Introduction – In the United States, the Constitution is one of, if not the most important documents in our country’s history. We must follow its word, and anything “unconstitutional” is demonized. With this in mind, the First Amendment states there must be a separation of church and state in government. In this email exchange with Eric Davis (a religious studies major from Lewis and Clark University in Portland who has created a high school), I expressed my views as to why I support a full separation. Eric expressed viewpoints as to why my thinking shouldn’t be the nationwide thought process, and then together, we created a common theory as to how this amendment can be put to use in a more efficient way, synthesizing our opinions.

For an unedited version of the email exchange, you can see it here.

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Thesis (I say)

Religion and government should be separate, and in the United States they arent; even though it is in the constitution that we can’t have that.

“God Bless America” is the saying that opens up Congressional sessions in the United States of America. However, the first Amendment in our constitution states there must be a separation between church and state (religion and government) explicitly, and I agree. In practice, on the other hand, the United States breaks this oath in a multitude of different areas of law and justice, and is simply not fair for non-Christians.

For instance, before a trial, you must swear on the bible no matter what religion, or lack of religion you believe in. To me, this is ridiculous and also sets an awful mood for the rest of what is supposed to be a fair and unbiased trial. If you follow a different “bible”, or do not swear to a god at all, having to do this is not only pointless, but it could be offensive and demeaning.

Another instance where church and state can be seen mixing is in the pledge of allegiance, which personally I was forced to recite every day until fifth grade. “One nation, under god” is the country we are stating our love and loyalty too, even if we don’t know what god is. At such a young age having this drilled into your head can drive ideas in that should not be driven in. What you believe in should be up to you, and having the pledge ingrained in your head can either misguide you towards religion for the wrong reason, or back you away from it for a different wrong reason. Overall I believe freedom of religion is an extraordinarily important part of the backbone of our country, yet fundamentally we are abusing this and even breaking amendments because of one group of people’s religious beliefs, that could alter the country and it’s people for better or worse.


Antithesis (They Say)

Eric believes there is a potential place for religion in any school.

People “have lived peacefully and honorably in line with god’s will” for thousands of years and it still is a vital part of Earth’s blood to this day. Eric thinks there is definitely a time and place to teach about other’s beliefs within a schoolhouse. “I have no interest in the pledge.  It makes many assumptions about individuals beliefs, self-identifications, and values.”

Perhaps the theory I could understand the most was on how religion could be implemented into normal classes. “I suspect that any school I will create will have religion as a part of it, just not institutionalized religion.  There is a critical difference.  Our students have been exposed to religious practices and ideologies in numerous courses. ” After thinking about this I realized I had learned numerous things about cultures I’d never been exposed too before, and it was never shoved down my throat. To me this is how it could be successfully taught in schools.

Synthesis (together)

There is plenty of room for religion in our country, but if one religion is being recognized, then the others have to be too.

Eric has shown me different examples of places in public/government controlled areas of the country where religion does have a place. Church and state don’t have to be totally separate, but if one religion plays a role in a situation, every other religious affiliation has to also be recognized. For example, as opposed to swearing on a bible, the choice of religion is available. Swearing on a Koran could be a lot more powerful and less offensive for certain people, and this option needs to be available if we have to swear on something.

Another area where religion could be introduced and not shoved down people’s throats, is school. Eric did not believe in having a pledge of allegiance in school, however having religious studies classes available and implemented in other courses could be very enriching and powerful. These courses “will never be intended to push anyone toward one religion, another, or any religion at all. Rather, they will be used to their ideal purpose — challenging our understanding of existence, ritual, and community on macro and micro levels.” I recognize the impact these classes could possibly make, and I agree with this. Understanding, and not simply tolerating, another person’s viewpoints is not only an extremely important skill to have, but is vital for a better chance at global partnerships and local unity.

Overall I realized the possibilities outweigh the doubts of gently implementing aspects of religion and beliefs into some areas of the public, such as in school. I would be cautious in this whole process, yet I believe knowledge of other cultures and beliefs is just as important as math and science; if taught correctly it could be immeasurably impactful.