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FASHA’s Position on the Separation of Church and State
FASHA believes in the complete separation of church and the state, based on the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution (Establishment Clause) and legal precedents over the past 200+ years (most notably the Lemon Case, 1971).
“The Establishment Clause is the first of several pronouncements in the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, stating, Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion. Together with the Free Exercise Law (“… or prohibiting the free exercise thereof”), these two clauses make up what are called the “religion clauses” of the First Amendment. The establishment clause has generally been interpreted to prohibit 1) the establishment of a national religion by Congress, or 2) the preference by the U.S. government of one religion over another. The first approach is called the “separation” or “no aid” interpretation, while the second approach is called the “non-preferential” or “accommodation” interpretation. The accommodation interpretation prohibits Congress from preferring one religion over another, but does not prohibit the government’s entry into religious domain to make accommodations in order to achieve the purposes of the Free Exercise Clause”.(from Wikipedia)
If the state (federal, state and local governments) shows preference of one religion over another, this necessarily infringes on the rights and free expression of other religious beliefs or no religious belief.
“The Court’s decision in this case established the “Lemon test“, which details the requirements for legislation concerning religion. It consists of three prongs:
- The government’s action must have a secular legislative purpose;
- The government’s action must not have the primary effect of either advancing or inhibiting religion;
- The government’s action must not result in an “excessive government entanglement” with religion.
If any of these 3 prongs are violated, the government’s action is deemed unconstitutional under the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution”. (from Wikipedia)
The founding fathers established a secular government based on freedom of conscience and expression. This is of benefit to religious and non-religious individuals and organizations. The U.S. Constitution provides a framework for checks and balances that help to limit the state’s incursion into the personal rights of it’s citizens as set forth in the Bill of Rights and in doing so, also protects minority populations (including non-believers) from the abject rule of the majority. In terms of religion, this means that the state may not implicitly or explicitly favor one religion over another. We are all fortunate that the founders had the foresight to guarantee that ALL citizens, regardless of religious beliefs (and no belief) has equal protection and rights under the law.
Other Resources: ACLU and Freedom of Religion and Belief
FASHA members are committed to upholding their constitutional rights and the U.S. Constitution and in doing so, will challenge any violations (locally and nationally) and assertively work to keep church and state separate.