The Instigator
bsh1
Pro (for)
Winning
9 Points
The Contender
Guidestone
Con (against)
Losing
1 Points

Separation of Church and State

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Post Voting Period
The voting period for this debate has ended.
after 3 votes the winner is...
bsh1
Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 1/3/2014 Category: Religion
Updated: 2 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 3,039 times Debate No: 43293
Debate Rounds (5)
Comments (1)
Votes (3)

 

bsh1

Pro

Preface

Guidestone and I had been having an interesting discourse regarding the role of religion in theU.S. in the comments of my Gay Marriage debate with InVinoVeritas. While talking more in the PMs, we decided on this rather intriguing topic, and I look forward to a stimulating debate.

Topic

In the United States, there is separation of Church and State.

Rules

1. No forfiets
2. All sources my be cited in the text of the speech
3. BOP is shared: Pro must show that it should be there; Con must show that it should not
4. Violation of any of the R1 set-up merits a 7-point loss

Structure

R1: Acceptance. Con may present arguments in R1 if he wishes, but he must then forgo doing so in R5
R2: Arguments
R3: Arguments
R4: Arguments
R5: Summary (no new arguments or responses)

Thanks

...to Guidestone for this great debate, and to the judges for taking their time to score this debate!
Guidestone

Con

I accept this challenge. I will present my first arguments next round.
Debate Round No. 1
bsh1

Pro

Thanks to Guidestone for accepting this debate! I will construct my case by first examining the nature of Separation of Church and State, then exploring the de jure status of the separation in the U.S., and finally by exploring the de facto status of the separation in the U.S.

--------------------

The 1st Amendment of the U.S. Constitutions reads, in part [1]:

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

--------------------
ARGUMENTS

Point One: The Nature of the Separation of Church and State, and the Establishment Clause

The phrase "separation" can be defined as the state of being apart. Thus, when religion is apart from government, separation of church and state is attained. This does not mean that people cannot hold and make decisions influenced by their own personal moralities, but rather that the government is not theocratic in nature. "Separation of church and state is a concept based in the Establishment Clause, found in the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. The Establishment Clause was extended to apply to the states through the Fourteenth Amendment, and prohibits laws dealing with the establishment of religion. Neither the state or federal government may enact laws which aid one or all religions, or give a preference to one religion over another. The Establishment Clause was intended to prohibit the federal government from declaring and financially supporting a national religion." [2]

In this way, it seems like separation of church and state is definitionally part of the U.S. Constitution. It is an inseparable part of the foundations of our nation. Inasmuch as we cannot be a theocracy, we have assured ourselves a comfortable separation from religion.

This is a prima facie reason to affirm because definitionally, we have separation of church and state in the status quo already.

Point Two: De Jure Separation

When we talk about "what is" we can look at it from both a formal and an informal perspective. For instance, it is illegal in the Netherlands to smoke pot, but, because those laws are not enforced, it is effectively legal to do so. Therefore, I shall examine both de jure and de facto aspects of the separation in the U.S.

There are several key Court Cases I will cite that illustrate that the Supreme Court has interpreted the laws so as to ensure a distance between religion and government.

1. McCollum v. Board of Eduction: Court finds religious instruction in public schools a violation of the establishment clause and therefore unconstitutional. [3]

2. Burstyn v. Wilson: Government may not censor a motion picture because it is offensive to religious beliefs. [3, 4]

3. Torcaso v. Watkins: Court holds that the state of Maryland cannot require applicants for public office to swear that they believed in the existence of God. [3, 5]

4. Engel v. Vitale: Any kind of prayer, composed by public school districts, even nondenominational prayer, is unconstitutional government sponsorship of religion. [3, 6]

5. Abington School District v. Schempp: Court finds Bible reading over school intercom unconstitutional. [3]

6. Epperson v. Arkansas: State statue banning teaching of evolution is unconstitutional. A state cannot alter any element in a course of study in order to promote a religious point of view. A state's attempt to hide behind a nonreligious motivation will not be given credence unless that state can show a secular reason as the foundation for its actions. [3, 7]

7. Lee v. Weisman: Unconstitutional for a school district to provide any clergy to perform nondenominational prayer at elementary or secondary school graduation. It involves government sponsorship of worship. [3, 8]

8. Church of Lukumi Babalu v. Hialeah: City's ban on killing animals for religious sacrifices, while allowing sport killing and hunting, was unconstitutional discrimination against the Santeria religion. [3]


These rulings go to show 3 key things:

A. A clear distance is being maintained between religion and state authority
B. Government is unable to enforce religious doctrines or to impose religious laws upon its citizenry
C. Government is unable to actively oppress certain religions and promote others.


