Separation of church and state

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"The separation of church and state is a concept and philosophy in modern thought and practice, whereby the structures of state or national government are proposed as needing to be separate from those of religious institutions. The concept has long been a topic of political debate throughout history." -- [W]

United States

This separation has grown into a significant ongoing issue in the United States.

On one side is the "Establishment Clause" of the US Constitution's First Amendment which states that "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion". While somewhat ambiguously worded, this has been generally taken to mean that the government may not take any actions that deliberately favor one religion over another.

On the other side, there has been a strong, generally authoritarian cultural movement to "include [the Christian] God" in daily life, and to "put God back" into various arenas from which religion had generally been excluded. Supporters, especially on the religious right, claim that the US is a Christian nation, often backing up this claim with revisionist history and quotes from early US historical documents taken out of context.

Some resultant issues include prayer in public schools and the wording of The Pledge of Allegiance.

Points for Discussion

  • How is it bad if God is excluded? How is it bad if God is included? Does "including God" include all religions, or are some disqualified as being pagan, heathen, etc.?
  • Why should an atheist feel excluded, or even threatened, when God is mentioned? (see discussion page for more)

Related Pages


Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said (emphasis added):

The church must be reminded that it is not the master or the servant of the state, but rather the conscience of the state. It must be the guide and the critic of the state, and never its tool. If the church does not recapture its prophetic zeal, it will become an irrelevant social club without moral or spiritual authority.

(source needed)



Filed Links



This page is in need of updating. This section should probably have its own page for separation of school and state, which could discuss topics such as the misuse of the term "academic freedom"