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Separation of church and state issues

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Municipalities' and states' use of
religion in displays, mottos, & crests

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Quotations

bullet "Americans are being denied the right to express their religious speech in the public square." Ralph Reed, Christian Coalition.
bullet "There is no such source and cause of strife, quarrel, fights. malignant opposition, persecution, and war, and all evil in the state, as religion. Let it once enter our civil affairs, our government would soon be destroyed. Let it once enter our common schools, they would be destroyed." - Supreme Court of Wisconsin, Weiss v. District Board, 1890-MAR-18.

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Overview:

The 1st Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, as interpreted by the courts, guarantees that:

bullet individuals have freedom of religious expression and practice;
bullet the government and its agencies will not recognize one religious faith as more valid than any other faith;
bullet the government and its agencies will not promote religion above secularism or vice versa.

These principles are continuously in a state of creative tension:

bullet Many Americans feel that America was founded by Christians and remains a Christian nation, since about 75% of its population regard themselves as Christians. They would like to see their religion represented in municipal religious displays, etc. Any restrictions would be regarded as an infringement of their religious freedoms. Some would like to see all other religious excluded.
bullet Other individuals, both Christian and non-Christian, are opposed to their municipal government or state using religious symbols, displays or phrases. They feel that a wall of separation must be maintained between religion and governments at all levels. They regard this factor as outweighing any personal religious considerations that they might have. Many feel that the relative lack of religiously-motivated violence in the U.S. -- compared to that seen in the rest of the world -- is due to this principle of separation.

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Topics covered in this section:

bullet Municipalities' use of religious displays: crosses, nativity scenes, etc.
 
bullet Display of the "Seven Aphorisms" by Summum -- a religious group

 
bullet Municipalities' use of religious symbols: in their crests & seals

bullet The debate over the Redlands, CA, logo

bullet A typical "cultural" Christmas display which is constitutional

bullet State use of religious phrases: in their motto

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Related essays:

bullet Separation of church and state issues
bullet U.S. court rulings on separation of church and state
bullet Organizations dealing with separation issues

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Links to web sites which deal with separation issues:

bullet "The Constitutional Principle: Separation of Church and State," at: http://members.tripod.com/ is a web site that is totally devoted to this topic.
bullet A site with a list of links to other Internet locations dealing with separation of church and state is at: http://members.tripod.com/

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Site navigation:

 Home page > Religious law > here

or Home page > Religious law > Church-state separation > here

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Copyright 1998 to 2005 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Original publishing date: 1998-AUG-5
Latest update: 2005-DEC-18
Author: B.A. Robinson

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