separation is a good thing.

You can join the conversation with Rose M. Nolen by calling her at 882-5734 or e-mailing her at

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Matt Petree March 22, 2011 | 1:47 p.m.

As an atheist I cannot agree with you more.
It is about protecting all of our rights to worship as we please, or not to worship at all.
I really wish there were more people like you out there who truly understood this subject.
Thanks again for doing such a good job in this article!

(Report Comment)
Larry Linn March 22, 2011 | 7:53 p.m.

“I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should ‘make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,’ thus building a wall of separation between Church & State.”
Thomas Jefferson, in a letter to the Danbury Baptist’s Association

(Report Comment)
Tony Robertson March 22, 2011 | 8:19 p.m.

"It is unfortunate that some religious leaders don't realize or are oblivious to the fact that they are sometimes setting up the members of their churches to be pawns in the hands of unscrupulous politicians who only wish to serve their own self-interests."

I could not think of a more appropriate description of Rev. Jeremiah Wright.

Though, I somehow doubt that was the author's intent.

(Report Comment)
Derrick Fogle March 22, 2011 | 8:38 p.m.

Ironically, the US was indeed founded as a "Christian" nation, and it was inter-sect warfare that drove the founding fathers to so fanatically declare 'freedom of religion' in the constitution. The Religious Right, being it's own worst enemy for nearly 250 years, and counting.

I find it un-amusing that we have legislators on a state level trying to outlaw "Sharia" law, while at the same time trying to codify "Christian" law. Just. Stop.

Maybe it was an accident all those *other* religions, including Muslims and atheists and the FSM, ended up getting protected by such a broad stroke of constitutional wording. But, there it is. Thanks, Larry.

Quite frankly, that's the way I like it.

(Report Comment)
Tony Robertson March 22, 2011 | 8:43 p.m.

Several states continued to have quasi-official religious denominations for several decades after our founding. I believe the last one to give that up, was that bastion of the "Religious Right"...Massachusetts.

(Report Comment)
frank christian March 23, 2011 | 10:36 a.m.

Larry Linn - Why bother with T. Jefferson's phrase? Another explained your liberal position on church and state, far more in depth and never qualifies it as did Jefferson. He was somewhat closer to our present time than Jefferson. His name was V.I.Lenin. You can read him at

I suspect, somehow, you have already been there.

(Report Comment)
Jack Hamm March 23, 2011 | 11:55 a.m.

"As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion; as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquillity, of Musselmen; and as the said States never have entered into any war or act of hostility against any Mehomitan nation, it is declared by the parties that no pretext arising from religious opinions shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries."- Article 11 of the Treaty of Tripoli

Approved by the US Senate on June 7, 1797; signed by President John Adams on June 10,1797. This was a binding legal document of the United States government that was signed and ratified by many of the founding fathers; this was law.

Constitution, Article VI, Sect.2: "This Constitution, and the laws of the United States which shall be made in pursuance thereof, and all treaties made, or which shall be made, under the authority of the United States, shall be the supreme law of the land; and the judges in every State shall be bound thereby, anything in the constitution or laws of any State to the contrary notwithstanding."

If some people would actually read the constitution instead of letting Fox News tell them what they wish it said there would be a lot less confusion over this topic. However, that would require reading comprehension skills on the part of the individual so we will have to find a different method for Frank. Does anyone want to volunteer to read it to him, explain it and answer his questions?

(Report Comment)
frank christian March 23, 2011 | 3:10 p.m.

J. Hamm - "there would be a lot less confusion over this topic."
What topic? The one of church and state that I am on? Or your johnny-come-lately about a treaty we signed with the pirates of Tripoli? My copy of our Constitution is on the table with this computer and I read it. I do not try to read INTO it my wants or needs of the day.

Speaking of Muslims, however, look at: You seem to me to be right on the edge. Have a couple of deep breaths ever helped?

(Report Comment)
Jack Hamm March 23, 2011 | 5:02 p.m.


I agree with the link you provided. I find nothing wrong with this statement, "Shariah law--which they described as a "legal-political-military doctrine"--is the "preeminent totalitarian threat of our time." on a foreign policy level.

However, the same protections in the constitution that are supposed to stop Christians from forcing their morality and beliefs on others should prevent Sharia law from being forced on Americans.

