Has Separation of Church and State Gone Too Far?

All The Attacks On Every Instance of Religious Belief May Actually Be Counterproductive

Separation of church and state. You hear this said by groups all the time. In fact, organizations like the Freedom From Religious Foundation zealously protect it. But is it always a clear line? And can it actually be counterproductive?

Look at two recent examples. First, a South Carolina school district had to suspend a mentorship program because it was Christian-based and had volunteers coming from church organizations. The course taught moral behaviors and helped with content tutoring. The second was the banning of a University of Iowa Christian student group that required leaders to follow Christian morals, including a clause on sexual morality. What aid has this done for America? How has freedom been protected?

Look at the goals of the separation of church and state. Most people would argue that the separation stops the United States from becoming a theocratic government. But that is not accurate. Most of our laws come from Christian theology. Most of our representatives are part of a religious denomination. One of the top qualities Americans look for in a politician is religious affiliation. But being religious does not automatically mean a particular worldview. Look at the contrast between Doug Jones and Roy Moore. Both were deeply devoted Christians. Both had completely divergent views on what that means. We should be encouraging more religious voices, rather than trying to limit it. Limiting the line of church and state doesn’t reach its goal.

In fact, it probably has the opposite effect. By attacking coaches that pray with their team or school prayer it creates a rallying cry for the most extreme of Christian groups. When a group feels that they are threatened they hold tighter onto their beliefs and are less willing to negotiate with opposing forces. It is an excellent example of winning the battle but losing the war.

While the influence of religion is decreasing, it is happening generationally. The transition religious freedom groups want can happen easily or painfully with even more division. It is time to start focusing on the strategy towards the end goal, instead of nitpicking.


Follow the Conversation on Twitter