Thus, from a de jure perspective, the topic is affirmed.

An, we can also see this de jure separation in the Treaty of Tripoli, which declares, legally, that the U.S. is not a "Christian" nation. [10]

Point Three: De facto Separation

The U.S. is a majority Christian nation, yet many of the policies our governments have enacted have been counter to Christian philosophy. Several prominent examples include abortion, gay marriage, and contraception covered by insurers. While not all Christians hold views opposing the liberalisaztion of these issues in U.S. politics, it is important to note that many do, and that they do so on the basis of moral and ethical beliefs informed by their religion. The fact that the U.S. can overcome such barriers and move towards a more secular society shows that, at the very least, there is some de facto separation.

One excellent exemplar of the Government taking real, positive action in the status quo toward separation of church an state can be evidence in a recent case regarding a display of the Ten Commandments in Kentucky. "Displays of the Ten Commandments have become a flashpoint in the religious right's campaign to inject more Christianity into public life...[the] Supreme Court strongly reaffirmed its commitment to government neutrality toward religion. It rejected the argument that the counties had a secular purpose for the displays. They were promoting religion, the court held, and violating the Constitution by doing so." [9]

It seems then that there is too a distance in de facto governance between separation of church and state, affirming the topic still further.

Before I close, I would like to make one final remark about the intent of the Establishment Clause. Jefferson himself said about it: " I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should "make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof", thus building a wall of separation between Church & State." [10]

SOURCES

1 - http://www.usconstitution.net...
2 - http://definitions.uslegal.com...
3 - http://infidels.org...
4 - http://everything2.com...
5 - http://www.answers.com...
6 - http://www.oyez.org...
7 - http://www.bc.edu...
8 - http://www.oyez.org...
9 - http://www.nytimes.com...
10 - http://en.wikipedia.org...

I would like to apologize for the brevity of my arguments--I was rushed and would have been more fulsome in my points had more time been available.

Regardless, I do believe the topic has been thoroughly affirmed. I now turn this discourse over to Con...

Guidestone

Con

1. The Nature of the Separation of Church and State, and the Establishment Clause

The first amendment states "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof..." [1] It states nothing about separation. The term "comes from one brief letter that Thomas Jefferson wrote in 1802 to a Baptist Association in Danbury, Connecticut." [2] 15 years after the constitution. "The Founding Fathers never intended for church and state to be completely separate. They saw religion as indispensable to the moral foundation of the nation they were creating." [2] This can be seen with a quote by John Adams "We have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion . . . Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other." [3] Also all the thirteen original colonies had a state supported church with the last one disestablished in 1877. [4]

So, it was not in the foundation of the U.S. and the founders approved of religion in Government.


Sorry about the short, incomplete response, but time has been an issue lately. I will make a full response next time, but I wanted to at least confront the first point.

Sources
[1] http://www.archives.gov...
[2] http://www.prageruniversity.com...
[3] http://catholiceducation.org...
[4] http://undergod.procon.org...

Debate Round No. 2
bsh1

Pro

Thanks, Guidestone! I can definitely sympathize with being pressed for time. I will use this speech to address Con's arguments. Con's sentences shall be in italics, mine shall be in regular script.

REBUTTING CON

"The first amendment states...states nothing about separation."

On face, this remark may appear true, but on a closer reading, I think we can see that it doesn't hold much water. Separation indicates that things are distant or apart. The first amendment bans Congress from "establishing" a religion or religions in the U.S. Clearly, this prohibition forces a distance between the state and the church. As my earlier evidence has illustrated, this separation has been further emphasized by a string of Supreme Court rulings affirming, and in some cases enlargening, the gap between the state and the church.

Thus, while not literally stated, the first amendment does intimate at a separation of church and state.

"The term 'comes from one brief letter that Thomas Jefferson wrote.'"

