The Instigator
Skynet
Pro (for)
Losing
0 Points
The Contender
JustinAMoffatt
Con (against)
Winning
3 Points

What does seperation of Church and State really mean?

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Post Voting Period
The voting period for this debate has ended.
after 1 vote the winner is...
JustinAMoffatt
Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 6/17/2014 Category: Politics
Updated: 2 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 658 times Debate No: 56776
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (8)
Votes (1)

 

Skynet

Pro

I'll be arguing that the Separation of Church and State in the US was not meant to create a secular government, clear of all religious motivations, but was rather a limit on institutional power, similar to the separation of powers between the three branches.

Con must clarify his/her position in the first round.
JustinAMoffatt

Con

I'll debate from the stance that the separation of church and state was designed to prevent a so-called "religious government." This isn't to say that the founders intended to keep religion out of government, but rather sought to keep the government from following or imposing any one religion.

Looking forward to a great debate. :)
Debate Round No. 1
Skynet

Pro

Historical perspective is vital in understanding the intended nature of American separation of church and state. Many of the key foundational English colonies were founded by those fleeing religious persecution. These were Puritans, who were trying to "purify" the new Anglican church, which is directly part of the British government. The Monarch of England is still the head of the Church. One of the things the Puritans fought against was the opulence of the priesthood, an argument the crown thought might carry over to opposing the opulence of the royalty. To keep worship immune from the power hungry political rat race, and to keep the clergy from becoming too attractive for those who really wished to control national matters and gain possessions, as happens with high Catholic clergy, a separation of institutions was chosen.
JustinAMoffatt

Con

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.

It says:

To messers. Nehemiah Dodge, Ephraim Robbins, & Stephen S. Nelson, a committee of the Danbury Baptist association in the state of Connecticut.

Gentlemen

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.
Th Jefferson
Jan. 1. 1802.[1]


First of all, let us all take a moment to admire his vocabulary.

Secondly, let us take note of this specific part, right here:


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,

What Jefferson is clearly saying here is that he believes 1) religion is a matter between a man and his God, 2) man is not accountable to the government for his worship, and 3) The government can limit actions, but not opinions/faith.

Nowehere here is it mentioned that he was trying to keep the church out from taking over the government, or making any split of insitutional powers. Rather, he was attempting to keep the government from telling people what to believe.

The first amendment reads: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion."[2]

In other words: "Believe what you want, and the government won't stop you."

While Pro's position may have some validity to it, my position is backed up by Jefferson's own words and meaning... and the Constiution, itself.

Sources

[1] http://www.loc.gov...
[2] http://www.archives.gov...

Debate Round No. 2
Skynet

Pro

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.


(1) http://www.thefederalistpapers.org...



JustinAMoffatt

Con

I thank my opponent for his response. This debate is interesting to me, too (In part, because of how similar our positions are).

To reiterate:
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. :)
Debate Round No. 3
Skynet

Pro



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.

http://www.archives.gov...
JustinAMoffatt

Con

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. :)
Debate Round No. 4
8 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 8 records.
Posted by Skynet 2 years ago
Skynet
2.)

Bladerunner: Some of your confusion seems to come from not seeing the difference between religious rules, and religious organization. The truth of the matter is all those questions about who are we and where did we come from, and why are we here, that are answered by who is God, is there a god, how do we relate to God if he is there, will determine how you view people, yourself, and life. This will effect governing philosophy, views of right and wrong, how do I treat my neighbors, what is appropriate behavior, which are the core of how we organize a government.

Those questions are too big to not answer, and everyone does answer in one way or another.

Religious ideas cannot be distilled from government. The religious or counter-religious rules will always be at the core of government.

When an institution for self-willed worship becomes a tool for despots to control the masses, or a center for worship becomes a ladder to promote people to despotism that's when it's really bad.

Religious/anti-religious philosophies are inseparable from government, but the hierarchical structures can be separated so there isn't one big institution with two dishonest ways of getting to the top.
Posted by Skynet 2 years ago
Skynet
1.)

This was a challenge for me as our positions were SO similar. I was expecting to debate someone who thinks that the founders intended a secular government, basically, getting rid of the Bible, since I hear that position fairly often.

Bladerunner: Let's see if I can clarify my position: Much of what was done during the founding was in response to problems with prior governments. Since ancient times, clergy have had not just had great influence in government, they and their religions have institutionally, and organizationally, become part of the government. More than say, Baptist Minister Mike Huckabee becoming governor of Arkansas, the 10 commandments being posted in court, or a state-paid chaplain. Rome had sanctioned religions. In certain times and places, Christians that refused to pay homage at the altar of the Imperial Cult were persecuted, many times lethally. In Acts, Paul was suspected of "advocating foreign gods" (non-sanctioned religion) when he presented the gospel on Mar's Hill. In England during the reformation, Mary Queen of Scots murdered non-Catholics. Her successors who favored England being under the Anglican Church, persecuted those who wished to carry the new protestant church in similar directions as the rest of the Reformation.

If the past is repeated, and the government is allowed to merge with a church, it would be within reason to expect a leader some day to declare that if you aren't practicing X religion to a high degree of specificity, or specific parts of a religion dictated by the leader(s), you are not an American, maybe even treasonous. Being in the church would no longer be about worship by the parishioner, but control by the leader(s). Also, people would join the clergy as a backdoor, falsely pious way of becoming a powerful politician.
Posted by bladerunner060 2 years ago
bladerunner060
RFD 1/3:

I am, to some extent, at a loss in regards to this debate.

