Separation of Church and State is an important constitutional principle which intends to create a space between the government and also religious affiliations of the people. This is to support a secular state wherein there is no recognized religion for a particular country, and there is no connection between the church and the state. In the United States, the said principle is imposed under the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment of the constitution. Moreover, in recent years, the court has different interpretations of the laws which resulted in various rulings in related cases. This paper will discuss the religious background and belief of the United States and different principles which shaped such opinions in the end.
Background and Facts of Jurisprudence
The rulings of the Court in the country are one of the bases on how the separation of Church and State is being recognized. Recent jurisprudence on decided cases such as Van Orden and McCreary will be discussed in this paper.
Van Orden Vs. Perry
A monument was questioned when it was placed in the State of Texas by an organization, wherein the content of said monument is the Ten Commandments of the Bible. This was donated and erected in the Capitol grounds, wherein it is the place where other monuments and markers were found. Most of the said markers were there to represent the ideas and occasions which constitute the identity of the people in the community. Hence, Thomas Van Orden filed a suit in the Court stating that the said monument was against the constitutional provision of separation of church and state. The legal question is whether the erection of the monument constitutes a violation of the provisions of the non-establishment clause of the law.
The court decided that the monument was constitutional because it was a representation of history and identity of the people. It does not pertain to religious value alone, and this does not violate the current laws. The different opinion of one of the judges stated that the historic value of the monument must not be considered alone as there is also the need to look into the content and text. The court should not have a look at the reason why the monument was put there, but it should also consider the content of the material itself.
McCreary County vs. ACLU
In this case, the Kentucky Counties posted vast copies of the Ten Commandments in the courthouses and also in schools within the community. This was questioned by American Civil Liberties Union wherein they stated that it violates the separation of church and state under the constitution. The question is whether the display of massive displays of the Ten Commandments violates the law and imposes religion within the community.
The ruling of the court states that display was indeed a violation of the law as it tries to establish that the government county supports a particular religion. Anytime that the government will show actions which favor a religion, can be a clear violation of the law.
The dissenting opinion states that the acknowledgment of any religion does not necessarily violate the First Amendment. The violation only exists when the government intensively supports a particular religion, but public acknowledgement is not one of such act.
Separation of religion and state
In the recent jurisprudence about separation of church and state, the court showed that it has different views regarding such principle. Moreover, the policy was supported during the creation of the constitution, wherein the previous leaders considered the importance of having a civic identity without the intervention of the church. Two infamous personalities presented their views regarding this constitutional provision and how this affected the current laws of the country today.
John Locke on his religious freedom
The views of John Locke were considered an important influence on the founding fathers of the US constitution. His idea that the Church has taken over the government of England became the basis of the establishment of the First Amendment which specifically stresses the separation of Church and the State. In his writings, Locke deviated from the ideas of Thomas Hobbes which tolerates the influence of Catholicism to the formation of the society. Locke was known for rejecting the imperialism of the Catholic religion as this will greatly have an undermining interest in the formation and success of the government. He viewed that people should have freedom of religion and this can only be possible if there will be no religion endorsed by the government. This will give the people the freedom to choose what they believe in without the pressure of the society.
Thomas Jefferson and his views
Jefferson was one of the most significant people who endorsed the wall of separation between the government and the church. In his ideas, the government should not consider supporting or favoring a specific religion because it will create an adverse impact on the society in the end. No laws should be enacted which will establish a religion and also no rules should be made which will hinder a person to choose his own religious belief. These were the founding ideas in the creation of the constitution which is considered as one of the most significant provisions which were made. In his views, Jefferson believed that the government should not establish a national church and this gives many religious organizations the freedom to conduct their activity to gain more followers in their beliefs.
