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Separation of Church and State

In: Religion Topics

Submitted By murph7890
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By nearly any measure, the U.S. is one of the most religious nations in the world. According to a December 1994 Gallup poll, 96% of Americans believe in God and seven in 10 call religion a very important aspect of their lives. At the same time, the nation's Constitution states that the government may not promote a particular religion over another or impede any person's ability to practice his or her religious beliefs. As interpreted by the Supreme Court, the First Amendment to the Constitution calls for a near total division, or "wall," between church and state at the federal, state and local levels. The question of where exactly to place that wall, however, has formed the basis of one of the nation's most enduring and impassioned debates. Every year, many of the same questions recur in courts, albeit in different contexts. In what ways may religion enter into public life? When does the statement or practice of religious belief in publicly funded institutions constitute an unconstitutional attempt to promote that religion? What types of conditions inhibit peoples' right to act on their own religious beliefs?
Many Americans, including a growing number of both Republican and Democratic policy makers, contend that the time has come to expand religion's role in everyday life. The nation has suffered from an overly narrow interpretation of the Constitution in the past 50 years that has effectively removed every iota of religious expression from the public realm, these observers say. As a result, they contend, valuable faith-based viewpoints have been stigmatized and silenced, and the moral strength of the nation has weakened. The authors of the Constitution never intended to strike religion from public life, these critics argue, but merely to ensure that every American has the opportunity to practice freely what he or she believes. Many policy makers, therefore,...

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