When discussing the separation of church and state, it quickly becomes apparent that there is a lot of misinformation, misunderstandings, and myths floating around which distort people’s perception of critical issues. It simply isn’t possible to come to a reasonable understanding of whether separation of church and state balance works without considering the facts of past and present. The separation of Church and State is not meant to hinder religion, or to deny the role of religion in society or in our history. Many of the founders were Christians, including James Madison, but what the founding fathers established was a government that was non-religious–a secular government. That does not mean that they rejected religion; their purpose was to establish a government whose sole function was to administer earthy matters, while matters of religion were left purely to ecclesiastical institutions. Americans differ sharply in their opinions about what the country’s founding fathers intended when this principle was incorporated into American law and what the principle should mean in practice today. These disputes stem from differing views about fundamental truth and the importance of belief. Many who support the use of religious references and religious programs in government claim that the use of religion in government is a matter of American tradition, but in fact it is not. Similarly, some others believe that the principle of separation has invited disputes among various groups in our society-that’s not true either. I personally believe that the separation of church and state is playing a vital role to unite our society by eliminating the possible social injustices that can be caused by religious differences and letting our government perform its job freely for the welfare of the society without coming under the pressure of church.
The separation of church and state is the best solution to prevent social disorders in a society where multi-religious groups are living. In the United State, we have people with different religious backgrounds, and they have been living here for centuries-no one has ever been pressurized to convert its religious status. If, for example, one religion tries to push its agenda on others, it becomes unconstitutional and a threat to the civil liberties of citizens. During our entire history, we have never faced any social or religious war because we are bounded by certain principles which act like a separation of wall. Throughout the American history, the Supreme Court has made several decisions to keep the wall of separation between church and state. Thus it prevented society from being influenced or pressured by any particular group. Human cloning is one of the issues that is banned in the United States to prevent different religious groups from being outraged. Gay marriage is another issue that is still being discussed among various religious groups. Similarly prayer in public schools is a contentious issue, and one which seems to arouse the most anger and the most passion among people on both sides of the table. Therefore, in 1963, Supreme Court took an action and banned Bible reading in public schools. “Because religious belief or non-belief is such an important part of every person’s life, freedom of religion affects every individual. State churches that use government power to support themselves and force their views on persons of other faiths undermine all our civil rights,” said by PresidentThomas Jefferson in one of his speeches. The grand tradition of religious liberty that Thomas Jefferson pointed out in his speech has made America the envy of the world, the city on the hill. Under the light of our Constitution and what our founding fathers had said, the separation of church and state has become a perfect solution for the unity of all the religious groups living in our society.
The separation of church and state has enabled our government to work free of any pressure from church. Due to this wall of separation, we can say that we have a centuries old record of conflict-free democracy in the United State. As Hugh Heclo says in “The Wall That Never Was” article that “During the entire decade of the 1980s it was hard to find any serious political conflict anywhere in the world that did not show behind it the not-so-hidden hand of religion…” Under the light of what Heclo says, we can say that our founding fathers felt the sensitivity and the seriousness of this issue centuries ago. The framers of the U.S. Constitution were concerned that European history might repeat itself in the new world. They wanted to avoid the continual wars motivated by religious hatred that had decimated many countries within Europe. They decided that a church/state separation was their best assurance that the U.S. would remain relatively free of inter-religious strife. Many commentators feel that over two centuries of relative religious peace in the U.S. have shown that they were right. Throughout the American history we have seen that churches, mosques, temples, etc are operating at their own, and government is not responsible to support any of them, either socially or financially. Without government assistance religious values, literature, traditions and holidays permeate the lives of our citizens and, in their diverse ways, form an integral part of our national culture. The Supreme Court not only prohibits any government from adopting a particular denomination or religion as official, but requires government to avoid excessive involvement in religion. For example, when President John F. Kennedy was asked about court decision of banning Bible reading in public schools, “he replied coolly that he knew many people were angry, but that the decisions of the court had to be respected…” (David Greenberg, Why we’re not one nation “Under God”). This message clearly tells us that our government is performing its job free of the influence or of the pressure of any church. Thus the separation of church and state has set aside the role of government and church so that the conflict among both can not occur.
The separation of church and state has made it possible for government to work for the welfare of society so that all people have the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Now-a-days, in the United States, we can see that our government is set a side to serve the nation without any foreign or domestic religious pressure that can interfere with its policies. We have employment opportunities that are free from any ethnic, cultural, or religious believes. We have no class system that can differentiate between citizens of upper-class and lower-class. Our educational system is acceptable to anyone living in any part of the country. Similarly, those citizens who stand in election do not talk about religion to get support of a particular group or person, but they do talk about the policies that can bring prosperity and unity in American society as a whole. A few months ago, when President Barak Obama won the election campaign, he said in his speech that we are not Asian-American, we are not African-American, we are not Hispanic-American, but we are, and always will be, the United States of America. What a remarkable message of unity he gave to our nation! All this is going on due to an honored principle of American law-separation of church and state. In the creation of church and state balance, the framers of the Constitution hoped to form what they called “a more perfect union” – a government that would not only serve the people but would also be a long-lived exemplar to other nations around the world.
In brief, the separation of church and state has created an environment in the United States where multi-cultural, multi-ethnic and multi-religious groups are free to perform religious practices and the government is free also to focus on the welfare of the entire society instead of a particular group or person. The principle of separation of church and state is so cleared and successful that it has been adopted in a number of countries, to varying degrees depending on the applicable legal structures and prevalent views toward the proper role of religion in society. Without any doubt, we can say that this wall of separation was adopted to make America a conflict-free nation. The results of America’s policy of church-state separation can be seen all around us. Today we are an open and free society of nearly 300 million Christians, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, Muslims, Atheists and others. All live side by side in harmony. All have the freedom to proclaim their views. All enjoy the right to worship or not worship unmolested by government officials or state-appointed religious leaders. All are equal in the eyes of the government. Our entire social and governmental system from the hiring of a common employee to the elected president is discriminated-free. That is the result of keeping an official distance between religion and government. Therefore, under the light of our constitution and what our founding fathers said, I personally believe that the separation of church and state is playing an important role to unite our society by eliminating the possible social injustices and to let our government to perform its job freely for the welfare of the society. Perhaps, due to this reason, our founding fathers have put America at the forefront of the Enlightenment Era and made America a beacon of liberty. We owe a tribute to their vision.