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Critical Thought and Religious Liberty

Onsite Articles
Arguments for Separation
The History of Separation
    Historical Revisionism
Religious School Vouchers
School Prayer

The word God does not appear in the U.S. Constitution. Kramnick and Moore remind us why it does not and also how efforts to insert it have been staved off. They take us back to radical Christian Roger Williams' influential insistence upon a religiously neutral polity for Rhode Island and to the British roots of the American secular state in the thought of John Locke. They show how the first four presidents resisted officially Christianizing the country and how nineteenth-century Baptist ministers led efforts to keep church and state separate. Their history lessons are enthralling and ought to give even the most ardent supporter of public school prayer pause.

Is the separation of church and state a "myth"? Was the United States founded as a "Christian nation"? If you believe the propaganda of the Religious Right, then the answer to both questions is an emphatic yes. To believe the propaganda, however, you must be ignorant of the facts of U.S. history and constitutional law. In [this book], award winning journalist Rob Boston lambaste the zealots of the Religious Right for spreading misinformation about the constitutional principal. He reveals how a band of ultraconservative religious groups with a political agenda — led primarily by televangelist Pat Robertson—is conducting a systematic war against separation of church and state.

Church/State Separation
   American Civil Liberties Union
   Americans United for Separation of Church and State
   Baptist Joint Committee on Public Affairs
   Baylor University Church-State Studies
   Freedom From Religion Foundation
   Institute for First Amendment Studies
   Papers on Church and State
   People For the American Way
   Secular Web: Separation of Church and State
   Separation of Church and State Home Page
   Separation: The Constitutional Principle

Onsite Articles

It's a Free Country, Not a Christian Nation: by Ed Buckner

Religious Court Rulings: (1948-1997)
Excerpts from important court decisions regarding the constitutional and legal boundary of the Establishment Clause. (Also includes court cases regarding the recent legislative efforts to get creationism taught in public schools.)

Words of our American Founding Fathers: Quotation Compilation
Did the Founding Fathers of the United States really mean to disentangle the Church from the State? This comprehensive quotation list attempts to demonstrate so. Read what the founders had to say about Separation, as well as what they said regarding their own religious views.

A Memorial and Remonstrance: by James Madison (1785)
"Who does not see that the same authority which can establish Christianity in exclusion of all other religions may establish, with the same ease, any particular sect of Christians in exclusion of all other sects? That the same authority which can force a citizen to contribute three pence only of his property for the support of any one establishment may force him to conform to any other establishment in all cases whatsoever?"

Draft for a Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom by Thomas Jefferson (1779) "To compel a man to furnish contributions of money for the propagation of opinions which he disbelieves and abhors, is sinful and tyrannical."

Letters of Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826)

Does the 1796-97 Treaty with Tripoli Matter to Church/State Separation?: by Ed Buckner

Piety versus "Secular Humanism": A Phony War: by Marvin Frankel
"A measure supporting public-school prayers became a central plank of the Republican platform. . . While that position has never commanded the two-thirds vote in Congress required to launch an amendment, it appears steadfastly to enlist a large majority in American public opinion polls."

Essays in Addition to America's Real Religion: by Gene Garman
"When Christian fundamentalists want to appear open-minded they refer to America as a Judeo-Christian nation or a nation built on Judeo-Christian principles. However, there is not one Christian fundamentalist who believes that Jews are going to Heaven or that Judaism is worthy of spiritual respect in this world—because Judaism rejects the divinity of Jesus. Christian fundamentalists use the Jewish name only to abuse it."

The Practical Separation of Church and State: by Benjamin Underwood
Underwood's 1876 public address is a ringing call for the separation of church and state. The address is important not only for it's philosophical and practical arguments on behalf of separation, but for it's historical arguments that separation was intended by the framers. Additionally, Underwood argues against what turned out to be an unsuccessful attempt amend the Constitution to officially acknowledge Christianity.

The Great Infidels: by Robert G. Ingersoll (1881)
"Thomas Paine was a champion, in both hemispheres, of human liberty; one of the founders and fathers of this Republic; one of the foremost men of his age. He never wrote a word in favor of injustice. He was a despiser of slavery. He abhorred tyranny in every form. He was, in the widest and best sense, a friend of all his race. His head was clear as his heart was good, and he had the courage to speak his honest thoughts."

Letter to Andrew Dean: by Thomas Paine (1806)
In this short letter Thomas Paine explains to his friend why he has rejected the Christian faith. Though, for a fuller explanation of Paine's views, see his classic essay The Age of Reason, written in the years 1794-1796.

