What the founders wanted was secular government

Published: Tuesday, January 2, 2007 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, January 1, 2007 at 11:26 p.m.
In his Dec. 27 letter, Carlos Javier Rosaly takes issue with a previous writer who explained what was meant by the phrase "separation of church and state." Rosaly seems to have an issue with the Supreme Court as he just waves off its decisions by claiming the justices are misguided. Rosaly goes on with a litany of supposed actions taken by some founders as proof that they would support displays of the Ten Commandments and nativity scenes on government property.
Rosaly seems to be the misguided one. Putting religious symbols on government property gives an appearance of establishing a particular religion. The public sphere should be left for all, whether of a particular faith or no faith at all.
The First Amendment assures all Americans that we can worship as we please or not worship at all without any government interference. Having a nativity scene on a courthouse lawn tells non-Christians that this courthouse has established Christianity as its religion. That is what the Supreme Court has ruled against and with good justification.
Church/state issues are not a recent issue as Rosaly contends. To name a few, Article 11 of the 1797 Treaty of Tripoli explicitly states that the United States is not a Christian nation. This treaty was ratified without dissent by the Senate. In December 1853, the Ohio Supreme Court ruled in Bloom v. Cornelius that "under the provisions of our constitution, neither Christianity nor any other system of religion is a part of the law of this state." In 1890 the Wisconsin Supreme Court struck down mandatory Bible reading.
The founders had ample opportunity to establish Christianity or any religion in the Constitution, but they did not. Clearly the founders wanted a secular government.

J.A. Newkirk,


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