The actual text of that letter reads as follows:

"Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between Man & his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, & not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should "make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof", thus building a wall of separation between Church & State." [1]


As one of our foremost Founding Fathers and drafter of the Declaration of Independance [2], Jefferson has unique insight into the intent behind the laws of our Constitution. He believed, as evidenced in this letter, that faith was a personal matter, and not one in which the state ought to become embroiled. That, were the state to promote certain religions over others, it would infringe on individuals rights to have, practice, and share their own beliefs. Quite simply, Jefferson did believe that the First Amendment intended to, and did, create a separation between church and state.

"The Founding Fathers never intended for church and state to be completely separate."

Arguably, this is inaccurate. The Founding Father undoubtedly thought faith mattered, but they (by and large) never wanted the government to morph into a theocracy, supporting a specific religion or religions over others. They did want some distance to be maintained. As I said about Jefferson: they believed "that faith was a personal matter, and not one in which the state ought to become embroiled."

The quote from Adams that Con references supports my view. Adams writes that a government must be informed by religious and moral people, not that a government itself should be the mouthpiece of religion. A government can be run by a devout Christian, without supporting the Christian faith or codifying that faith into law.

Adams wants people to have personal faiths and moral standards, but he does not say that he wants the government to be an engine of religion or for the government to establish one faith over others. That is a key point to make here.

OFF-CASE OVERVIEW

Con's whole argument is based on the intent of the first amendment. But intent is largely irrelevant to this debate.


Let me use the following example to illustrate my point:

I pass a law saying that "No vehicles may ride in the park." My intent was to ban cars from driving in the park. Instead, police and the courts decide that bicycles and babystrollers are "vehicles" and so order them out of the park. What happened was very different from what I intended to do. In other words, the intent of X is not a predictor of what X actually does in the status quo.

The resolution posits: "there is" separation of church and state in the U.S. It does NOT ask "did they intend for there to be" separation of church and state. Therefore, what the Founding Fathers intended is irrelevant. Rather, we must focus exclusively on what is currently going on in the status quo.

Therefore, we can dismiss Con's arguments as extratopical right off the bat.

SUMMARY

  1. The intent of the First Amendment is disputable. I believe that it did intend to foster a separation between church and state, and have provided reasoning as to why this is plausible.
  2. Even if you buy into Con's interpretation of the intent, it's clear that intent is irrelevant in this debate.


Thus, I affirm the resolution. Con has the floor.

Guidestone

Con

1. The Nature of the Separation of Church and State, and the Establishment Clause

Yes, the first amendment says congress can't establish religion, or prohibit the free exercise of. [1] This is separation of Church from Congress, not separation of Church and State. Like I have shown in previous rounds this allowed State governments to have sponsored religion which wasn't against the constitution. This shows that the first amendment doesn't separate church and state.
As far as Jefferson "Thomas Jefferson attended this church service in Congress" and "and his family
have constantly attended public worship in the Hall" of the House of Representatives." [2] Yes, Jefferson did draft the declaration of independence, and he put the words "endowed by their creator" which is very much mixing church and state. The founders believed that there should not be a church of the United States, but not total separation.
It is true the founders didn't want a theocracy, but they didn't want separation either. A government could be run without supporting faith, but this was never intended "I have lived, a long time, and the longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of this truth -- that God Governs in the affairs of men. And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without His notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without His aid?" - Ben Franklin [3]
To a point it is valid what the intent was is invalid, but I was using to show that the first amendment does not create such a separation.

2. Religion in Government Today

There is many ways in which we do not have separation between church and state.
On all our currency today the words "In God we Trust" appears, and those words also appear in the House of Representatives, which is a clear non-separation between church and state. Also, in the pledge of allegiance the words "under God" are also a non-separation. When a president is sworn in they say "so help me God" while having a hand on a bible, which is a non-separation. Then there are these things called blue laws which are " in U.S. history, a law forbidding certain secular activities on Sunday." Which was held constitutional in the supreme court 8-1. [5] There are 22 references to God in US code [6] Also, when the supreme court is entering session at the end they say "God save the United States and this honorable Court" [7]

3. Briefly bout De facto Separation

Abortion was enacted by a court ruling [8] and is slowly going away [10], Gay Marriage is often also by court ruling and is still banned in 33 states, and Contraception covered is not in effect as there is a supreme court case pending on the constitutionality of such a thing. [9] Such things are almost never by choice, but by force.



