Monday, October 25, 2010


Separate Ignorance

This, from the Redding, California Record Searchlight, is kinda funny, especially in light of Christine O'Donnell's former campaign manager's offer of a $1,000 reward "for to anyone who can find the exact phrase 'Separation of Church and State' anywhere in the United States Constitution."

Anyway, we have another blowhard spouting the loony right meme that:

Nowhere in the First Amendment do the words - or the concept - separation of church and state appear.
But, then, Jim Wilson, described as president of PrayNorthState, in an article entitled "First Amendment Protects Faith from Government," proceeds to endorse separation of church and state as it is actually implemented by the Courts, though it's clear he doesn't understand why they do so.

Of course, the First Amendment does provide that Congress shall make no laws to establish religion. But again the intent of the founding fathers - and of the man (Jefferson) who wrote the amendment was to see to it that conscience would never be coerced by government. The United States was birthed in a world in which every other nation had chosen an established religion and imposed penalties and liabilities on citizens who chose another path to faith.
That's essentially correct, although Wilson elsewhere throws in the non sequitur about America being a "Christian nation."

When the First Amendment states: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof," it follows that the majority cannot impose a penalty -- taxes -- in order to force others, against their conscience, to fund proselytizing of any particular sect or of religion in general.

He notes that "it is unusual to find a high school in our region without a Christian club or parachurch ministry on campus today," though it seems to escape him that the court decisions requiring such equal access are enforcing the separation of church and state by insuring that the government treats all such views equally.

And then he comes to creationism in public schools:

Although courts - including courts in Delaware - have ruled that the theory has its origins in faith traditions, they have pointedly declined to rule on its truthfulness, let alone its scientific credentials. In other words, the courts admit that they have made a political rather than a scientific judgment. And while evidence piles higher and higher that intelligent design is a viable approach to understanding both nature and the cosmos those non-scientific decisions stand. The good news is that the prohibition only holds for science classes. As a former public school educator I taught creationism in language arts classes and was required only to give equal time to competing viewpoints.
He is, of course, wrong that the scientific credentials of creationism, including Intelligent Design Creationism, have not been ruled on. The Supreme Court and other Federal courts have consistently ruled that creationism is not scientific, though they have not, in full accord with separation of church and state, addressed the "truth" of creationism. And it is true that creationism and other religious concepts can be taught about in public schools, as long as the government remains separate from the question of which, if any, are true by giving equal treatment to competing viewpoints. Creationism cannot be taught in science classes because it is not a competing scientific viewpoint to evolution.

So, although it is trivially true that the phrase "separation of church and state" does not appear in the Constitution, the only reason Wilson (and the woeful Christine O'Donnell and her campaign manager who, no doubt correctly, so distrusts his reading skills that he is only willing to wager $1,000 on the exact words "Separation of Church and State" not being in the Constitution) seem surprised when they get laughed at for insisting that our Constitution does not impose separation is because they haven't got a clue what the phrase means.

Wouldn't it be nice if someday we could get the concept of "separation of ignorance and state" in the Constitution?

I challenge anyone to find the exact phrase "checks and balances" in the constitution.
Not to mention "concealed handguns" ...
Or "right to privacy" and "right to vote". Or "standing army" for that matter. What is quite clear from the recent O'Donnell/Coons debate is that O'Donnell was not only surprised to hear that separation is derived from the first ammendment, but that she was surprised to find out what the ammendment actual says. There is no nuance, no subtlety on her part. She is truly ignorant of the Constitution.

As for the right wing memers who are trying to defend her with distractions, I will paraphrase what I said at my blog.

To claim the phrase is not there is pedantic. To claim to interpretation is not is asinine.
Oh, I've got another one. The constitution specifically allows the government to use taxpayer money to fund the army and the navy. I guess the air force, marines, and coast guard need to be privatized.
There are only two places in the Constitution where religion is mentioned. The First Amendment is one. Article 6 is the other, where it says that "no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust".

It should be pretty clear that the people who wrote the Constitution thought that no religion should control politics, and that any influence religion had on American government should be through its effect on the personal philosophies of the voters.
You have to keep in mind that "freedom of religion" means the freedom to choose to belong to Presbyterian, Episcopalian, Methodist, or perhaps even the Baptist religion.
Extreme liberals might even include ... shudder ... Catholicism!
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