I thought we should do a series of meetings on basic Constitutional rights. They never fail as lively discussions. But also, there’s a lot of noise out there right now on what the Constitution means. Too many Americans view this issue in very simplistic terms: as a battle between those who use the “original intent” of the founding fathers versus “judicial activists” who just make stuff up. Somehow, the Constitution’s true, timeless meaning always corresponds exactly to the political preferences of whoever is doing the talking.
In fact, the nation’s founding text is a living document, grounded in universal principles but interpreted over time to fit our evolving society. I think church/state separation is a perfect example for illustrating this dynamic way the Constitution’s meaning” really gets fleshed out.
Jim will start the evening by laying out the basic principles of separation of church and state, highlighting how the meaning of that term — which isn’t actually in the Constitution — has evolved in the last hundred years. Then, I’ll briefly identify the major church/state political flash points of recent years; e.g., organized school prayer, federal funding of faith-based organizations, etc. Then, a musical number group discussion.
- 1st amendment: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”
- Excellent, short background on the different ways of thinking about “separation” of church and state.
- Same, still short, but with more history.
- Wiki entry — not bad, even more history with focus on colonial roots.
- Advocacy Groups:
- Americans United For Separation of Church and State Issues section)
- ACLU section on church/state issues.
Jim: I’ll add a few more articles tomorrow.
UPDATE: Try this on the difference between us being a Christian nation and us having a Christian government. I read and will bring two great articles on church/state, but they’re in a copywrited book, so I can’t link to them.