Treaty of Peace and Friendship between the United States and the Subjects of Tripoli (1796-97)  A facsimile of the famous United States treaty which stated in its 11th article: "As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion…"

The United States Constitution: (1787)
"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."

Arguments for Separation

Religion in the Public Schools: A Joint Statement Of Current Law:
from the A.C.L.U.  "The organizations whose names appear below span the ideological, religious and political spectrum. They nevertheless share a commitment both to the freedom of religious practice and to the separation of church and state such freedom requires. In that spirit, we offer this statement of consensus on current law as an aid to parents, educators and students."

In God We Trust—A First Amendment Bust?: by Mary Ellen Sikes

Should Government Support Faith-Based Social Services?
"The following discussion examines the possible ramifications of Charitable Choice on the separation of church and state. Charitable Choice is a proposed government program in which secular organizations would receive federal funding for programs geared toward assisting the poor. Four prominent legal religious scholars engage in heated debate addressing the long-term effects of this program. They are: Nathan Diament, Douglas Laycock, Barry Lynn, and Erwin Chemerinsky."

The History of Separation

Notes on the Founding Fathers and the Separation of Church and State: by R. P. Nettelhorst  "Many well-meaning Christians argue that the United States was founded by Christian men on Christian principles. Although well-intentioned, such sentiment is unfounded. The men who lead the United States in its revolution against England, who wrote the Declaration of Independence and put together the Constitution were not Christians by any stretch of the imagination."

Six Historic Americans: by John E. Remsburg
"Were the American people asked to name the five great historic figures of the first century of our national existence — the illustrious men who contributed most to build and glorify the United States of America — the answer would be, George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, and Ulysses S. Grant. In this volume is presented the evidence of the disbelief of these great men."

The Christian Nation Myth: by Farrell Till
"Fundamentalist Christians are currently working overtime to convince the American public that the founding fathers intended to establish this country on 'biblical principles,' but history simply does not support their view. Our founding fathers established a religiously neutral nation, and…a constitution that would protect the religious freedom of everyone regardless of personal creed."

The Religious Beliefs Of Our Presidents: by Franklin Steiner
"Much has been written concerning the religious beliefs of our Presidents, but, until now, no one has gone into the subject thoroughly. A number of books have appeared, all of which, instead of giving facts, are merely religious propagandistic documents. Franklin Steiner, the author of the present work, was engaged for over two years in writing it. He has been a student of the subject for over 40 years. This book is thoroughly documented, and is a straight-forward, trustworthy account of the religious beliefs of our Presidents."

The Unchristian Roots of the Fourth of July: by Michael E. Buckner

Quotations that Support the Separation of State and Church: by Ed and Michael Buckner

Is America a Christian Nation?: the Freedom From Religion Foundation

Historical Revisionism

David Barton Falsifies American History: Church and State Magazine

Critique of David Barton's "America's Godly Heritage": Baptist Joint Committee on Public Affairs  "David Barton, in his taped presentation called America's Godly Heritage, peddles the proposition that America is a 'Christian Nation,' legally and historically…His presentation has just enough ring of truth to make him credible to many people. It is, however, laced with exaggerations, half- truths, and misstatements of fact. His citation to supporting research is scant at best and at times non-existent. This booklet contains a short critique of some of the major points that Mr. Barton raises."

Misquoting by the Religious Right: by Tom Peters

Inaccuracies and improper usage of quotes from the Founding Fathers: by Wayne Aiken  "In the debate over 'culture war' issues…we frequently hear a number of assertions from religious groups, and those who advocate a greater role for religion in public affairs: 'America is a Christian nation' 'The United States was founded upon Judeo Christian principles' 'The separation of state and church is a myth, with no basis in law.' These are not abstract, arcane arguments; rather, they are part of the political landscape throughout the United States today, as Christian fundamentalist movements seek to rationalize and advance their agenda."

Religious School Vouchers

The Case Against Vouchers: by Alex Molnar

Should You Pay Taxes To Support Religious Schools?: Americans United "Who should make the decision about how much money you contribute to religious groups — you or the government? Most Americans would have no trouble answering that question. All of us want the right to freely make our own choices about religion. Yet an increasingly influential coalition of religious and political leaders is working to undercut that right by requiring taxpayer support for private religious schools."

Private School Vouchers: the Wisconsin Education Association Council

Do School Vouchers Violate the Establishment Clause?: by Arlin Adams
A panel discussion on the constitutionality and the general effectiveness of private school vouchers. Debating the topic are Elizabeth J. Coleman, Ruti G. Teitel, Stephen D. Sugarman, Kevin J. Hasson, and Elliot Mincberg.

