February 11, 2013

Robert P. George on the Separation of Church and State

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K_WleE88CYs]

 

Defenders of a “naked public square,” a public square where religious belief is not permitted to influence any decisions, often point to the 1st Amendment of the Constitution of the United States. However, in this short video Robert P. George argues that this is a misunderstanding of the purpose of the amendment.

Regarding religion, the amendment reads, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…” The important word is Congress. The constitution only ensures that the federal government will not establish a national religion or favor any religion in particular. As Dr. George rightly points out, the states in the Union had their own established churches for quite sometime. They eventually were disbanded but not because of their constitutionality or lack thereof.

In my undergraduate days, I remember a professor, after giving a lecture on the Constitution, saying in the question and answer period, “If a county in Utah wanted to ban certain four letter words on the radio, the Republic would not fall tomorrow.” The Constitution is what literally constitutes our Republic, keeping it strong, vibrant, and healthy. The Founding Fathers prudently saw that, while the Federal government should be barred from influencing religion, civil society on the local level benefits when religion is able to enter into the public square.