Separation Anxiety

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Many people in America have the peculiar notion that our constitution calls for a separation of church and state. The most humorous (and simultaneously, tragically sad) point of this is where this idea comes from. It is the Supreme Courts ruling on the “Establishment Clause” of the First Ammendment. But the text actually states that the US government shall not interfere in the establishment of a religion. The ridiculous level of law suits trying to remove all mention of God (or god) from our lives is built on the oddest grounds.

Japan apparently has a constitution which states that church and state should be separated. I say “apparently” because I haven’t read it myself, so Japanese people could be under the same misunderstanding as most Americans. However, religion (but not necessarily faith) is tightly woven into Japanese life.

On public TV in the morning there are several shows meant to educate children. Everyday children receive several bits of education in various Buddhist rituals at the people’s expense. Occasionally Shinto rituals are also presented. This is all mixed in with traditional culture, Japanese language, and English education. The shows vary in length from 1 minute to 15 minutes, sometimes with no clear delineation between them. When there is an ending it is usually just the character for owari (終), “The End”, briefly appearing in the lower right corner.

Just imagine the reaction in America if PBS were showing kids how to count and sing the alphabet, but also slid in a bit about how to cross oneself at a Catholic church or how to take communion at a Baptist service.

Honestly I am glad that Japan has not decided to abandon their cultural past to appease lawyers and uptight, lawsuit happy athiests. I enjoy learning about things and I don’t consider someone else’s presentation of ideas threatening to me. Perhaps America can lose a few of our contrived and artificial regulations, re-read our constitution, and allow our traditional ideas to be presented openly.

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2 Responses to “Separation Anxiety”

  1. Marnen Laibow-Koser Says:

    You wrote:

    “But the actually text states that the US government shall not interfere in the establishment of a religion.”

    I think you’re misunderstanding the word “establishment”. In the sense used in this part of the Constitution, it doesn’t simply mean “founding” or “organization”. An “established” religion is one that has been declared as the official state religion.

    In other words, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion” means “Congress shall make no law declaring a state religion”. That’s separation of church and state. It’s not a misconception, though it certainly may have been carried too far at times (and not far enough at others).

  2. びっくり Says:

    So, there shall be no state religion, but that has little to do with separation. It wasn’t until a misguided supreme court ruling in 1951 that this concept became a legal concept, but the supreme court is not supposed to be a legislative branch. The words are actually Thomas Jefferson’s words from a letter he wrote to a religious group after he was elected President, but he never attempted to have any law created using those words.

    That group had asked him to end their persecution, but they worded it as siding with them. He wanted that group to clearly understand that he would only do what was legally appropriate, not what suited them.

    This desire to separate has created absurdity. A boy in Washington State won a scholarship from the government. After he announced his intention to go to seminary, a separation group sued the government and got the scholarship canceled. Prior to 1951 this would have properly been considered “incidental”. The government decision was based on scholarly standards, without prejudice toward where the funds would be spent. In the end, the funds were restored and the boy went to a state school to study law. In this case, his “free exercise” of religion was pressured. This would fall into the “too far” category.

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