Sources:
[1] http://www.archives.gov...
[2] http://www.loc.gov...
[3] http://goo.gl...
[4] http://www.britannica.com...
[5] http://www.oyez.org...
[6] http://undergod.procon.org...
[7] http://www.supremecourt.gov...
[8] http://www.oyez.org...
[9] http://usnews.nbcnews.com...
[10] http://www.procon.org...



Debate Round No. 3
bsh1

Pro

Thanks again to Guidestone! I will use this round to conduct a line-by-line rebuttal of Con's claims thus far.


P1: The Nature of the Establishment Clause

I shall place Con's remarks in italics. My rebuttals shall be in regular script, as before.

"This is separation of Church from Congress, not separation of Church and State. Like I have shown in previous rounds this allowed State governments to have sponsored religion which wasn't against the constitution."

I have three points to make here:

1. Con admits that the federal government may not establish an official religion(s) as per the establishment clause. Clearly, this prohibition forces a distance, or separation, between the state and the church.

2. State were allowed (past tense) to have religions. They are not currently able (present tense) to have official religions, as I shall show. The point here is that what was true in the past is irrelevant in this debate, because we are debating what is going on right now. The resolution says "there is separation;" it does not say "there was separation."

3. States are also bound by the establishment clause, meaning they can no longer have official religions or promote certain faiths over others. If you look back to my Round Two arguments, all the Supreme Court cases I cite, except for Burstyn v. Wilson, are applied at the State level. States control their own education systems, yet they cannot use those systems to promote specific religious ideologies. States and municipalities cannot suppress certain religions, like Santeria, in favor of others. States cannot requires people to undergo religious tests prior to taking office. Moreover, in Everson v. Board of Education, the Supreme Court ruled, "that the establishment clause is one of the 'liberties' protected by the due-process clause (14th Amendment). From that point on, all government action, whether at the federal, state, or local level, must abide by the restrictions of the establishment clause." [1, 2] In light of this ruling, Con's whole argument collapses. He says that only the Federal Government has separation of church and state because the establishment clause only applies to Congress. I have just disproven that by illustrating that the establishment clause applies to all levels of governance.


The impact of these three points is clear: no level of government can support a religion or a group of religions over others. Government must separate itself from religion, and operate as a secular entity. The establishment clause is a clear line of demarcation between church and state, and thus the resolution can be affirmed.

"The founders believed that there should not be a church of the United States, but not total separation."

My Off-Case Overview can be applied here. What the founders intended is irrelevant, insofar as were are not debating about what the establishment clause was intended to do, but rather we are debating about what it is actually doing.

"It is true the founders didn't want a theocracy, but they didn't want separation either."

The Founding Fathers, as I observed last round, saw faith as a personal matter, and not one in which the state ought to become embroiled. Yes, they wanted people to have a spiritual life that informed their personal morality. Adams's quote is clear evidence of this. But wanting individual people to be religious is different from wanting the government to be religious. We have had religious Presidents who have led secular administrations.

What the Founding Fathers wanted was for people to believe in God and have faith, but to not force their personal beliefs on others. Jefferson's own actions are indicative of this--religion was important to him, but he believed that it wasn't the job of the state to encourage religion. Ultimate, what the Founding Fathers envisaged was a nation led by godly people, but which was secular in its operation.

Regardless, this discourse over intent is irrelevant to the topic, as I have stated numerous times.

"To a point it is valid what the intent was is invalid, but I was using to show that the first amendment does not create such a separation."

You cannot derive actual results from intent. As I pointed out last round, "intent of X is not a predictor of what X actually does in the status quo."

P2: De Jure Separation

Con makes a big point about "In God We Trust" and about the mentions of God in our legal code. These references do not negate the resolution. These phrases are vestiges of America's past that reflect a culture that was largely Christian. They terms are kept around as part of our sense of tradition--they have no functional meaning.

Essentially, these words have no legally-binding function in the U.S. Presidents may abstain from religious portions of the oath. In fact, the phrase "so help me God" is NOT part of the official oath. It was added on (as an adlib) sometime later. [3] Also, officials have been allowed to swear on the Constitution or on other documents instead of religious texts. [4] Finally, no one is mandated to say "under God" while reciting the pledge. If the government force you to say that, then it would be imposing religious beliefs. But, it is your choice whether to include that.

