In response to Ann Barrett's Letter to the Editor which appeared in the Payson Roundup on March 1, 2006: Ms. Barrett's comments touch a controversial nerve as she again makes a reference to the age-old debate surrounding the phrase, "separation of church and state."
I agree with Ms. Barrett that the first policy makers of this country founded America based on certain Christian ideologies. However, in the more than 200 years since those first laws were enacted, America has become home to a variety of perspectives and widely different religious practices.
Today, we are a country of extensive freedoms -- freedoms that allow Jews, Christians, Atheists, Satanists, Buddhists, Agnostics, Hindus, Muslims, Wiccans, etc. to worship as they wish -- and all for the "pursuit of happiness." And, in an attempt to make sure that no religion or method of worship is preferred over another and that we all get to worship how we want to, certain rights have been enacted in the American people's interest.
The Constitution does not contain the phrase "separation of church and state" because, Ms. Barrett, you are correct, this is not a law in itself. However, this terminology has nonetheless become ingrained in our American vernacular. Many would point out that the more correct phrase should be "separation of religion and state." This idea is expressed within the first 10 amendments to our Constitution, under our Bill of Rights. The First Amendment addresses the idea behind this phrase best in saying, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof ..."
Can you imagine what our country today would be like if religious dealings were not kept out of the government sector? It is only human nature to prefer one's own beliefs over those that differ. Equality would definitely be hard to establish if lawmakers were making decisions that benefited certain religions over others, or decisions that inhibited you and me from practicing the religion that we preferred.
Organizations such as the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) that you reference, do not have a vendetta against organized Christian religion. On the contrary, this organization works with government lawmaking bodies, in courts, and with communities to promote equality and make sure that each American citizen is never denied his/her fundamental rights as expressed in the Bill of Rights.
Lisa Jackson, State College, Pa. (formerly of Payson)
Editor's note: This letter was edited for space.