Separation of Church and State Home Page:


We've created this page because we believe that the principle of separation of church and state is under attack in America as never before. Since the early 1980s the religious right have talked openly of getting rid of separation. Their spoken and written comments on the subject leave no doubt where they stand. We are worried about their influence, and we want to inform the public about the threat they pose to our religious liberties.

Consider the following: the religious right claims to have taken over the machinery of the Republican Party in a number of states, and they wield enormous influence among conservatives of both parties generally. Last year the religious right tried their best to pass two Constitutional Amendments that would have reempowered government to require prayer in the public schools, and authored a third that would have completely rewritten church/state law. More amendments are expected this year, and it's only a matter of time until one of them passes Congress. One state (Wisconsin) has approved an experimental voucher program that would funnel government money directly to religious schools, and a similar program foisted on Washington D.C. by Congress is on hold until the judiciary resolves the issue of whether such programs are legal. The American Library Association reports that attempts to ban books from public and school libraries has increased dramatically in the past few years, and that about two thirds of these attempts originate with the religious right. Finally, we note that the right has stepped up their presence in the church/state debate with the founding of both the Christian Coalition and several well-funded legal advocacy groups (eg., the Rutherford Institute, the American Center for Law and Justice). Never before have so much money and manpower been assembled to break down the wall of separation that lies at the heart of the First Amendment.

It used to be that advocates of church/state separation could be confident that challenges to the First Amendment would be resolved in their favor by the Supreme Court. No longer. Under the Reagan and Bush administrations the retirement of pro-separation jurists has paved the way for such anti-separationist replacements as Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas. In the meantime, anti-separationist William Rehnquist has been elevated to the position of Chief Justice. Many church/state decisions--some of which have been quite damaging to separation--are now being decided on the basis of 5-4 majorities, and several of the Justices, while not explicitly endorsing the accomodationist reading of the First Amendment, have expressed dissatisfaction with past separationist rulings. We can no longer depend on the Supreme Court to rule in our favor. One more anti-separationist Justice, and church/state separation could be a thing of the past. It is time for a call to arms.

We see this page as a wake-up call to anyone that is concerned about the political and legal influence of the religious right. We want to confront the right on the most basic element in their political gospel, their belief that the First Amendment did nothing but bar the establishment of a state church and that anything short of that--school prayer, school vouchers, preferential treatment of religion in public affairs, imposition of religion doctrine by force--is Constitutional. Additionally, we want to urge everyone from the committed separationist to the fence-sitter to get up and become active in fighting for religious liberty. The First Amendment is at stake. Don't wait until it's gone before you get involved.

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