Roger Ebert: Don’t Tear Down That Wall!
A great many Americans no longer believe in the separation of Church and State, and indeed deny it is a principle found in the Constitution. Yet the wording of the First Amendment is quite clear, and its importance to the founders is underlined by its being first. Certainly it was clear to Thomas Jefferson, who wrote, “I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should ‘make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,’ thus building a wall of separation between Church & State.”
That’s why it’s alarming to see so many politicians proposing to tear down that wall. It’s most evident in the eagerness of states to permit the teaching of Creationism (in the guise of Intelligent Design) in public schools, despite the ruling of a Pennsylvania U. S. District Court that “the overwhelming evidence at trial established that ID is a religious view, a mere re-labeling of creationism, and not a scientific theory.”
The other high-profile test of separation of Church and State comes in the attempt to legislate birth control, abortion and other matters pertaining to birth. We now have a likely Republican ticket which would ban all funds for Planned Parenthood, outlaw abortion even in cases of rape and incest, and allow employers to deny women access to cancer screenings and birth control. The likely vice presidential candidate, Paul Ryan, would go even farther. He is co-sponsor of a bill before the house that would criminalize in-vitro fertilization.
Read the rest: [Link: blogs.suntimes.com…]
John F. Kennedy:
I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute—where no Catholic prelate would tell the President (should he be Catholic) how to act, and no Protestant minister would tell his parishioners for whom to vote—where no church or church school is granted any public funds or political preference—and where no man is denied public office merely because his religion differs from the President who might appoint him or the people who might elect him.
I believe in an America that is officially neither Catholic, Protestant nor Jewish—where no public official either requests or accepts instructions on public policy from the Pope, the National Council of Churches or any other ecclesiastical source—where no religious body seeks to impose its will directly or indirectly upon the general populace or the public acts of its officials—and where religious liberty is so indivisible that an act against one church is treated as an act against all.
That is the kind of America in which I believe. And it represents the kind of Presidency in which I believe—a great office that must neither be humbled by making it the instrument of any one religious group nor tarnished by arbitrarily withholding its occupancy from the members of any one religious group. I believe in a President whose religious views are his own private affair, neither imposed by him upon the nation or imposed by the nation upon him as a condition to holding that office.