Tuesday December 7, 2010 | Religion in Public Life

December 6, 2010 at 1:23 pm | Posted in Coming Up | 23 Comments

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” American’s have debated that phrase before the ink on the constitution’s first amendment was dry. Today politicians compete for religious fervor and favor from constituents and the annual war between the meaning of Christmas is back. We look at the role of religion in public life in advance of a WFAE public conversation on the same topic.

Dr. Sean McCloud
– Assoc. Professor, Religious Studies at UNC Charlotte
Shawn Murphy – Treasurer/Spokesperson, Charlotte Atheists and Agnostics
Rev. Philip Allen – President, Western NC Chapter, Americans United for the Separation of Church and State

Add and read comments

Listen to Show

WFAE Public Conversation:
Religion in Public Life

We’ll explore the intersection of religion and public life in the Charlotte area. Panel and audience discuss the role of religion in politics, the ‘separation of church and state,’ and more.

Date: Thursday Dec. 9th from 7:00 – 8:30 pm
Place: Mint Museum on Randolph Road

Details and registration


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  1. The establishment clause is not the same as separation of church and State.

    • not stated as such, as you put it … but it’s implied and very well substantiated.

  2. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Charlotte Talks, Charlotte Talks. Charlotte Talks said: Americans have been debating what the first amendment says about government and religion since it was written. In… http://fb.me/Ow2ds5O0 […]

  3. Hi Mike —

    Mixing religion and public life is a slippery slope because a religious purity test (often a Christian purity test) must be applied to all policies, and inevitably, a sort-of Grand Inquisitor appoints himself (or herself) to decide what’s holy and what’s not.

  4. Whenever the subject of “Christian Nation” is discussed in the media, there seems to be an assumption that all christians have the same beliefs. Not so. Fundamentalists believe that evolution is a myth and want that taught in public schools, they believe Gays and Lesbians are sinners and should be treated as such, they believe that abortion is murder and so on. I’m a christian and don’t agree with any of that. Christian fundamentalists and their beliefs should be identified as such and not as generic Christians.

  5. The employment of a chaplain by the US government is the most horrific and blatent act of ignoring the US Constitution. Anyone who thinks this is okay just because there are a lot of christians, misses the point that this nation, indeed the founding documents, require that this person be fired immediately.

    • our military employs religious leaders of many faiths, not just Christian. I am a strong proponent of seperation of church and state, but the comment about providing access to religious leaders for our military personnel being an act that blatantly ignores the constitution is off base.

    • Respectfully disagree. Unless you’ve served, you cannot understand the role faith plays to many in the military. It is vital that our government make available religous leaders of all faiths to those that serve our nation in peace and most especially during combat. Access to religion is key to morale and welfare for those that want it.

  6. the reason we have chaplains and ministers in the military is a matter of practicality. when we send troops far away from their home environments, it would be cruel and unusual punishment to not provide access to religious leaders and facilities.

    • it is cruel and unusual punsihment to continue to teach children as fact the myth of god, christian or otherwise- and the constitution is clear- no religion. period. just because you say they send chaplains of all faiths is not a point in favor for your argument. in fact, it skirts the issue. I for one, expect the government, if no other, to follow the constitution

      • There is no separation of church and state in the Constitution.

  7. Cut through the mythology!!!
    The purpose of religion is to define the structure (write the script) that we as a community and I as an individual conduct our life. Then define God as that Structure. Know thy God or live in caos.
    How can anyone be an agnostic? How do we separate Church and State? Of course we don’t. We just chose which dominates.

    • I believe in a God or supreme being (not agnostic). We can separate church and state. We need to do just that.

  8. I’ve seen this sign at church marquees: :In God we trust: Right On the Money” A relative advised me that this is true only after the Red Scare days of 1956 when Congress under duress from John Birchers changed the motto on currency from “E pluribus unum”- from many, one. Now this nonsense of equating God with money is driving our society crazy.

    As George Carlin said: “Here’s a Supreme being who knows all, sees all, is all-powerful; and created everthing: but He always needs more money.”
    Yep, right on the money.

    • that’s true and a lot of people don’t realize that ‘In God We Trust’ came so late. George Carlin had it right (on the money).

  9. Thanks for a great show. As a chaplain, I’d like to add that chaplains are trained to provide spiritual care in interfaith and secular settings. The question on the table is the belief system of the person to whom you are providing pastoral care, whether that person is atheist, agnostic or belongs to an established religious tradition. The chaplain’s role is to walk with an individual as s/he draws upon internal resources (beliefs, spiritual practices, ethical positions) to make meaning of and move through a crisis.

  10. Military Chaplins cover most , if not all, religons of its members. And most combat arms soldiers are very much against Gay members in the combat arms.

    • that doesn’t appear to be true — statistically or anecdotally, at least not from what i’ve heard and read.

  11. Religion is a culture of intolerance and exclusion. I’ve found you can’t have a rational, civil conversation with people of faith. They believe what they believe and are not open to facts or considering other points of view. Former President Jimmy Carter (an evangelical Christian) and Rev. Philip Allen appear to be the exceptions. The country needs more religous leaders like Rev. Allen. Religous extremism and intolerance by any faith is a cancer in America.

    • and more christians like Jimmy Carter… .

  12. Mike,
    You made a particular mistake in saying that “god” is not mentioned in the US Constitution. Get out your ‘pocket Constitution’ and read along with me the last paragraph:
    “Done in Convention by the Unanimous Consent of the States present the Seventeenth Day of September in the Year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and Eighty seven and of the Independence of the United States of America the Twelfth. In Witness whereof We have hereunto subscribed our Names.”
    This was a common reference to a date because in the western civilization of the time, most people were assumed to be Christian of some sort.
    What we refer to now days as “The Wall of Separation” was constructed and enforced by Justice Hugo Black through several SCOTUS cases in the late 1940’s.
    More interesting is to read the declaration of the first Thanksgiving of the new United States given By President George Washington in 1789:
    “Whereas it is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore his protection and favor, and whereas both Houses of Congress have by their joint Committee requested me “to recommend to the People of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness. Now therefore I do recommend and assign Thursday the 26th day of November next to be devoted by the People of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being, who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be. That we may then all unite in rendering unto him our sincere and humble thanks, for his kind care and protection of the People of this Country previous to their becoming a Nation, for the signal and manifold mercies, and the favorable interpositions of his providence, which we experienced in the course and conclusion of the late war, for the great degree of tranquility, union, and plenty, which we have since enjoyed, for the peaceable and rational manner, in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national One now lately instituted, for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed; and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and in general for all the great and various favors which he hath been pleased to confer upon us. And also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech him to pardon our national and other transgressions, to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually, to render our national government a blessing to all the people, by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed, to protect and guide all Sovereigns and Nations (especially such as have shown kindness unto us) and to bless them with good government, peace, and concord. To promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the encrease of science among them and Us, and generally to grant unto all Mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as he alone knows to be best. Given under my hand at the City of New York the third day of October in the year of our Lord 1789.”
    Our Founders were quite a bit more religious than we give them credit for.
    Now, extremism and intolerance are unacceptable period, whether it comes from religion OR secularism.

    • Very nice.

  13. Good dialog. To say many of our forefathers did not hold the truths of the Bible a reality is saying Michael Jordan could not jump. The reason it is so hard today in 2010 is because our Nation is not too excited about following the Bible which truths don’t change and are consistent. We want to do what we want to do and follow our desires. As our nation continues to move in that direction,away from our foundations as a Christian nation, how can we ask God to honor us and bless us? It’s pretty straight forward when you cut out all of the gray matter. From one who loves our country and God. ( the God of David in the Bible)

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