Monday, August 28, 2006

A Forgotten History Lesson

U.S. Rep. Katherine Harris told a religious journal that separation of church and state is "a lie" and God and the nation's founding fathers did not intend the country be "a nation of secular laws." The Republican candidate for U.S. Senate also said that if Christians are not elected, politicians will "legislate sin," including abortion and gay marriage. Harris made the comments -- which she clarified Saturday -- in the Florida Baptist Witness, the weekly journal of the Florida Baptist State Convention, which interviewed political candidates and asked them about religion and their positions on issues. Separation of church and state is "a lie we have been told," Harris said in the interview, published Thursday, saying separating religion and politics is "wrong because God is the one who chooses our rulers."

Such comments are very disturbing when one reviews the history of the United States, in particular, the history of it founding fathers. When founding fathers Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, both of whom were agnostic met with John Adams and the other members of the Declaration committee to decide who would write the Declaration of Independence they did not think of religion. When James Madison who had loose religious ties through his wife wrote the majority of the Constitution he too was not thinking of making laws that were secular or “Christian” rather laws that would help his country survive.

The idea of Separation of church and state came from the very vivid, very real memory of their heritage. The theocracy of Puritan Virginia and Dutch New York as well as the civil war in the mother country (England) that produced the “protectorate” of Oliver Cromwell that when he died the very leaders who had killed King Charles I asked his son Charles II to come back to England and assume the throne. With this recent and real heritage of religious strife, our founding fathers found ways to legislate that protected the religious freedoms of those who wished to practice their beliefs with laws that protected religion from the state. In doing so, the State would be protected against, at times, an over zealous religion (Protestantism). This is an important concept forgotten and more often than not only considered in one context. Our founding fathers wanted to protect religion from the state and the state from religion in equal measure. Ms. Harris and her comments represent exactly what America’s founding fathers feared the most and tried in the Separation of church and state to avoid at all costs.

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