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Separation of church and state

Posted by Smokey Stover on December 30, 2007

In Reply to: Separation of church and state posted by ESC on December 23, 2007

: SEPARATION OF CHURCH AND STATE - (CBS) "In God We Trust" is right there on all our coins and currency. To find the phrase "Wall of Separation," however, you must go not to the Constitution or the Bill of Rights, but to a letter President Thomas Jefferson wrote to Connecticut Baptists in 1802. His words have guided us ever since, but what, in practical terms, do they mean? "Drawing The Line Between Church And State: A Closer Look At The Long History Behind Politics and Religion In America" by Martha Teichner. CBS Sunday Morning, December 23, 2007.

There was a time when I watched CBS's Sunday Morning regularly. But then I soured on all the "talking heads" shows and Sunday Morning got canceled on my TV. My loss, as that Martha Teichner episode shows. Her presentation gives me a new take on a subject of long-standing interest to me and others, and especially as regards Peter Stuyvesant and Dutch tradition. I grew up in a community dominated by the Dutch Reformed Church and its local congregants. The church Consistory saw to it that drinking, dancing and movies were not allowed, and intervened in a case or two of adultery. Predictably, when publicly practiced fun is not allowed, private fun happens anyway, and the roads into and out of town became the graveyard of the cars of people going out of town to drink. There was considerable evidence, as well, of other types of fun being practiced, especially by young people.

At the same time, there was a surprising degree of religious toleration. The Dutch Reformed people never showed any animosity or discriminatory treatment towards the handful of un-Dutch families that attended the Methodist Church. For reasons not of interest here, I attended both churches, and was never aware of any recriminatory remarks in either venue.

The article starts by mentioning the motto, "in God We Trust," now ubiquitous on American currency. I'm sure you've all heard how this began. Abraham Lincoln was constantly being nagged by religionaries to make some public connection between the nation and God. Hoping to put an end to this constant importuning, he had "In God We Trust" added to one of the minor coins. You know pretty much the rest. With their foot in the door (or their nose under the tent?) the religionaries just kept seeking more and more. And still keep at it.