Separation of Church and State v. First Reformation - please help

by Fernando 7 Replies latest watchtower scandals

  • Fernando

    I am trying to research and better understand these two concepts from an applied and practical perspective.

    Any suggestions, ideas and advice on better understanding this will be much appreciated.

    My thinking at this point:

    FIRST REFORMATION - 1500's (Religion vs Society)

    The First Reformation began as an ill conceived attempt to reform the irreformable namely Religion. Religion just morphed and mutated so as to better hide that it is inherently an enemy of science and society. However its power weakened from which flowed many of the freedoms we now take for granted in society. Society (the laity) became protected from religion having also the power of state - a totally unchecked hegemony.

    SEPARATION OF CHURCH AND STATE - 1800's - First Amendment

    Some of the gains of the First Reformation of Society became undone by the spurious notion that religion needed protection from the state. In fact both the state and individuals needed and continue to need protection from religion. The outcome and intent of keeping Church and State separate is and should still be to protect us all from (authoritarian) religion having also the power of state. A Church-State union is bad precisely because religion is bad. What really was the intent of the first amendment and Thomas Jefferson's comments? Have we lost the plot, or was it Thomas Jefferson?

    A side note for those to whom it may be relevant: I now identify as SBNR (Spiritual But Not Religious). Apparently 1 in 5 Americans identify as SBNR, and this number rises to about 3 in 4 in young adults. I consequently distinguish between Religion/Religionists/Religiosity and its antithesis namely authentic organic Faith and Spirituality. In scripture Jesus and Paul were both against religion. Ironically Rascal Rutherford was also against "all religion" which he explained "is a snare and a racket". Religion as always puts the cart in ahead of the horse. Back then it was the sun revolving around the earth making Galileo a heretic and his telescope blasphemous against the "orthodoxy of the moment". Now religion (like the Pharisees) falsely holds out (supremacist) legalism, moralism, ethnocentrism, and Gnosticism as prerequisites for faith, spirituality and a relationship with God (when in fact this superficial "whitewashing of graves", "cleaning the outside of the cup", "gnat straining" and "camel gulping" actually underpin perpetual dysfunction in society).

    I would love to contemplate other perspectives... Please hit me with all you have...

  • dgp

    I can't comment much on this, but I can tell you that this separation of church and state you're talking about didn't happen everywhere at the same time, it didn't involve the same church, and sometimes the reason for the separation was not the same as in America.

    It's a nice irony that your nickname makes you a namesake of King Ferdinand II of Aragón, "Ferdinand the Catholic".

  • Band on the Run
    Band on the Run

    I am an American lawyer specializing in this topic. If I have time, I will return. Your piece on the Reformation makes a lot of assumptions that probably are not true. Within American society alone, this is one of the most heavily debated issues. It is a complex and sophisticated matter, If you are seeking glib answers, there are none.

  • Fernando

    Thanks for the feedback dgp and Band on the Run. Much appreciated. Band on the Run, I will look out for updates incase you have an opportunity.

    Best wishes.

  • Band on the Run
    Band on the Run

    The US Const'n has three religious clauses: Free Exercise, Establishment (loosley separation of church and state) and Public Oaths. The focus has always been on the first two. Free Exercise of Religion was designed to stop government from interfering in religoius beliefs. Since the Reformation and Henry Tudor, all hell broke out in Europe. Hundreds of thousands died. It was as politcal as religious. Each side was foul. English Catholics had it very bad. The mere presence of a priest could mean execution of family and confiscation of all lands. St. Thomas More, lionized by A Man for All Seasons, tortured and burned many people at the stake.

    Pilgrims and Puritans came here to practice their faith without any state coercion. The problem is they imposed their religion on the inhabitants of their colonies. They just did the reverse to all others. Most states had an establishment church, a denomination favored and supported by public taxes. Other religoins were penalized. Any attempt at a federal religion meant all the others would lose and be taxed. I've read most of the historical material and it is abundantly clear that the Founders were not clear. They wanted to bar imposition of religion at the federal level. States could continue to favor their particular religion. Separation of church and state was never mentioned at the convention or the ratification conventions in the states.

    When Thomas Jefferson was running for president against the central government Federalist, the Danbury Ct. baptist church asked for his views on religion freedom. He stated that he believed there should be a wall between the government and religion. Further, there should be "separation of church and state." Jefferson was not a drafter of the Const'n. He was not active in ratification becasue he was in France.

    The advent of Catholic conservative justices has rapidly changed Establishment Clause jurisprudence. The opinons have long been muddled and give little guidance towards lower courts. The justices acknowledge how treacherous this area is and what a poor job they are doing. The Warren Ct view towards separation is dead. The Democratic appointees are separatists. The conservative majority is accomodationist. They say that personal choice negates the governmental role. If the individual is free to choice a government funded religious program, it is all right. There are some exceptions. Direct preaching, direct use of funds for church missions are among the elements still barred.

    There is little logic from one case to another. I can see govt. funding of Catholic schools and school prayer if we keep going in this direction. Obviously, I don't like it. Yet when I read the history and early cases, it is feasible. Their viewpoint is valid. Both sides claim to be heirs of James Madison's views. Each side cites the same Federalist Papers. I see the Establishment Clause as a bar against an official federal religion. The bar was extended to the states after the Civil War. It seems this was a vaguely worded compromise. I don't think the Founders thought about its ramifications.

  • Band on the Run
    Band on the Run

    PS-The first case involving the Establishment Clause did not take place until around the Civil War, which is telling trivia. Clearly, generations viewed it as a bar against an official federal religion and no more. The cases picked up around the same time as JWs. Whatever caused the Witnesses to appear and preach happened to other groups. The Warren Court was the first group that truly saw the clause as separation of church and state. Others viewed it as be nice to religion, barring an official religion, clause.

