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Separation of Church and State Is So Misunderstood

Separation of Church and State Is So Misunderstood

Without a doubt, the U.S. Supreme Court has had a pretty eventful year. It is quite fascinating, to me, to observe how different people react to the court’s various rulings. Over the years, rulings have come down on both sides of the fence, with political conservatives sometimes being very disappointed with the outcome, and political liberals being disappointed at other times.

Almost without exception, the losing side gears up to try to get around the rulings they don’t like. Variously they will generate more court cases, try to pass new legislation, and even participate in protests. And this is the way it should be under the American political system. It is the way our system is designed to work.

But increasingly, those on the political left are resorting to extra legal tactics. They are advocating and engaging in violence, intimidation of judges, personal targeting of political opponents, and even deliberate flaunting of the law.

One of the court’s rulings this year dealt with a 1st Amendment case. It seems that since 1873, the state of Maine has provided tuition assistance to students who do not attend public schools. This included assistance for students in any private school – that is until 1981 when a law was enacted to exclude religious schools.  The philosophical basis of the 1981 law began with the premise that giving money to religious schools violated the separation of church and state. Well, just recently, the Supreme Court ruled this to be viewpoint discrimination and struck down the Maine law.

Maine’s attorney general, Aaron Frey, responded with outrage asserting that the schools involved in the lawsuit have policies that discriminate against students and staff in terms of sexual orientation or gender identity. It is his contention that “public education should expose children to a variety of viewpoints, promote tolerance and understanding, and prepare children for life in a diverse society” (that is unless the viewpoints kids are being exposed to do not reflect his atheistic values). He went on to say that Christian beliefs about homosexuality, and sexuality in general, promote discrimination, intolerance, and bigotry. He has made it clear that he is going to try to enact further legislation that will bypass the Supreme Court’s ruling.

Apparently without realizing it, Frey is attempting to do something that he claims to be against.  In fact, there are a couple of major problems with his reasoning.

First of all, the concept of separation of church and state is not in the U.S. Constitution. As it relates to the topic of religion, the 1st Amendment says, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” This is not a prohibition against government interacting with religion. Rather it has to do with government not favoring one religion over another – particularly as it relates to establishing a state church.

The second problem with Frey’s reasoning is that in pushing against providing state funding for religious schools, he is actually promoting the funding of schools that have a different religious foundation. This may seem a little strange to some, but it is an actual fact.

You see, there is no such thing as neutrality when it comes to religious beliefs. Frey’s belief that a secular public school does not represent a religious belief is simply not true. The values he is wanting to promote (transgenderism, homosexuality, etc.) are based on a naturalistic worldview – which is inherently a faith based point of view. It is just a different religion from the one he wants to exclude.

Separation of church and state is simply not what Frey thinks it is. And neutrality regarding religious beliefs is also not what he thinks it is. What he ends up with is discrimination in the name of non-discrimination. He is certainly free to hold his point of view, but as he advocates for his point of view, he needs to realize the nature of his religious prejudices and be willing to debate those who believe his beliefs to be wrong.

Freddy Davis is the president of MarketFaith Ministries. He is the author of numerous books and has a background as an international missionary, pastor, radio host, worldview trainer, and entrepreneur. Freddy is a graduate of Florida State University with a BS in Communication, and holds MDiv and DMin degrees from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. He is a popular speaker, particularly on the topic of worldview and its practical implications for the Christian life. He lives in Tallahassee, FL, with his wife Deborah.

You may also contact Freddy at Leadership Speakers Bureau to schedule him for speaking or leadership engagements.

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