The Fight between Church and State

Dustin White

Separation of church and state. It is a hot button issue; one that gets thrown around quite a bit, while not fully being understood.

Recently, while reading through various news stories, I came across a comment that made me think about this topic. I don’t recall what the story I was reading was about, but this individual’s comment stuck in my head never the less.

The claim that was made was that, because of separation of church and state, they were unable to bring a Bible into school. While there certainly could have been an incidence in which an individual is not allowed to bring a Bible into a school, such an event would not have anything to do with the separation of church and state, and is highly unlikely.

Now, it has been over a decade since I went to high school. At the time, and little has changed, I loved studying religion. With that being so, it wasn’t uncommon for me to openly bring some sort of religious book to school, including the Bible, Quran or a part of the Vedas.

For me, there was never a problem. And why should there be, as the school library contained copies of various Bibles. Even more, in the World Literature course I took, we read passages from various religious books, including the Bible. These passages were printed in approved text books.

Going to a public college, Bismarck State, it became clear as to why it was perfectly fine to read the Bible in school; as long as one didn’t cross boundary lines.

In an introductory religion course, those enrolled were taught what the First Amendment protects, and more so, what it allows.

Because of the First Amendment, religious works, including the Bible, are able to be taught, and read openly in a school. In the same regards, prayer can also be openly done in school, without problem.

However, there is a boundary that can’t be crossed, and it consists of not favoring one religion over another, or imposing a religion on another.

That is wherein lies a major problem. While one can teach the Bible in school, it must be done in a manner as to not infringe on the rights of others, or as to favor one religion over another.

The task is not all that difficult, but it does require an individual who will not force their personal views on another.

Thus, studying religious works equally, as literature and not holy scripture, is perfectly fine in a school setting. Going a step further, in the case of students, holding a public prayer session, or Bible study on school grounds, as long as it isn’t disruptive or intent on forcing others into such events, are protected acts.

This doesn’t mean that all holy scriptures, or all views must be taught. Such a task is virtually impossible. It doesn’t have to be all or nothing. Favoring simply can’t take place.

The idea of separation of church and state largely play into this same idea. It was not intended to punish those individuals who are religious, or to strip away their freedoms, but instead, serve to protect all.

While it is true that separation of church and state was partially meant to keep religion out of the government, it also served to keep the government out of religion.

Instead of being able to impose a state religion, a religion supported by the government, the intention of the First Amendment and the idea of separation of church and state was to allow for religious freedom. Not just freedom for those in the religion of those who ruled, but for all.

Navigating through such a state of things has become quite difficult, as religion is often inherently tied into a person’s ideas and beliefs. However, it does become necessary to make the separation, so that all of us can have that freedom of religion, or in some cases, freedom from religion.