Separation of Church and State is Necessary

Note: This letter appeared in the South Florida Sun-Sentinel on November 10, 2013.

Letters to the Editor
South Florida Sun-Sentinel

To the Editor:

Regarding Gary Stein's Nov. 3 column, "Getting religiously bashed by readers":

Some readers argue against Deerfield Beach's ban of holiday displays on public property, including a Nativity scene, because America is a Christian nation. Notwithstanding the fact that Deerfield Beach could create a "limited public forum" on municipal land for private holiday displays of all traditions, these readers need a history lesson.

The majority of Americans are Christian, but our government is not founded on any religion. Our Constitution separates government from religion requiring official neutrality toward religion, which means government cannot prefer any faith or religion over non-religion. Indeed, U.S. Treaty No. 122 ("The Treaty of Tripoli"), which was negotiated under President Washington and signed by President John Adams in 1797, plainly states "…[a]s the government of the United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian religion, as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion or tranquility of Musselmen [Muslims] … ."

Some may find separation of church and state distasteful. But this constitutional requirement in no way reflects hostility toward religion. Rather, it reflects the Founding Fathers' profound respect for individual religious liberty and religious diversity in America.

The separation requirement frees our houses of worship and the devout from government interference in their private religious practice. And it is a primary reason why America is the most religious of all the Western nations.


David Barkey
National Religious Freedom Counsel

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