Once again, the idea of the separation of church and state is grossly misunderstood, mis-applied and mis-used. In a news article on OneNewsNow.com, Bill Bumpas writes about a problem at a Chicago school talent show. The problem? Two girls wanted to perform a song with Christian lyrics.
According to the article, Liberty Counsel founder Mat Staver reported that “when it was learned that the song they wanted to sing was ‘Call on Jesus,’…” the school principal and superintendent said that it was religious, it had religious overtones and they were advised by counsel that “‘the separation of church and state’ required them to eliminate such material from the student talent show.” (emphasis mine)
OK, really? Do we actually know what the separation of church and state is all about? Do people actually recognize, anymore, what the first amendment actually is, what and who it protects and why? I mean, seriously!
The purpose of the first amendment was actually to protect churches from the state, not the other way around.
If anyone happens to remember something from high school American history class, you may remember that part of the reason the colonists left England for the “new world” was in order to practice their religious beliefs without being restricted by the government (or king) and forced to adhere to a government- (or monarch-) imposed religion.
On the flip side, it is a serendipity that this amendment also ensures that the church cannot dictate government policy. However, that was not, from what I’ve read about it, the main goal of the amendment. The main goal was to ensure that the government could not force people to adhere to a particular religion.
Now, how does this apply here? Well, by allowing two female students to sing a song that espouses their own personal religious beliefs, the school (as a governmental agency) is not “sponsoring” any particular religion.
The school doesn’t have to comment on anything regarding these girls’ beliefs at all or in any way. Now, if the were to comment on these beliefs, whether to confirm or deny them, that would start to look like a violation of the “separation of church and state.”
This is not the first time I’ve seen an article or heard about a story in which a public school official attempted (or succeeded at) preventing a member of the student body (who, by the way, does not represent a government agency in the sense of having any legal authority) from making any statement that in any way makes reference to their own personal faith.
The first amendment is not about the separation of individuals and state. It is to ensure that the local, state and federal governments (not necessarily the individuals who make up the government) cannot force citizens to adhere to a prescribed religion.
Is this really so difficult to understand? Is it that hard? Really?
If we’re not preventing girls from singing about Jesus at a school, we’re trying to prevent a Christian concert from being held on a military base or keeping a valedictorian from mentioning their faith at a commencement speech or stopping private citizens from praying together on the steps of the United States Supreme Court, we’re making some other insanely hypersensitive ploy to keep God out of everything, always, everywhere.
People, let’s please learn to better understand what separation of church and state means. Particularly, let’s make sure we understand what it meant to the original authors. Creating legislation to force a religion upon the citizens of the United States is galaxies away from a couple of girls singing a song that mentions Jesus in a local school talent show.
Rant complete….for now.
Grace, love and peace.
Daniel is an Elite Trainer at (ISSA) International Sports Sciences Association. He has been working in IT since 1995 primarily in Windows environments with TCP/IP networking through 2012, shifted to Red Hat Enterprise Linux in 2012 and AWS in 2017.