What does seperation of Church and State really mean?
Con must clarify his/her position in the first round.
Looking forward to a great debate. :)
Let us look, first of all, at the difference between my opponent's and my own stance.
My opponent holds the view that the "Separation of Church and State" was not meant to keep any religion out of the government, but rather keep the church from becoming the government.
I hold the view that it was meant to keep the government from interfering with people's personal beliefs.
Instead of trying to build a background off of what I interpret to be the motivation behind this "separation of Church and State", I'm going to look at the letter that Thomas Jefferson wrote to the Danbury baptists itself.
To messers. Nehemiah Dodge, Ephraim Robbins, & Stephen S. Nelson, a committee of the Danbury Baptist association in the state of Connecticut.
The affectionate sentiments of esteem and approbation which you are so good as to express towards me, on behalf of the Danbury Baptist association, give me the highest satisfaction. my duties dictate a faithful and zealous pursuit of the interests of my constituents, & in proportion as they are persuaded of my fidelity to those duties, the discharge of them becomes more and more pleasing.
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. Adhering to this expression of the supreme will of the nation in behalf of the rights of conscience, I shall see with sincere satisfaction the progress of those sentiments which tend to restore to man all his natural rights, convinced he has no natural right in opposition to his social duties.
I reciprocate your kind prayers for the protection & blessing of the common father and creator of man, and tender you for yourselves & your religious association, assurances of my high respect & esteem.
This isn't the debate I intended to have, but it is interesting to me. I'd like my opponent to consider we might be arguing a position so similar, it is hard to distinguish.
I do not disagree with Con that one of the intents of "no law respecting religion" was to keep the method of worship up to the individual.
"We hold it for a fundamental and undeniable truth, “that Religion or the duty which we owe to our Creator and the Manner of discharging it, can be directed only by reason and conviction, not by force or violence.” The Religion then of every man must be left to the conviction and conscience of every man; and it is the right of every man to exercise it as these may dictate. This right is in its nature an unalienable right. It is unalienable; because the opinions of men, depending only on the evidence contemplated by their own minds, cannot follow the dictates of other men: It is unalienable also; because what is here a right towards men, is a duty towards the Creator. It is the duty of every man to render to the Creator such homage, and such only, as he believes to be acceptable to him. This duty is precedent both in order of time and degree of obligation, to the claims of Civil Society. Before any man can be considered as a member of Civil Society, he must be considered as a subject of the Governor of the Universe: And if a member of Civil Society, who enters into any subordinate Association, must always do it with a reservation of his duty to the general authority; much more must every man who becomes a member of any particular Civil Society, do it with a saving of his allegiance to the Universal Sovereign. We maintain therefore that in matters of Religion, no man’s right is abridged by the institution of Civil Society, and that Religion is wholly exempt from its cognizance. True it is, that no other rule exists, by which any question which may divide a Society, can be ultimately determined, but the will of the majority; but it is also true, that the majority may trespass on the rights of the minority."
James Madison – Memorial and Remonstrance Against Religious Assessments (1785) (1)
However, from the same document, we see:
"What influence in fact have ecclesiastical establishments had on Civil Society? In some instances they have been seen to erect a spiritual tyranny on the ruins of the Civil authority; in many instances they have been seen upholding the thrones of political tyranny: in no instance have they been seen the guardians of the liberties of the people. Rulers who wished to subvert the public liberty, may have found an established Clergy convenient auxiliaries. A just Government instituted to secure & perpetuate it needs them not."
The only practical way for a governing construct (in this case, the Constitution) to truely ensure liberty of conscience in worship, AND keep the ambitious from using "established Clergy [as] convenient auxiliaries," was to put restrictions on how far official members of one could intrude into another. Another quote from Madison from the same site:
"Besides the danger of a direct mixture of religion and civil government, there is an evil which ought to be guarded against in the indefinite accumulation of property from the capacity of holding it in perpetuity by ecclesiastical corporations. The establishment of the chaplainship in Congress is a palpable violation of equal rights as well as of Constitutional principles. The danger of silent accumulations and encroachments by ecclesiastical bodies has not sufficiently engaged attention in the U.S."
– “Monopolies, Perpetuities, Corporations, Ecclesiastical Endowments”
However, we can also see from the first quote that the founders saw fear of Creator God within society, and especially the governors, as vital to the function of a Civil society.
I thank my opponent for his response. This debate is interesting to me, too (In part, because of how similar our positions are).
