The purpose of Our Conscience weblog is to facilitate a greater discussion and understanding of church and state separation in our community and in others. Underlying this is the value that each individual should be allowed to follow the dictates of his or her own conscience without influence, coercion, or direction from the State when it comes to matters of religion.

Friday, March 03, 2006

MO House Pushing Boundries of Church and State Separation

Missouri House Concurrent Resolution 13 "resolves that voluntary prayer in public schools, religious displays on public property, and the recognition of a Christian God are not a coalition of church and state." It continues, "our forefathers of this great nation of the United States recognized a Christian God and used the principles afforded to us by Him as the founding principles of our nation." This view of our nation's history can be supported to a degree but do we want the State or the people to express it?

1). Not all of our founding fathers were Christians: "Deism was also influential in late-18th-century America, where Deistic views were held by Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, and George Washington. The most vociferous American Deists were Ethan Allen and Thomas Paine" (History Channel, 2006).

2). Voluntary prayer has never been ruled illegal so why include it? Only prayer that has been encouraged, discouraged, or written by the State has been prohibited. Preying on this common misconception is something Republican strategists have became very good at. My concern is the Democrats have allowed them to do so without setting the record strait.

3). "Religious displays on public property" may or may not be constitutional depending on the motivation of the officials. For example, the motivation to teach about the history of law is fundamentally different from promoting one's own religious views via law or official capacity. The content and context of the display is also important. For example, Judge Moore's display with the Protestant version of the 10 commandments is different than the frieze at the Supreme Court which includes Moses, Confucius, and Greek lawmaker Solon.

4). This expression of legislator's views on church and state is protected by the Free Exercise Clause so long as they do not use their official capacity to promote it. This is precisely what they are doing and they are doing a disservice to both government and religion.


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