The Christian Foundation in America
Christianity was not known initially American until the Northern part was colonized by Europeans from Spain and Great Britain. They introduced Catholicism to the country which paved the way for different religion such as Protestantism. The start of Christian faith was pointed to the evangelical movements in different parts of the nations. The divide in the religious belief was further instigated during the American Revolution wherein there were supporters of the Church of England and supporters from the other religious affiliations. After the revolution, the Great Awakening occurred wherein the Protestant movements rose rapidly, and the Church of England was entirely overpowered by such beliefs.
Christianity also found its way in the creation of the constitution. This is because the government was intended to impose the rule of God to the citizens as a whole. Hence, every government has its fundamental principle of ethical values and structure from the religious inclination of the people. Usually, despite the intended separation of Church and State, there is still a determining approach that the values and principles were derived from the Catholic beliefs. This was the views of the Founding Fathers which is to assure that the constitutional provisions are made to help and guide people to be morally and civilly upright.
Religious domination and Complete Secularism
The United States laws can assure that the people are given enough freedom to practice their religion and avoid the pressure from the government to determine what they believe they should follow. This was seen as an essential factor for the development of the nation and also assurance that every individual are given the rights they should attain.
Finding the balance between religious domination and complete secularism is due to the implementation of pertinent laws such as the creation of the First Amendment. This helps any institutions to force a person to change his belief and follow the former’s teachings. This also imposes rights over the person and strengthens their stand within the society.
Moreover, one cannot assure that there can be complete secularism, especially in the United States wherein there will be instances that freedom of religion is usually violated. Hence, the case of Van Orden showed how the court was able to interpret the application of the First Amendment Clause, not to the freedom of religion, but to the historical value of the subject of the case. The monument explicitly showed the Ten Commandments which is the teachings of the Christians and was situated in the public grounds. This may emphasize that the local government is trying to endorse a certain religious sector which is a violation of the law. However, the court stated that the monument was placed due to its historical value rather than the religious factors surrounding it. Thus, this shows that the country cannot wholly assert that it is indeed a completely secular nation as there will still be instances that freedom of religion will be disregarded.
Separation of church and state has a huge impact on the society especially regarding strengthening human rights and choice given to every individual. The foundation of Christianity in the nation is not that stable especially the different rulings about the constitutional provisions on non-establishment clause. Moreover, it can be observed that complete secularism and religious domination cannot co-exist as one will be superior to the other. This will then be dependent on the cultural upbringing of the people within the society, as their decisions and views will be significantly influenced by it. It is vital that the government will create laws that will try to balance the difference between both perspectives.
Chavura, S. “The separation of religion and state: context and meaning.” Nebula 7, no. 4 (2010);58
Dawson, J., “The meaning of separation of church and state in the First Amendment.” Journal of Church and State, Autumn (2008); 677,
Drakeman, D.L., The church historians who made the first amendment what it is today. Religion and American Culture: R & AC, 17(1), (2007); 27-56.
Walker, B. “The meaning of separation of church and state in the first amendment”. Journal of Church and State 50 (4): (2008); 693.
Pfeffer, L. “The Establishment Clause: An Absolutist’s Defense,” Notre Dame Journal of Law, Ethics & Public Policy 4, no. Issues 3 and 4 (1990): 699-730
 Stephen Chavura. “The separation of religion and state: context and meaning.” Nebula 7, no. 4 (2010);58
 Joseph Dawson, “The meaning of separation of church and state in the First Amendment.” Journal of Church and State, Autumn (2008); 677
 Joseph Dawson, “The meaning of separation of church and state in the First Amendment.” Journal of Church and State, Autumn (2008); 677,
 DL Drakeman, The church historians who made the first amendment what it is today. Religion and American Culture: R & AC, 17(1), (2007); 27-56.
 Leo Pfeffer, “The Establishment Clause: An Absolutist’s Defense,” Notre Dame Journal of Law, Ethics & Public Policy 4, no. Issues 3 and 4 (1990): 699-730
 Brent Walker. “The meaning of separation of church and state in the first amendment”. Journal of Church and State 50 (4): (2008); 693.