School Prayer

The Case Against School Prayer: by Annie Laurie Gaylor
"Public schools exist to educate, not to proselytize. Children in public schools are a captive audience. Making prayer an official part of the school day is coercive and invasive. What 5, 8, or 10-year-old could view prayers recited as part of class routine as 'voluntary'? Religion is private, and schools are public, so it is appropriate that the two should not mix."


Talk of the Nation: "The 10 Commandments in School" June 21, 1999.
A crime bill approved by the House last Thursday contained a provision to allow states to post the Ten Commandments in government buildings, including public schools. Conservatives argue young people desperately need the moral lessons in the commandments, but many see this as a dangerous violation of the divide between church and state. Join Ray Suarez and guests Barry Lynn, John Eidsmoe, and Charles Moore, for a look the debate over the ten commandments. (HTML)

Ideas and Issue: "The Role of Religion in the Public Schools" Nov. 1998.
Hugh LaFollette interviews Barry Lynn, executive director of Americans United. Lynn discusses the history of church-state separation and the current efforts in the United States to usurp the constitutional principal. Other topics discussed on the program include defining what "separation of church and state" really means, issues like government sponsored prayer, official invocations at both football games and graduation, and the future of state-church separation.

Secular Web Radio Show: "Interview with Ed Buckner" January 31, 2000.

Tom Leykis Show: "Freedom From Religion Foundation" 1995.
Audio from Dan Barker's appearance on the Tom Leykis Show. Dan talks to Tom and callers about his organization and the principal of church-state separation.

Ideas and Issue: "How Vouchers Undermine Public Education" 1998.

Talk of the Nation: "The Politics of Evolution" August 16, 1999.
More than a decade ago, the Supreme Court ruled that states could not compel the teaching of creationism in public schools. Since then Creationists have adopted a new strategy: trying to keep Darwinism out rather than forcing creationism into the curriculum. The strategy has recently paid off, as the Kansas Board of Education voted to delete virtually all references to evolution in its curriculum last Wednesday. Join Ray Suarez as he discusses the politics of teaching evolution with Russel Lewis, Wayne Carlie and Stephen C. Meyer, professor of Philosophy at Whitworth College. (1st Report)  (2nd Report)  (HTML)

Secular Web Radio Show: "Interview with Molleen Matsumura" 1999.
Church-State Activist and Outreach Director of the National Center for Science Education (NCSE) Molleen Matsumura talks with T. J. Walker about her experiences with the Creationist Right in public schools, the Discovery Institute's attempt to dumb down science, and reports to us from the front lines of the creation-evolution battle

Talk of the Nation: "Religion and the Bill of Rights" February 5, 1996.
Talk of the Nation kicks off its series on the Bill of Rights with a discussion of Freedom of Religion. Its principles are among the most treasured in America, yet the First Amendment is often at the center of angry debate. Join Ray Suarez for the first of two shows discussing the First Amendment, focusing on the provision guaranteeing the freedom of religion.

Northwestern University: "Supreme Court Oral Arguments"
Engel versus Vitale (1962) U.S. Supreme Court case which forbade public schools to require the recitation of prayers.
Abington Township v. Schempp (1963) Supreme Court case which prohibited any state law or school board to require that passages from the Bible be read or that the Lordís Prayer be recited in the public schools at the beginning of each school day.
Lemon v. Kurtzman (1971) Established the three part test for determining if an action of government violates First Amendmentís separation of church and state: 1) the government action must have a secular purpose; 2) its primary purpose must not be to inhibit or to advance religion; 3) there must be no excessive entanglement between government and religion.
Wallace v. Jaffree (1985) Supreme Court case which the high court voted 6-3 to strike down an Alabama law requiring public schools to set aside a moment of silence for meditation or prayer.
Edwards v. Aguillard (1987) Decision which held, 7-2, the Louisiana's "Creationism Act," unconstitutional. This statute prohibited the teaching of evolution in public schools, except when it was accompanied by instruction in "creation science."
Lee v. Weisman (1991) Court ruled that public schools may not sponsor invocations at graduation ceremonies.

"It was the Universal opinion of the Century preceding the last, that Civil Government could not stand without the prop of a religious establishment; and that the Christian religion itself, would perish if not supported by the legal provision for its clergy. The experience of Virginia conspicuously corroborates the disproof of both opinions. The Civil Government, tho' bereft of everything like an associated hierarchy, possesses the requisite stability and performs its functions with complete success; whilst the number, the industry, and the morality of the Priesthood, and the devotion of the people have been manifestly increased by the total separation of the Church from the State."  —James Madison, letter to Robert Walsh, 1819.

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