From your article:

"The group drew a distinction between Muslims who embrace Shariah law as the comprehensive model for governing all human society and those who view it as a reference point for personal behavior but not for the conduct of government and the state."

Many Christians in the US have the same problem with that distinction. I hope you can at least see that and admit it.

(Report Comment)
frank christian March 23, 2011 | 7:29 p.m.

Jack H. - Glad you can agree to something,but the threat of Shariah law is the least of it. Our Constitution doesn't prevent Christians from doing any thing legal. It only prevents certain actions by and of the gov't. You certainly must know that.

Would love for you to give me a concern about Christians "forcing their morality and beliefs on others", that you have or heard of before the Rev. Barry Lynn took over Americans United for the Separation of Church and State., in 1992. He is a progressive and has spent most of his adult life and the last 20 years instilling the fictitious "separation of church and state" into the forefront of the American way of life.

You can refer to Thomas Jefferson, Treaty with the Bey of Tripoli, or whomever. This concern did had no traction until Jerry Falwell brought the "Christian Right" out of their closets and helped elect Ronald Reagan.

Read Lenin on "Socialism and Religion" above and admit that his provision for religion in relation to the State matches that of the ACLU,Lynn,AUSC&S almost exactly. Why not post the goodness of the 10 Commandments in our schools and maybe refer to them as the Suggestions? Would progressives allow that information to be fed to our children? Don't bother, we know the answer.

(Report Comment)
Jack Hamm March 23, 2011 | 7:40 p.m.

"instilling the fictitious "separation of church and state" into the forefront of the American way of life."

You don't live in reality. You can't reason someone out of a position that they didn't reason themselves into.

(Report Comment)
BRIAN REILLY March 23, 2011 | 7:56 p.m.

If the United states was "indeed founded as a "Christian" nation" this would be clear in the constitution would it not?
It seems odd then that the words Christ, Christian, Jesus, Bible, Holly, and God do not appear in Constitution or it's amendments. Most of principle founding fathers we Deists and by today's definition many would like be viewed as Atheists. Many Christians are practicing revisionist history hoping if they keep saying it will make it true.

(Report Comment)
frank christian March 23, 2011 | 8:26 p.m.

Jack - Is that all you've got? Hysteria? You don't know what the Constitution is about, yet accuse others of not having the level of intelligence you possess. I don't think I'll bother with you again.

Derrick Fogle - Contact Brian Reilly!

(Report Comment)
Tony Robertson March 23, 2011 | 8:58 p.m.

One of the few things more naive than believing the US is a Christian nation, is denying it ever has been. Most of the Founders were Christians. Most of those who were not, were Deists of some stripe. They did not believe in erasing religion from the public sphere, or from being of influence in the body politic. Indeed, it always has been, and probably always will. Sometimes for good, other times for ill.

They codified into law the prohibition of Congressional establishment, and sanctioning of the free exercise of religion, not because they were rabid, ACLU-type secularists, but because they did not want to follow the paths of European nations, regarding religious favoritism or exclusion.

Even atheism requires faith. Perhaps more than any other creed, actually.

(Report Comment)
Tony Robertson March 23, 2011 | 11:37 p.m.

Here is a timely book, and a timely review of same:

(Report Comment)
Larry Linn March 27, 2011 | 4:46 p.m.

Mr. Frank Christian, I read The State And Revolution by V. I. Lenin, and was not impressed. The writings of Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, and Thomas Pain give me more inspiration. You implied that I am a communist, which I am not. I killed at least two communists in my last day in the field with the 3/22nd, 25th Infantry Division, at Nui Ba Dihn in January, 1970.

(Report Comment)
frank christian March 27, 2011 | 9:18 p.m.

Larry Lynn - The last thing I would have expected you to state after reading Lenin was that you were "impressed". The liberal "Americans United for the Separation of Church & State are the ones having dug up Jefferson's letter and are trying every day to reduce Christianity in the U.S. to the level that Lenin wanted it, in his vision of a perfect State.

I have read that Jefferson later reiterated over and over that his "wall" only pertained to the Federal Gov't. Apparently, he was not against local school boards allowing reference to the Commandments in a class room.

(Report Comment)

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