The separation of church and state

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The separation of church and state has been a long debated topic in the history of America. Although founded upon Christian ideals, the framers of the Constitution explicitly outlined the government to function secularly, in what is commonly referred to as the “Establishment Clause”. When interpreting the Constitution in regards to religion, there are two primary philosophies. The first philosophy this paper will explore will be referred to as Positive Toleration. In general, the idea of positive toleration creates an environment that is encouraging of all religions. The second philosophy, which will be referred to as the “Wall of Separation,” encourages government freedom from religion. Although historically these two philosophies have…show more content…
546). The Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life notes that, “some Americans are troubled by what they see as an effort on the part of federal courts and civil liberties advocates to exclude God and religious sentiment…such an effort, these Americans believe, infringes upon the First Amendment right to the free exercise of religion.” (p. 1). Chief Justice Rehnquist would agree. He argues, “that the term was intended to prohibit only the establishment of a single national church or the preference of one religious sect over another” (First Amendment Center, 2011). The Positive Toleration philosophy approaches legal cases with the viewpoint that all religion should not be removed from the public sector. Rather, all religions should be equally promoted, tolerated, encouraged and no religion should be viewed as superior. The second school of thought, “Wall of Separation” is formed by the opinions of Thomas Jefferson and James Madison. According to Brandt, “Jefferson advocated church/state separation as a way of protecting the state from the church. In his view, free debate of political ideas could take place only with complete separation of state and church” (Brandt, 2010, p. 547). James Madison, author of the first amendment, seconded Jefferson’s viewpoint. According to Brandt, Madison “thought that if the church and state were not separated, they would corrupt each other” (Brandt, 2010, p.

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