By Dale Hansen, Political Blogger, Detroit News.
From the responses to an article I wrote examining the concerns of conservative Christians over Tennessee schools’ teaching the five pillars of Islam…by far the most outrage centered on my statements regarding the separation of Church and State. “Where exactly in the U.S. Constitution does it address ‘separation of Church and State?’” and “Simply put, nowhere in the First Amendment does the phrase ‘separation of Church and State’ exist.”
Viewing it in these simplistic terms is meant to dismiss the entire argument; as if every decision based on the separation of Church and State is somehow invalid because the term separation of Church and State doesn’t appear in the Constitution.
First and most basic is the fact that the Supreme Court is the ultimate interpreter of federal constitutional law. This means that while the term “separation of Church and State” may never appear in the Constitution itself, the Court ruling in the case of Everson v. Board of Education stated “the clause against establishment of religion by law was intended to erect ‘a wall of separation between Church and State.’”
A quarter century later, the case of Lemon v. Kurtzman further defined this separation when it established the Lemon Test to determine if a law violates the establishment clause of the First Amendment. Every ruling since has confirmed that, in the view of the highest court in the land, the Constitution created a separation of Church and State.
Having said that, the separation of Church and State is hardly the first unwritten concept that is protected by the Constitution. In the 1973 case of Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court established a woman’s constitutional right to have an abortion despite the word abortion never appearing in the Constitution. The reality is that the Constitution was never meant to be a stagnant document that was rigidly adherent to the words on the page. As Thomas Jefferson said, “The Constitution, on this hypothesis, is a mere thing of wax in the hands of the Judiciary, which they may twist, and shape into any form they please.” Over the past 200 years the Supreme Court has shaped the Constitution to contain a clear separation of Church and State that protects every religion equally.
If only those who argue against this separation could see how they benefit from it instead of inappropriately interpreting it as an attack on Christianity.