Separation of Church and State Critical Commentary

Posted on November 7, 2013 by

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A question that has been discussed in American government since the start of our great country: should we completely separate church and state? Should we intertwine the two when it seems most appropriate? How and who can decide when it is appropriate though? In a recent article written by Lauren Markoe on October 31, 2013 on the Religion News Service website, the Supreme Court is considering the use of religious prayer Greece, NY town hall meetings. In this blog I will offer counter points to the article’s arguments and also an analysis on the author’s writing in general.

To briefly summarize the article, the court case is Greece vs. Galloway and it came about when Two women, Susan Galloway who is Jewish and Linda Stephens who is an atheist, sued the town for promoting Christianity at town council meetings or in the article’s words, ” promoting Christianity in violation of the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause, which prohibits government-sponsored religion.” The case started out in federal court and the town of Greece, NY won in 2011. The case then gets interesting when Galloway and Stephens win in the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in 2012. The case is now about to be reviewed by the U.S Supreme Court. Now that you have a brief summary lets review the arguments on both sides.

The question at hand is how far can a town government push a certain religion, in this case Christianity. Jeff Mateer of the Texas based liberty institute says, “He hopes the court will reason that government has no business parsing the words of those who wish to pray in a public forum.” Jeff also says that the government has no right to prohibit what they can and can’t pray. He says that the people of the Greece community are Christians. The question I have to ask Jeff is what about those in the community who aren’t Christian? Is it fair to them that these town meetings open with prayers of Christianity and not of their religions?

Another argument on the side of the town of Greece is that of David Cortman of the Alliance Defending Freedom. David says, ” Americans today should be free as the Founders were to pray and In fact, the Founders prayed while drafting our Constitution’s Bill of Rights.” David has a great point, the founding fathers did pray while constructing our great nation. Although they were religious believers they made sure that Religion and State stayed completely separate. The First Amendment explicitly states that the importance of having no official church or creed and since the town council is considered a body of government who helps make decisions for the town should not be promoting Christianity in any way.

An interesting point that the USA today website makes is that ” If they do not allow it, well, then they’ve got to be looking at every other place where it’s been done.” Which is stating that every body of government in the country, from the biggest body to the smallest town government who uses the same language as Greece does will have to change. Then people of the religious communities can argue that there is no separation of church and state in the matter.

I was not very impressed with this article. I feel like the article was very biased. The author only offered arguments in favor of the town of Greece. Her article would have been more impressive to me if she had offered the other side’s arguments. She briefly mentioned why Galloway and Stephens sued but never offered up their arguments. If the author would have clearly stated their arguments then gave us clear counter arguments to Galloway and Stephens then I would have liked the article. The article was promoted by a religious news website so I understand why it was biased, but I wish I could have heard the other point of view on the issue.

I will give credit to the author though, because of her sources. She used quotes very well and used people from organizations that supported her claims, very effective. Such as using Ira Lupu a law professor at George Washington university.

Another effective tool the author used was the use of certain phrases that are meant to inspire and motivate the American people. These phrases would include, “The government can’t tell us what to pray (Jeff Mateer).” “Americans should be as free as our founders were to pray (David Cortman).” And “ This is about our principles (Ira Lupu).” The author’s language was in my opinion meant to inspire Americans to not let the government control their freedoms or in this case the right to pray before government meetings.

 

Citation

Markoe, Lauren. “Supreme Court to Consider Religious Prayer at Government Meetings | Religion News Service.” Religion News Service. Religion News Service, 31 Oct. 2013. Web. 06 Nov. 2013.

 

Ellis, Joseph. “The U.S. Founding Fathers: Their Religious Beliefs.” Encyclopedia Britannica Online. Encyclopedia Britannica, 23 Feb. 2007. Web. 06 Nov. 2013.

 

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