|Violations of the Separation of Church and State
Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black best expressed the purpose and function
of the Establishment Clause when he said that it
rests "on the belief that a union of government and religion tends
to destroy government and degrade religion." Some Americans
reject this dictum, promoting the idea that the government should endorse
the religious values of certain members of the community to the exclusion
of others. In fact, such violations of the separation of church and state
take place with disturbing frequency in American government, at local,
state and Federal levels. Recent incidents include the following:
- An Alabama judge regularly opens his court
sessions with a Christian prayer. Further, he has refused to remove a
plaque containing the Ten Commandments from his courtroom wall. Alabama
Governor Fob James has threatened to call in the Alabama National Guard
to prevent the plaque's removal.
- Local municipalities have erected nativity
scenes, crosses, menorahs and other religious symbols to the exclusion
of those of other faiths.
- The Board of Aldermen of a Connecticut city has
opened its sessions with a prayer that beseeches citizens to "elect
Christian men and women to office so that those who serve will be
accountable . . . to the teachings of Jesus Christ . . . ."
- A variety of religious groups are demanding
that their faith-based social service programs receive public funding
although these programs engage in aggressive proselytizing and religious
- On the "National Day of Prayer," local authorities acting
in their official capacities have led citizens in sectarian prayer.
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