There is a non-profit organization in the U.S. called Americans United for Separation of Church and State (Americans United). It claims to be a “nonpartisan educational organization dedicated to preserving the constitutional principle of church-state separation as the only way to ensure religious freedom for all Americans.” They believe that religious freedom in America rests on “the wall of separation between church and state.” They affirm that “a high and firm barrier between the institutions of religion and government” must exist to accomplish this purpose.
Of course, the focus of the work of Americans United is totally misguided. They entirely miss the point of what is put forth in the first amendment to the U.S. Constitution. So called church-state separation is about the U.S. government not having the right to establish a state church, not about keeping religious institutions from having an influence on public policy.
But ideas are ideas, and some set of ideas will inform every element of the formation of law and public policy put forth by our politicians. For some reason, people like those associated with Americans United believe that ideas which come from a “secular source” are less religious in nature than those which come from a “Christian source.”
The truth is, they all come from a religious source. The so called “secular source” is not actually secular at all. Every source for the ideas which are put into effect in public policy have their origin in some worldview. And a worldview is a set of beliefs. Just because secularists don’t tend to have an organized church that they attend doesn’t mean that their ideas are not religious.
- Americans United pushes against teaching creation in public schools and for teaching only the theory of evolution. But the theory of evolution is not science – it is an organized way of teaching naturalistic philosophy (a religious idea).
- Americans United has lobbied hard against a legal definition of one man/one woman marriage, believing that the state should not hold this as a legal position. However, not having it in law allows unelected judges to makes homosexual marriage the law of the land by decree. This moral/religious position then becomes the legal position of the state.
- Americans United tries to prevent pastors from talking, in their churches, about how particular politicians and political policy affect the free exercise of religion in society. They believe churches shouldn’t be “involved in politics.” Never mind that their own position is, again, based on a set of “beliefs” which deprive other citizens of their ability to express their faith in the public square.
This list could go on and on. The point is, some set of beliefs will be the foundation for life in modern society. The attempt to substitute traditional American values (based on Christian Theism) for a different set of values (based on Naturalistic beliefs) using church-state separation of as a pretext is quite disingenuous. As Christians we have not only the right to promote our faith in the public square, but a solemn duty to do so. And our purpose is not to create a religious society, but to create an atmosphere of freedom where the work of God is able to be freely promoted.