We have based the very existence of our country on the belief that complete separation of church and state is best for the church and is best for the state. However, throughout history the roles between religion and American public life remain interwoven and continue to shape our beliefs and values.
In order to begin to understand the role of religion in American public life, one must first recognize that religion is present in many aspects of one's life. Even though the United States' Constitution provides for separation of religion and government, most aspects of government include religion as a basis for its operating procedures. The U.S. Senate and House of Representatives begin each session with prayer. Another example of the presence of religion occurs at the Colorado State Capital, as well as in other state capitals. Some members of both houses think that praying within government agencies is wrong. There are many Senators and Representatives who wait outside for the prayer to be over before entering the room. Some members have even tried to prevent priests, ministers and rabbis from coming into the House to give the prayer (Associated Press).
In some regions it is difficult for the government to know when to celebrate religion during the holidays since many holiday scenes revolve around a religious message. In the past, some government officials have been asked not to display holiday scenes on public property, but have been encouraged to place non-religious signs in the area instead. Religious critics believe having a religious message at a government place could be a violation to the First Amendment (Leaming).
Another example of how religion is interwoven with public life occurred when a group of Fellowship of Christian Athletes at Pearl River Central High School put on an assembly that was supposed to last an hour and a half but it ended up lasting about five hours. Student attendance was voluntary. Some people thought it was wrong for the principal to allow the students to hold the assembly and to actively participate in it as well; they believed that this was violating the law. However, having this assembly at school changed many students' outlook on life (Biema). Inviting other religious leaders to explain their beliefs might also have been beneficial. As a nation whose motto is, "In God We Trust," public schools should welcome the opportunity of teaching different religions in healthy and wholesome ways without fear of violating the First Amendment.
Members of the Religious Liberty, Public Education, and the Future of American Democracy developed six categories explaining what they thought were some conflicts between religion and education. Their statements were based on the First Amendment. One of these categories suggests that public schools should not try to force religion, but schools should not punish those who wish to pray at school either. Schools need to treat an individual with respect and honor...