Separation of Church and State
Humans have historically sought to align themselves with their fellows. What some might call tribalism., such side choosing first merged with modern weaponry and larger populations during the Seventeenth Century when religious division led to the so-called wars of “all against all.” Widespread violence of Catholic against Protestant led the call for a better way.
The Eighteenth Century’s response to the carnage of religious based wars included, on the one hand, the rise of absolutist police states, and, on the other, the neutralization of religion as a basis of division. This neutralization, also known as the separation of church and state, occurred primarily in the United States with the adoption of the First Amendment to the Constitution.
The Founding Fathers witnessed the police state option and the problem of religious based societies rejecting this combination as always favoring one faction and implicitly creating the seeds of revolution when one group inevitably loses their full rights of citizenship. The Bill of Rights prohibited the government establishing one religion because favoritism would eventually lead to inequality of opportunity. The separation of church and state has allowed America to avoid a significant impetus to tribalism and violence, one that has plagued so many.
Concurrently, religious liberty flourished in America with groups worshiping without government interference. Recently, the US Supreme Court significantly softened the separation of church and state by allowing the use of public funds to build ¾and therefore establish ¾a Christian Cross. In American Legion v. American Humanist Association, 588 U.S. ___ (2019), the court broke with years of precedent affirming neutrality to allow the construction. As Justice Ginsberg noted in her dissent, “Today the Court erodes that neutrality commitment, diminishing precedent designed to preserve individual liberty and civic harmony in favor of a “presumption of constitutionality for longstanding monuments, symbols, and practices.”
In a country based on the rule of law, favoring one group over another eventually leads to nepotism and corruption. When the game is stacked and playing fair no longer works, violence typically ensues. It is in decisions such as American Legion, seemingly innocuous permission to faraway symbols, that the foundation of favoritism is laid.
At The Bruce Law Firm, we are dedicated to protecting your rights. In doing so, we are also protecting our democracy.