My opponent holds the view that the "Separation of Church and State" was not meant to keep any one religion out of the government, but rather keep the church from becoming the government. He claims that the founders wanted fear of the Christian God to prevalent and shown throughout our legislation, but didn't want the church to take over the government.
I hold the view that it separation of Church and State was meant to keep the government from interfering with people's personal beliefs, not to keep certain people out of government.
Another clarification is in order. What do we mean by "Separation of Church and State"? It is my belief that we are referring to the idea put forth in the Danbury Letter. That means we are talking about what Jefferson himself intended when he used the phrase "Separation between Church and State". Clearly, from the letter itself, Jefferson is supporting my position. While he may also have supported Con's ideas, that was not what he was referring to when talking about this separation.
We can talk about what Separation of Church and State should mean... but that's another debate entirely.
Jefferson made it clear to the Danbury baptists that the government was not going to become involved in personal beliefs. He made no mention of keeping heads of church out of the state. In fact, we have no such laws. Pastors and priests are free to run for office, just like anyone else.
This wall between Church and State was to keep the government from reaching into the church and telling them what to believe. That's why we have the first amendment. This is what was meant by Jefferson when he penned the immortal phrase centuries ago... and this is what he meant now.
Note: While I don't think they're entirely relevant to our round (for reasons stated above), I do love that you quoted the Federalist Papers. :)
Our positions are indeed very similar. If this debate were only about the meaning of what was referred to in the Danbury Letter as "Separation of Church and State," my opponent's position would be entirely valid. But I am referring to the idea of which Jefferson was referring, not just the most famous instance it received it's namesake. (Whether I made this clear enough will be up to the voters.)
Consider: Jefferson and Madison were close enough in beliefs on government that they were co-founders of the Democratic-Republican Party.
Also, Madison studied Theology post-graduate. Officially he's clergy, yet became president. Clearly, he did not see this as a violation of separation of church and state, even though he was instrumental in the Bill of Rights passing. My opponent is correct is pointing out that clergy may become public servants.
We must conclude that both Jefferson and Madison's views on this subject were very similar. In fact, a parallel to the Danbury Letter in Madison's hand, as I mentioned earlier:
"We maintain therefore that in matters of Religion, no man’s right is abridged by the institution of Civil Society, and that Religion is wholly exempt from its cognizance."
James Madison – Memorial and Remonstrance Against Religious Assessments (1785)
Since they were evidently on the same page on these issues, (unless my opponent can present evidence to the contrary, even in the last round, just so we can see it), we must conclude that Jefferson also agreed that organizations of religion and government should remain seperate, without excluding religious ideas, persons and principals.
I maintain that my argument is not invalid because of the stated views of key founder James Madison.
Niether is my opponent's view invalid, but it is only half of it. He's saying because a coin has a head, the tail isn't legitimate. I say they're both legit.
Thanks for the challenging and civil debate.
Jefferson's idea is exactly what we're referring to. My opponent claims that separation of Church and State means many different things, all based on historical events and other more prominent people's opinions at the time. Pro has offered up a lot of evidence for why there should be a separation of Church and State, as well as what motivated some others to write up the first amendment. But the phrase "separation between Church and State" is specific to the Danbury letter that Jefferson wrote.
We can talk about what is should mean. But that's not the resolution. What did Jefferson mean? What does it mean?
Jefferson and Madison were hardly in 100% agreement. In fact, many of the founders disagreed on a lot of things. To say that, because they collaborated on the same document, they're of the same mind in all things... would be a bit far-fetched, to say the least. My opponent's attempt to make me prove that they were not in agreement is clever, but illogical. He is the one trying to make the assertment, and he should prove his own statements before asking me to refute them.
But nonetheless, the quote from Madison clearly supports my point. He was referring to a wall that the government cannot hurdle; a wall between the state and religion.
My opponent wants you to believe that the idea of a separation between church and state goes both ways. If you cast a vote for Pro, you truly have to believe with 100% positivity that Pro proved Jefferson wanted no church involvement in the government. By Pro's own concession, the founders were of the mindset that a Christian nation was desirable! There is no law keeping church leaders out of government, or churches from participating in politics at all.
The separation of church and state is simply meant to protect you, whether you be Christian, Muslim, Bhuddist, Atheist, or Agnostic... from the government telling you what to believe. There is no direct evidence suggesting Jefferson, or even the other founders of the Consitution, ever meant it to mean anything else.
Thank you, my opponent. This was fun, and you're a good debater. I hope to do this again sometime with you. :)
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