    The Reformation forecast what happened in the colonies. Each group imposed their view on the inhabitants. Religious freedom was nonexistent. John Calvin was as intolerant as any pope. Henry Tudor, Henry VIII, was part of a movement to nation-states in Europe, with stronger kings and a weaker pope. He was very opposed to Luther and Reform. In fact, he was a true Renaissance king and very virtuous. Henry personally researched and wrote a treatise condemning Luther, which earned him the title "Defender of the Faith" from the pope. Henry married well to a Spanish princess. When they could not produce a son who lived more than a few weeks, he wanted to divorce her. This would have been simple if she were not as well connected as he.

    Henry called Parliament, outlawed the Catholic Church, and declared everyone declare personal loyalty to Henry above the pope. Many refused. Being Catholic, the accepted norm for centuries, became traitorous. The boundaries were uncertain with many local battles. Common people had to know which way a battle was going to find or lose rosary beads. Henry had many Protestants at court but wanted them suppressed. Ann Boelyn's end came, in part, because she was Protestant and helped spread literature.

    Most of these battles had to do with land claims and power grabs more than religion. Religion was the excuse. America was colonized from this turbulence. People wanted peace and quiet. America would not have been so quickly colonized were it not for the Reformation, IMO. The two are very linked. The Pilgrims and Puritans brooked no dissent. Quakers did. As long as there was plenty of good land with fairly docile Native Americans, it worked.

    Former Church of England members, now termed Episcoplians, had a culture full of wheeling and dealing, and compromise. Elizabeth I was the opposite of her father. She decreed a middle way and tolerated Catholics. As a result, England had prosperity rather than bloody battles. Live and let live. They played an inordinate role in the foundation of America. Other religions noted this. Each colony wanted its religion dominant. Since they all could not be dominant, none would be dominate.

    When I first read the historical documents, rather than legal opinions, my beliefs changed greatlly. The materials indicate that neither side is correct in their analysis. It is more a field of what principles were important to the Founders that we can bring to contemporary society. Such an important clause was not debated, except in passing. If one looks only to the Founding period, neither side has much support. I think it was not debated much because state establishments would continue until after the Civil War, and any prolonged discussion would have split the convention. What is important to us was not important to them.

    People make much of James Madison, who drafted the Bill of Rights. He was a separatist in spirit. James Madison was not the entire convention, however, nor, did he play a role in the state ratification conventions. The curious part is that James Madison, the great civil libertarian, thought the Bill of Rights was superfluous. He saw no need for a Bill of Rights b/c the main body protected people. The cool thing is that the states started ratification conventions in their capitals. State after state refused to ratify the Const'n without an express Bill of Rights. Facing defeat, the Founders relented and Madison complied. Our most basic rights came from the people in their states, not a national elite wholed up in Philadelphia.

  • JeffT


    Interesting comments. I'm an amateur historian not a lawyer, but I've read up a lot on the colonial and constitutional periods. One of the biggest impediments to understanding today is the phrase "founding fathers." There was no such group and most of the people we include as such would be startled at the characterization. They were a bunch of guys who wanted to make things work better but had vastly different ideas as to how to get the results they wanted. The resulting document is a patchwork compromise of differing opinions.

    My personal feeling on this subject is that they were shooting for a middle ground, that the government could not impose a belief on anybody, nor could it keep some one from practicing their religion as they saw fit, provided it did not disturb public order (i.e. you can't be a cannibal in the name of religious freedom).

  • Band on the Run
    Band on the Run

    Well, there were actors who were central: Geo. Washington, John Adams, Alexander Hamilton, Ben Franklin, Benjamin Rush, James Madison. They mostly had national reputations and were active in the so-called Revolutionary War. They were conscious that they were building a new nation. Most of the concepts of liberty, though, were pre-existing English and French ones. My law school prof. said the colonies fought for English citizenship rights b/c they viewed themselves as full English citizens. The Irish never had any such notion.

    I believe strongly that students should be exposed to the antiFederalists as much as Hamiton, Madison, and Jay's Federalist Papers. Ratification was closFreedom and liberty did not solely reside with any side. I've found it difficult to access these debates. Finally, I found a paperback set through a roundabout way. Many patriots were opposed to the Const'n. Hearing their arguments would help us understand the document.

    I only started to read much about the antiFederalists when researching the Establishment Clause. Perhaps it is too much for elementary school students. If you are studying the Federalist Papers, you should also study some of the antiFederalist writings. History is so fascinating and we make it so bland and boring for children.

    It is important to know about James Madison but your own state's ratification convention was just as crucial to ratification. NY had a very interesting one. I don't know who decides what is taught in civics. States' rights vs. a national govt. can be broken down for young children. Rural vs. urban can also be broken down. I've also discovered the sexual and other personal scandals that helped shaped policy.

    B/c I graduated from Columbia and am a NYer, I've read much about Alexander Hamilton and George Washington. There are so many interesting and comical stories to tell students. This past year I read that Washington was very close to Hamilton but Hamilton spurned him. Many were certain that Hamilton was Washington's bastard son. Washington was uber patrician. You conducted yourself properly before him. Hamilton had a friend from Columbia college. The twenty some year olds placed a wager that Hamilton's friend would slap Washington on the back at a formal function. Washintons' reaction was so severe the friend regretted not paying Hamilton a fortune to get out of the debt.

    There is also a classic about John Adams and Benjamin Franklin sharing a bed while en route to France. Franklin wanted an open window for good health. Adams believed that a closed window was healthier. The poor window went up and down all night.

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