Hi R*, thanks for writing. To ensure freedom of conscience on religious matters, and to end persecution of religious minorities by a state religion, our nation’s Constitution was drafted with religious liberty in mind. The Framers of the Constitution, namely James Madison and Thomas Jefferson, included this concept of government neutrality on religion in the First Amendment. Jefferson went on to explain that the First Amendment erected a “Wall of Separation between church and state,” guaranteeing churches the autonomy to act as they saw fit, to preach and pray as they wished, and to do so without interference from the government.
Our Founding Fathers wanted to avoid the problems that arise when government favors or promotes one religious belief over another. The idea was to have a government that was neutral on religion, neither advancing it nor hindering it. That’s all that church-state separation is, really, just government neutrality towards religion. Neutrality is not hostility. In fact, under the American model of government, religion has flourished in the United States, unlike any other nation on earth. Countries with state churches have seen lagging participation and an absence of religious diversity.
As the years have gone by, people in the majority religion have sought to use government to prop up or promote their faith, which has angered those people of faith who feel that their religion needs no promotion from the government. It has led to some unusual situations, such as the Courts declaring that references to God were meaningless acts of “ceremonial deism,” or that the Cross, Christianity’s holiest symbol, is just a general religious artifact that has no true religious meaning. These notions are offensive to people who cherish their faith.
Since we live in a pluralistic society, with more and more diversity in religious thought and practice, it has become important to stand up to defend our First Amendment freedom of religious liberty, by keeping religion out of government, and vice versa.
Even the new Pope Francis sees the threat posed by intermingling of religion and government. In a recent interview, he said “politics is the most important of the civil activities and has its own field of action, which is not that of religion. Political institutions are secular by definition and operate in independent spheres.” http://app1.kuhf.org/articles/npr228200595-Pope-Francis-Says-The-Court-Is-The-Leprosy-Of-The-Papacy.html
When the government favors one faith over another, or favors belief over disbelief, all of us suffer an attack on our freedom of conscience. This is why it is important to protect Jefferson’s “Wall of Separation,” and ensure that the government is neutral in regards to religion. Neutrality is not hostility. Religious icons and statements of faith have their proper place within the church, not on government buildings or our national currency. Our politicians should rely on Constitutional law, not religious teachings, to lead this great diverse nation.
Have a nice day. Let me know if you have any more questions.