The title was a question.

The clarified resolution was: "The Separation of Church and State in the US was not meant to create a secular government, clear of all religious motivations, but was rather a limit on institutional power, similar to the separation of powers between the three branches."

I'm not sure how those two positions are different--and it's up to Pro to distinguish them.

Pro says in R2 that "to keep the clergy from becoming too attractive for those who ... wished to control national matters ... a separation of institutions was chosen." That seems to be Pro admitting to a separation between government and religion. I'm still not clear how he's differentiating a government which is separate from religion and a "secular government, clear of all religious motivations".

Con makes the best attempt to try to explain the difference between the two positions saying:

"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."

Again, I'm not really clear how these positions are meaningfully distinguished.

Pro opens the next round with the observation that they "might be arguing a position so similar, it is hard to distinguish". This is...an understatement indeed.

He agrees with Pro that "one of the intents...was to keep the method of worship up to the individual".

Then he says that "however, from the same document, we see:" and then gives a quote. The quote clearly argues against "a direct mixture of religion and civil government" right at the very beginning--I'm once again a bit confused by his position, as he moves on to say that the Founders "saw fear of Creator God...as vital to the function of a Civil society".
Posted by bladerunner060 2 years ago
bladerunner060
RFD 2/3:

I'm unclear how this relates to his case.

Con tries to summarize Pro's position. It's up to Pro to contradict it if it's wrong. Con says that Pro "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." Con says he holds the view that " 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."

He clarifies that he thinks we're talking about the concept first explicitly called "separation" in the Danbury letter.

Con says that "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." I'm not sure Pro was arguing against this--but I'm not really sure what Pro's position WAS in contrast to Con's.

Pro admits in his final round that the Danbury letter supports Con. He says he's arguign "the idea of which Jefferson was referring".

Pro says that Jefferson and Madison had similar mindsets. Pro acknowledges that clergy can be publc servants.

Pro says "we must conclude that Jefferson also agreed that organizations of religion and government should remain seperate, without excluding religious ideas, persons and principals."

I'm, again, not sure what Pro's saying here. I mean, he seems to be advocating that religious notions can legitimately be put into law, while simultaneously admitting that religion and the state should be separate. He almost seems to be arguing that the organizations are the only parts that need be separate, but if the state is passing an organizations rules as law, it would seem as though the two are entangled, and Pro hasn't really explicated himself enough for this to really make se
Posted by bladerunner060 2 years ago
bladerunner060
RFD 3/3:

Con begins to close by noting that this debate IS about Jefferson's ideas, and that "separation between Church and State" comes specifically from the Danbury letter.

Con notes that the founders did not agree on all things. I'm not sure, still, what bearing this has on the debate itself, but it's worth noting.

Con notes that Madison referred to a "wal that the government cannot hurdle; a wall between the state and religion."

Con says that his opponent "wants you to believe that the idea of a separation...goes both ways". I don't even know what this means, at this point. What two ways is it going?

In the end, for want of a clear and supported resolution, I'm going with Con for arguments. I'm actually not awarding sources, because the relevancy of the sources to the argument is unclear, since the ARGUMENT was unclear. I was on the fence about it, but the lack of a clear argument and difference between what Pro advocated for or against seems, to me, to make his sources far less relevant and, though reliable, their relevancy is also an important part of the source point. Both sides had fine conduct, and S&G was fine as well.

As always, happy to clarify this RFD.
Posted by Edd-C 2 years ago
Edd-C
The "Danbury letter" was a specific attempt (a trap, if you will) by the Association to prove or disprove notions that Jefferson was an Atheist, supposedly because he refused to use the office of the president to issue religious proclamations as did his two predecessors. That notwithstanding, Jefferson"s response was an effort to explain to the Association that the first amendment was a safeguard whose purpose was to prevent government from dictating the actions of the church, or the church from dictating the actions of government.

The phrase "Separation of church and state", therefore, was Jefferson"s way of saying that each operated independent of the other, and that neither could interfere with the will of the other; saving, of course, whatever influence religious disciplines had on decisions made by the various representatives. I would contend, in light of recent efforts to expel religion completely from the public discourse, that any law designed to quash the "free expression" of religion (just as any law that would promote that religion) is a flagrant violation of the first amendment, and should be struck down on those grounds.
Posted by JustinAMoffatt 2 years ago
JustinAMoffatt
Correct, Saxman. However, I'm talking specifically about in the first amendment. There it says, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion." I believe this was meant to prevent one "church" from being "the religion" of the U.S.
Posted by saxman 2 years ago
saxman
Correct me if I am wrong, but I believe Jefferson (or another founder) said this to a pastor when the pastor nervously questioned him on how the state would affect the Church. So separation of church and state was not made to keep church out of state, but state out of church. Now I am not saying to put church in state, just that church can be in the state, if the populous doesn't oppose it by majority. So a lot of modern day "Church and Staters" misinterpret the meaning. So religion can, but does not have to be, in the government.
1 votes has been placed for this debate.
Vote Placed by bladerunner060 2 years ago
bladerunner060
SkynetJustinAMoffattTied
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Total points awarded:03 
Reasons for voting decision: RFD in comments.