Saturday, September 22, 2007

Wall: Real or Faulty?

"Separation of church and state" was a phrase in "an 1802 letter of Thomas Jefferson to the Danbury Baptists," which has become universally accepted: from a piece of occasional correspondence to presumed constitutional doctrine. Mr. John L. Allen Jr. reported this week about how Auxiliary Bishop Thomas J. Curry of Los Angeles is calling "to 'abandon the language of church/state separation' altogether."

Mr Allen cited some illustrations, which the bishop used:
The “wall” image, Curry said, has also fostered what he described as a false notion that the government has a positive role as a promoter of individual religious freedom. This illusion, he said, has produced an ever-increasing cycle of demands for new religious exceptions to public law:
  • The use of drugs such as peyote in religious ceremonies;
  • Refusal to display one’s photo on a driver’s license on the grounds that it violates scriptural bans on graven images;
  • Refusal to use a social security number on the grounds that “only God should number us”;
  • Refusal to accept blood transfusions for oneself or one’s children;
  • Refusal to send children to public schools beyond a certain level.

In each case, Curry said, there may be an argument for accommodation of these behaviors on the grounds of fairness or compelling public interest, but it’s not because the behavior is religious.

While courts may best understand the First Amendment, courts do no always make their understanding fit with the decisions they render.
Wiki-photo of Thomas Jefferson's Mt. Rushmore likeness is used under the GNU Free Documentation license.

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