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"Separation of church and state" issues

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  • "When the government puts its imprimatur on a particular religion it conveys a message of exclusion to all those who do not adhere to the favored beliefs. A government cannot be premised on the belief that all persons are created equal when it asserts that God prefers some." Supreme Court Justice Harry A. Blackmun. 1

  • "You don't believe in Separation of Church and State? Well, since you want your church to tell the government how to govern, does that mean the government can come into your church and tell you how to worship? Separation is for the protection of both." Zoe Anadon

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This section should really be called "religion and state," so that it represents a wall of separation between all religions -- Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Wicca, etc. -- and the federal, state and municipal governments in the U.S. However, the term "church and state" is so well entrenched that we will continue to use it here.

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This section discusses the following topics:

bulletIntroduction to the concept of separation of church and state, and the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution

bullet Religion in the U.S. public schools, libraries, etc. Praying, teaching religion, news items, etc.
bulletUnsuccessful Constitutional amendments during the 1990s to legalize public school prayer imposed by the school board
bullet The Istook Amendment (1995-1996)

bullet The Istook Amendment (1997)

bullet The Istook Amendment (1998-2001)

bulletChurch/state separation issues by local, state & federal governments:
bullet Primarily by municipalities and counties: Nativity displays, state/municipality mottos, symbols, crests, school and city council prayers, etc.

By state governments:

bullet By the U.S. Federal Government: Air Force Academy, Veterans' Admin., Chaplain service, and Bureau of Prisons
bulletOther issues:
bullet Congress moves to limit separation of church and state
bulletSupreme Court limits separation: "Hein v. Freedom From Religion Foundation"

bullet Reactions to this case
bullet Public opinion polls on church/state separation issues
bulletIRS conflicts with religious institutions

bullet Repudiation of separation of church and state by the Missouri House
bullet U.S. Rep. advocates for Christian-only congress and legislatures
bullet U.S. agencies active in church/state separation
bullet The Peace Cross conflict in Bladensburg, Maryland
bulletGod in the European Union constitution
bullet An article by Contributing Editor Susan Humphreys: "Here We Go Again:" A novel interpretation of the separaton of church and state, and what to do about it.

2019: The fate of the "Peace Cross" in Bladensburg, MD: Part 1 Part 2

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Related essays:

bullet Laws regarding religious freedom

bullet The Bible and public prayer

bullet "Charitable choice" - Government funding of religious programs

bullet Quotes about the wall of separation

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Helpful Resources

bullet The National Paralegal College has an excellent essay on freedom of religion and the Establishment Clause at:

bullet The Yahoo! search engine has a entire directory on church-state issues at:

bullet Plucked Strings: Liberal Christian Voices sells shirts, art, stationery and more. They have a "Separate Church and Hate" aisle at:

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Other references:

  1. U.S. Supreme Court ruling, Agostini v. Felton (1997), at:
  2. E.S. Gaustad, "Faith of Our Fathers: Religion and the New Nation", Harper & Row, New York, NY, (1987)
  3. James Davidson and Os Guiness, editors, "Articles of Faith, Articles of Peace: The Religious Liberty Clauses and the American Public Philosophy". Hunter, Washington DC (1990).
  4. A.A. Lipscomb & A.E. Bergh, editors, "The Writings of Thomas Jefferson", Washington, (1907), Vol. 16, P. 281
  5. Kristen J. Amundson, "Religion in the Public Schools", American Assn. School Administrators, 1986-JUN, ISBN: 087652109X
  6. Richard McMillan, "Religion in the Public Schools : An Introduction" , Mercer University Press, 1984-SEP, ISBN: 0865540934
  7. Deborah Mayo-Jefferies, "Religious Freedom in the Education Process: A Research Guide to Religion in Education (1950-1992)", William S Hein & Co., 1994-JUN, ISBN: 0899418716
  8. J.W. Whitehead, "The rights of Religious Persons in Public Education", Crossway, Wheaton, IL, (1994)
  9. Mary Leonard, "Religion and Politics: Christian soldiers march onward - and wayward", Boston Globe, Boston Ma, 1997-MAR-9
  10. Coalition to Preserve Religious Liberty, 200 Maryland Ave., N.E., Washington, D.C. 20002, (202) 544-4226
  11. Lemon vs. Kurtzman, Supreme Court ruling (1971) at:
  12. "Freedom of Religion," at:

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Copyright 1995 to 2011 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Last updated 2011-DEC-10
Author: B.A. Robinson

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