Ultimately, every society is going to keep some of its traditional language--but that language has lost it's practical meaning. Can the government force you to recognize a God or gods? Can it force you to take up a religion? Is it allowed to support one faith over another? No, no, and no.

As for "Blue Laws," if you read Con's source [5], you will see that the Supreme Court upheld the laws "because the employees alleged only economic injury and not infringement on their own religious practices...the present Maryland laws are based on secular rather than religious state interests." Therefore, the Supreme Court upheld the laws for secular, not religious, reasons.

P3: De Facto Separation

Just to refresh everyone's memory, I argued that: "the U.S. is a majority Christian nation, yet many of the policies our governments have enacted have been counter to Christian philosophy. Several prominent examples include abortion, gay marriage, and contraception covered by insurers. While not all Christians hold views opposing the liberalisaztion of these issues in U.S. politics, it is important to note that many do, and that they do so on the basis of moral and ethical beliefs informed by their religion. The fact that the U.S. can overcome such barriers and move towards a more secular society shows that, at the very least, there is some de facto separation." I will now address Con's objections.

"Abortion was enacted by a court ruling...Gay Marriage is often also by court ruling...Contraception coverage is not in effect as there is a supreme court case pending."

Con's arguments seem to be that the examples I gave are not example of government actions, but rather judicial action. Let us not forget that the Judiciary, led by the Supreme Court, is one of three branches of government in the U.S. The fact that they are making these rulings, and that the U.S. is enforcing them, shows that there is de fact separation, insofar as the U.S. government, led by it's judiciary branch, is moving towards a more secular society.

Frankly, it doesn't matter which branch is doing most of the work, so long as it is tangibly impacting the status quo. I have shown throughout this debate that the U.S. is secularizing, and so there is a tangible impact.

"Such things are almost never by choice, but by force."

The government, by its nature, is an agent of force. This is not a debate about what people want, but about what is. There is Separation of Church and State in the U.S., and thus I affirm.

SOURCES

1 - http://www.firstamendmentcenter.org...
2 - http://www.ask.com...
3 - http://www.ask.com...
4 - http://freedomoutpost.com...
5 - http://www.oyez.org...


Guidestone

Con

I am sorry, but I literally have no time to finish this debate. If at a later point if you would want to redo this debate when I am more free I would be glad to. This has become more of a burden, and I have more important things that are occupying my time, so I concede to my opponent.
Debate Round No. 4
bsh1

Pro

I extend my arguments, and submit that they affirm the resolution.

I would like to thank Guidestone for conceding, rather than simply forfeiting, and I thank him for 4 delightful rounds. Maybe we can rehash this issue at some later time.

With that, I ask that judges please VOTE PRO!
Guidestone

Con

I would like to continue this maybe during spring break, as it is a topic I must look up a lot about since I don't know much right off hand, so I need lots of time.
Debate Round No. 5
1 comment has been posted on this debate.
Posted by bsh1 2 years ago
bsh1
Aaaghhh!

Forgot to include my two sources for R3. Apologies!

1 - http://en.wikipedia.org...
2 - http://www.monticello.org...

They would have fit in the word limit, so I'm NOT going over capacity, just in case anyone's interested.
3 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 3 records.
Vote Placed by YYW 2 years ago
YYW
bsh1GuidestoneTied
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Total points awarded:30 
Reasons for voting decision: PRO posited a clear argument demonstrating that there exists a separation between church and state in law and in effect. CON did not counter, in any meaningful way. I'd go into more details, but given what became of the later rounds there is really no point.
Vote Placed by iamanatheistandthisiswhy 2 years ago
iamanatheistandthisiswhy
bsh1GuidestoneTied
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Total points awarded:30 
Reasons for voting decision: The concession leads to argument points for Pro. With respect to conduct, I will not award points as both debaters were respectful. Also sources and S&G were tied. I am impressed with the amount of work both debaters put into sourcing their arguments. Hope you can pick this debate up again at a later time.
Vote Placed by Wylted 2 years ago
Wylted
bsh1GuidestoneTied
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Total points awarded:31 
Reasons for voting decision: Con concedes