Separation of Church and State
A Rebuttal
by Wayne Aiken
North Carolina state director American Atheists
with acknowledgement to Jim Allison (jalison@infi.net) for original material and research


Introduction

Recent events have indicated the existence and influence of a historical revisionism movement designed to marginalize and deny the constitutional principle of the separation of church and state. Through the works of evangelists such as David Barton and his "Wallbuilders" organization, books, movies, and seminars are used to present a highly selective and biased account of the founding period of this country. The purpose is to mislead the public into believing that government and religion were intended from the beginning to be mixed, and that an evil cabal of politicians and judges have somehow cheated us out of a "christian nation" to which we must return. Designed to be impressive-sounding to a public otherwise unfamiliar with early American history, this misleading information is used as "sound-bites" in publicity campaigns and public arguments in favor of increased religious intrusion into government affairs.

The truth, however uncomfortable it may be to those whose religious faith needs government support, is different. It is true that the debate over the relationship between state and church was heated, and this was a major issue which motivated many to oppose the ratification of our country's Constitution. History, however, clearly records the prevailing philosophy, and it was determined that our government must not only be separate and isolated from religious faith and practice, but that this arrangement was a necessary component of true religious freedom.

This is the view of credible historians, academics, legal commentators, judges, and the Founding Fathers themselves. However important, and to what degree these people held their own personal religious beliefs, they agree that such practices are a private affair, and that one cannot be free to hold and practice their own religion, unless they are free from having someone else's beliefs imposed upon them. This is the essence of the separation of church and state: freedom *from* government-imposed religion. It is this principle, and not the doctrines of any particular faith, that form the basis for the peace that America has enjoyed from the spiritual tyrannies and violence that plague other parts of the world to this day.


In their own words:


From the November 24, 1997 Charlotte city council meeting

Audience participant Nick Cilali:


Councilman Don Reid:


Coucilman Tim Sellers:


Councilman Mike Jackson:

Graphic Rule