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Anonymous asked in Society & CultureReligion & Spirituality · 1 decade ago

Simple question...what "exactly" does seperation of Church and State really mean?

Earlier I posted a question about a high school senior in Arkansas giving a Christian prayer, in Jesus name, for the opening of her class graduation. A few answers said this was a violation of Church and state. Was it really? Let's see who the educated folks are in here.

21 Answers

  • Favorite Answer

    The phrase, 'separation of church and state' comes from a letter written by Thomas Jefferson. Not long after that, the 'establishment clause' of the First Amendment was written into the Constitution: 'Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof...'

    In the middle of the seventeenth century - in one particular colony - a sanctioned church was established. At that time, all other Christian denominations - and other religions - were banned. As a result, there was persecution against banned worship in that colony. The original intent of the 'separation of church and state' was for the protection of religious minorities.

    'Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof...'

    In other words, 'Congress will not establish a federally sanctioned religion, neither will it prohibit the free practice of religion, in the United States of America.'

  • 1 decade ago

    Ten years ago it was not considered a violation. The law was interpreted that as long as it was the student who was doing it voluntarily, it was okay. In other words, if a teacher asked a student to choose a song and sing it before the class and the student chose to sing "Jesus Loves Me" then it was not a violation. But a teacher may not impose any religious matter upon her students.

    However, times they are a-changing. Now, because a class graduation is considered to be a "captive" audience, in other words the students "must" be there, then absolutely no religious matter can be used by either the students or the teachers.

    The only time religion can be expressed at all is during "voluntary" attendance, in other words, an after or before school club or activity that is not a part of a grade.

  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago

    It means that the government will not interfere with the practice of religion, nor will it mandate/impose any religion on the people.

    The problem with the prayer at the school is that because it was an event at which there were school teachers and administrators, it could be perceived that the school itself is, in effect, mandating or imposing religion upon the people present.

    Certainly the student has a right to pray, but the fact that the student prayed at this event with all the administrators there makes it seem like the "official "prayer of the school -- and people were a captive audience at this event. The Muslim, Jewish, Wiccan, atheist, etc., students *should* have been allowed to attend this event without the imposition of one student's religious views.

    At the very least, the program or an announcer should have stated a disclaimer saying that this was the viewpoint of the student and not representative of the school or its administrators.

  • 1 decade ago

    It really doesn't whether it was a Christian prayer or whose name it was in, the point is that it was at a government function. The point is here that not all people that attend public schools believe the same thing and to force religion (i.e. all have to pray) at a function like this is a violation of separation. By the way, any religious prayer, Muslim, Jewish, Wiccan, etc would also be a violation.

    On the other hand, this event has or should have a deeper sense of violation for Christians. Jesus never advocated prayer as a witnessing mechanism, in fact his words about praying in public as a display (and this was a display) are quite explicit. Even when I was a Christian, it was quite obvious that prayer serves one purpose and to parade it or to use it as a sermon is to profane it.

    Think about it this way, if I hold a talk to you, but I'm really talking to everyone else, isn't that a bit rude?

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  • Sptfyr
    Lv 7
    1 decade ago

    The separation of church and state infers that neither should be influenced by the other. What a student chooses to do is not part of that arrangement. Unless the school encouraged or made the student say the prayer then it can't be considered a violation.

  • 1 decade ago

    Within the United States, it has been interpreted that government cannot _favor_ any religion over any other. That's not the way the first amendment reads, but that's how it is interpreted.

    The first amendment says that congress cannot pass any laws establishing a religion. It also says that congress cannot pass any laws that prohibit the exercise of religion.

    The intent of the first has been violated with the current thinking on religion and the second was violated long ago when native Americans were not allowed to fully practice their native religions.

  • 1 decade ago

    Separation of church and state was meant to prohibit what happened in England. The church of England misused power from the pulpit to control Government. The founding fathers in their wisdom saw this was not good, the intention was to keep a church from dictating governmental policy,However out of an obscure letter by T Jefferson about separation of church and state this policy began. The founding fathers for most part were devote men of God even Ben Franklin recognized that men cannot find happiness w/o God. Check history,revisionists are re writing American History do not buy it! Read for yourself!

  • ?
    Lv 7
    1 decade ago

    It's common knowledge with conservative believers that that phrase is all about government not setting up a state or government religion. That's all.

    Or let me reword this so it makes more sense.

    A wall of separation of church and state already existed. It is an inalienable right of the people of the United State to exercise their religious faith. The government could not break down that wall of separation to establish its own state or government religion.

  • 1 decade ago

    The affairs of the Church and State are to be separate. This is a violation since schools receive funds from the government.

  • 1 decade ago

    It's a political doctrine that religious and government institutions are to be kept independent from each other. In the Constitution, it regards the establishment of religion and practice thereof; however, it has since been interpreted to also include what may appear as religious favoritism.

    In regards to the prayer in school - if the girl was acting as a representative of the school, and school is a public/government institution, it would appear as though the government is favoring the religion.

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