At a recent GOP senatorial debate in Ohio, a lengthy and erroneous answer to the question “What’s the greatest crisis facing kids?” was given that included this lie: “There’s no such thing as separation of church and state.”
The Freedom From Religion Foundation is a nonpartisan 501(c)(3) and to maintain that status we won’t discuss the politics of this answer or the pontificator, but simply point out the copious flaws. Here are some parts of that statement, in order, and why they are wrong.
They’re trying to take God out of all aspects of society and they’re trying to water down on the Judeo-Christian bedrock of America.
First, nobody is seeking to remove anyone’s deity from all aspects of anything. Secular groups such as FFRF are fighting to ensure that government power is not abused to promote any version of god, a “holy book” or religion. Our Constitution demands no less. People will still be free to pray even if there’s no National Day of Prayer.
Second, there is no “Judeo-Christian” tradition, let alone a “Judeo-Christian bedrock” on which America was founded. FFRF’s own Andrew L. Seidel wrote an entire book debunking this fallacy.
A lot of these Soros-funded organizations, they advance the argument that the separation of church and state exists, and, for that reason, you can’t teach kids about religion.
As with the “take God out of all aspects of society” phony argument, this is a straw man. As FFRF points out all the time, public schools may teach about religion, so long as they don’t preach religious truth. Schools may educate, but not indoctrinate. Teach, but not preach. These are simple lines, but are often overstepped by overzealous school staff. That’s why FFRF exists, to protect the rights of conscience, including protecting students from that overreach. And we’ve yet to receive a check from George Soros, though we’d welcome any donations.
My personal feeling is, there’s no such thing as separation of church and state.
Yes, there certainly is, and that’s a fact, not a feeling. The Founders said so when they adopted history’s first secular Constitution. The Supreme Court has said so — many times. So have numerous lower courts. The phrase itself dates to a letter that President Thomas Jefferson wrote in 1802 in which he “contemplated with solemn reverence” the First Amendment of the Constitution, “thus building a wall of separation between Church & State.” He knew this letter would go down in legal history, even clearing it with his attorney general.
The framers of the Constitution envisioned a country where in the classroom, kids would learn about God. That in the classroom, kids would learn about good vs. evil, and that Judeo-Christian ethic separates itself from Islam and atheism and all these other belief sets on so many levels, but one of the main levels is our acknowledgement of good vs. evil and teaching our kids to fight for good over evil.
To the extent that the framers thought about public education, which is not mentioned in the Constitution, this assertion is wrong. Jefferson famously designed the University of Virginia as a secular institution where the religion of the students was irrelevant (be they “Judeo-Christian” or “Islam” or “Atheist”). “In conformity with the principles of our Constitution, which places all sects of religion on an equal footing … [and] in favor of freedom of religion manifested on former occasions, we have proposed no professor of divinity” for the new school, he stated. Religious education should be left to the sects to instill on their own, not the state: “Leave every sect to provide as they think fittest, the means of further instruction in their own peculiar tenets.”
Moreover, religion does not teach kids about good and evil or right and wrong. Religion conflates obedience to God with morality in a truly dangerous manner.
So, virtually the entire statement is factually wrong.
“The United States of America was founded on a godless Constitution that draws power from the people, not a deity,” retorts FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor. “We’d love to see people speak the truth about this history with pride.”
The Freedom From Religion Foundation is a nonpartisan 501(c)(3) that does not advocate for or against any political party or candidate, but does advocate for the cherished American principle of the separation of state and church.