The discussion about the separation of the state and the church has been a debatable topic for centuries now. Some say that there is nowhere in the Constitution that this can be found while others say it does stipulates the separation between the two and can be found on the correspondence of Thomas Jefferson. He wrote to Danbury Baptists in 1802 that the state should not meddle with the affairs of the church.
In Article VI of the Constitution, it is written that no official shall be required to take a religious test in order to serve. George Washington, on the other hand, expressed that the government and religion should act as support to each other saying that no one can govern without God or the Bible. In any way, proponents and opponents have different views on the distinction between the church and the state. Here is a look at the different viewpoints of both groups.
List of Pros of Separation of Church and State
1. No politician will be elected based on religion.
Proponents of church and state separation say that with this practice, voters will be electing legislators and leaders according to their free will and will not be dictated by their religious leaders. In other countries where there are no clear discussions about the separation of the state and the church, some religious leaders and sects influence the voting public by telling the people under their denomination to elect a candidate their religious leaders are supporting.
2. The state can make laws without the church going against it.
When it comes to poverty, one of reasons behind it is overpopulation. This is why there are countries like China which impose a limit when it comes to the number of children. Other countries, however, create bills that advocate for family planning and using contraceptives. For the church, this is not right since religious sectors are pro-life. By separating the church and the state, the former will not have a say on this matter. Supporters express that separation of the two is important so the state can do its job.
3. It gives the people the freedom to choose religion.
People in favor of church and state separation maintain that an individual has the right to choose his or her religion without the state dictating him or her. If there is a barrier between the state and the church, the former will not be able to force anyone to join a religious sector. Moreover, people have the freedom to establish religious organizations without the state keeping them from doing so. This is also the reason why there is diversity of faith and for supporters, this is a good thing.
4. Religion will not be used to influence children in public schools.
With the separation of the state from the church, religion will not be imposed on children who attend public schools. This way, they will be given the right to choose or practice the religion they prefer and not have to pray or make the sign of the cross if this is against their religion, unlike if they are attending private schools usually run by religious orders. Moreover, teachers will not be able to impose their religion on students making it fair for everybody.
5. It respects both the church and the state.
Advocates for the separation claim that this is not merely to separate the two but to give reverence to the church and respect the state at the same time. By doing so, both will be able to carry out their duties without fear of being attacked or criticized by each of them.
List of Cons of Separation of Church and State
1. Religion is not allowed to be spoken of.
One of the arguments opponents pointed out about the separation of the church and the state is that since there will be place for religion in the state, it will not be taught to children at public schools. They contend that this is not good since these kids might not be able to learn about good morals the same way they would if religion is taught in school. For them, it is important for students to be taught religion one way or the other so they will be guided.
2. The state will have a free hand in making laws.
Critics of the separation of church and state say that with the church not having a say when it comes to law making, this gives absolute power to the state when it comes to making and executing laws. They are concerned that not having some control will end up with legislators creating laws that might not have regard to morals and values, especially for religion. These include death penalties and legalization of abortion which some religious sectors are not in favor of.
3. This prevents a teacher from practicing his or her religion.
On the topic about educators not being able to impose their religion in public schools, critics contend that this is not a pro but is instead a con. They say that any one is entitled to choose his or her religion and not prohibited to express and practice it. By not letting a teacher pray or make a sign of the cross before and after class, this is some sort of violation.
4. This cannot be found anywhere in the Constitution.
Critics say that the said separation of the church and the state is not written in the Constitution but was just a part of the letter of Thomas Jefferson. They also say that this was just done to protect the church and that this issue has created confusion among people. Also, the Constitution did not particularly mention a separation between the two but it stipulates that the state cannot impose one religion to the state nor can the state make a law leaning to a particular religion or prohibiting it from being practiced by any person.
Natalie Regoli is a child of God, devoted wife, and mother of two boys. She has a Master's Degree in Law from The University of Texas. Natalie has been published in several national journals and has been practicing law for 18 years.