Monday, January 5, 2015

A quantum of umbrage: A synoptic history of the principle of the separation of church and state (updated through 2014)

(This timeline was originally published in shorter form in 2009, driven by the thought, somewhat naive in retrospect, that the process of theocratic overreach in the US was probably already at or near its zenith.  Now it appears that p3 must stand ready for further revisions from time to time, as the exigencies of Republican electoral politics require it. We welcome the task.)

James Madison, 1791: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.

Thomas Jefferson, 1802: The Establishment Clause of the First Amendment guarantees Americans a wall of separation between church and state.

Dwight Eisenhower, 1954: The separation of church and state won't be hurt by adding "under God" to The Pledge of Allegiance in the name of anti-Communism, will it? 

John F. Kennedy, 1960The separation of church and state is absolute. My church will not dictate my policy decisions.

Mitt Romney, 2008The separation of church and state is relative. My church will dictate my policy decisions, but only to the extent that I will discriminate against the same people Christian conservatives would already be discriminating against anyway

Bart Stupack, 2009The separation of church and state is a fairy tale. My church will show up at the Capitol steps in a limo to dictate policy.

Rick Santorum2012: The separation of church and state is an abomination. "Earlier in my political career, I had the opportunity to read the speech [by JFK to the Greater Houston Ministerial Association in 1960], and I almost threw up."

Sally Quinn, 2012: The separation of church and state is impossible. “This is a religious country. Part of claiming your citizenship is claiming a belief in God, even if you are not Christian.” Agnostics, atheists, and other nonbelievers need not apply.

Rick Santorum (again), 2014: The very notion of the separation of church and state is "a Communist idea that has no place in America."

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