Church-state relations in America has been widely discussed and hotly debated. One school of thought holds that the church should be absolutely separated from the state, while another holds that the church plays a moral role in state building and its sanctity, without which the state risks falling apart. In my discussion of the church-state relations, I state that the history of church-state relations has a Constitutional basis. Next, I discuss the two schools of thought in context and how they have shaped contemporary American political thought. Finally, I argue that the two schools of thought have a common ground. This is followed by a summary of my key arguments and a conclusion to my essay.
The First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States establishes religious freedom, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” Against the Constitutional background, Thomas Jefferson, a Founding Father, wrote a Bill for Establishing Religious Freedom. The Bill was passed in the Virginia General Assembly in 1777. However, Jefferson thought that it was not enough to have a Constitutional provision that debars Congress from establishing a religion for all; it was equally important to separate the Church from the state to allow Religious Freedom, so that each and every one will practice their religions freely without government restrictions. Thus, he opposed the interference of the state in religious practices. Secondly, Jefferson argued that if the state was allowed to interfere with the affairs of the church it will give the government the power to persecute those who oppose its policies. The man, whose ideas and ideals have been shaped by experience and practice, saw how the Church in England had been persecuted by the state, and therefore saw the need to protect the church in America with a Constitutional provision to prevent such occurrences in America.
Conversely, Jefferson warned that should religion be allowed to impose its opinion on the state it would deny the citizenry the full realization of their civil rights:
“That our civil rights have no dependence on our religious opinions, any more than our opinions in physics or geometry, that therefore the proscribing any citizen as unworthy the public confidence by laying upon him an incapacity of being called to offices of trust and emoluments, unless he professes or renounces this or that religious opinion, is depriving him injuriously of those privileges and advantages to which, in common with his fellow citizens, he has a natural right” (Krammick, p. 338).
Consequently, the church cannot unduly influence politicians on what positions to take on issues which border on, for example, civil liberties and scientific advancement, such as, gay rights, abortion, birth control, and stem cell research. If that is allowed, the church will unduly deny the citizens of their rights to choice. Moreover, a person seeking public office...