RESOLVED: That democracy is best served by a strict separation of church and state.
Edited by Jared Miller and Matt Taylor
Written and Researched by
About this Handbook Thank you for purchasing the West Coast Lincoln-Douglas Topic Series. This handbook is divided into three sections. First, you will find a philosophical overview of Lincoln-Douglas Topic. This overview should help debaters at all levels identify the major trends in philosophical thought regarding this topic. Second, you will find an affirmative case, extensions for the case, and additional affirmative briefs that debaters can use to create their own case. Finally, you will find a negative case, extensions, and additional negative briefs that may be used to create other arguments.
PLEASE DO NOT RELY ON OUR HANDBOOKS AS A SUBSTITUTE FOR RESEARCH ON THE TOPIC. Our handbook should be the beginning of your research process. Use the topic overview to brainstorm research areas and use the evidence as a bibliographic resource. If you have any suggestions or comments about our LD or other materials, please call Matt Taylor at 888-255-9133.
FAITH BASED ORGANIZATIONS DESERVE FEDERAL FUNDING 38
VOUCHERS ARE GOOD EDUCATION REFORM 39
ABSITNENCE-ONLY PROGRAMS ARE GOOD 40
SEPARATION BETWEEN CHURCH AND STATE SHOULD NOTBE STRICT IN PRISONS 41
STRICT SEPARATION MAKES DEMOCRACY IN THE MIDDLE EAST LESS LIKELY 42
THE CONSTITUTION DOESN’T REQUIRE STRICT SEPARATION OF CHURCH AND STATE 43
STRICT SEPARATION OF CHURCH AND STATE IS DISCRIMINATORY 44
“UNDER GOD” SHOULD REMAIN IN THE PLEDGE OF ALLEGIANCE 45
RELIGION SHOULD BE A SOURCE OF DEMOCRATIC POLITICAL ACTIVISM 46
STRICT SEPARATION OF CHURCH AND STATE IS HARMFUL TO POLICY-MAKING 47
Church and State
Joseph W. Anderson, University of Utah RESOLVED: That democracy is best served by a strict separation of church and state. “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or the right of the people to peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” (text of the First Amendment)
No subject arouses as much controversy and emotion as religion. The second most controversial topic is politics, or, the proper role of government. The fusing of the two—religion and government— and the question of a separation of church and state therefore produces volatile debate. What role, if any ought religion play in government, and what role, if any ought government play in religion are two questions that plagued the “Founding Fathers,” and are at the heart of this resolution. Regardless of the actual intentions of the founders, this much is true: their words, cleverly written to avoid absolute definition, have caused more public debate than those of at least any other non-religious group.
The overriding problem is how to define a “Strict separation of church and state.” Is a “Strict” separation different from a “Casual” separation? If so, what are examples of either? In defining “church,” do we mean “religion?” Further, in “State” do we mean any government or only the Federal government? (after all, city councils are democratically elected in this country; therefore, does this resolution extend to those governments just as much as it would to the Federal government?) And, if “church” indeed means “religion,” what then qualifies as “religion?” In defining “religion” are we in fact privileging some religions and excluding others which might not fit the definition, but are religions to some? Are the words of the First Amendment to be taken literally, or do they need to be read through the eyes of someone living in 2004?
There are no simple answers to any of the above questions. In fact, every question simply yields more questions. For example, let’s say you answer “yes” to the question of whether the First Amendment should be read literally. What does it mean to read it literally? What is “Congress?” Does ‘Congress’ exclude states? What if part of my religion includes rituals which conflict with community standards? The list goes on and on, and so does the issue of “Separation of church and state.” The first interesting thing to notice of course is that while this is an issue in the United States primarily due to the Constitution, the phrase “Separation of church and state” is found nowhere in the document. Neither is the phrase found in the Declaration of Independence. Nor will one find it any document with binding authority. The phrase appears as such only in a letter written by Thomas Jefferson in 1789. The absence of the phrase is perhaps the beginning point of the debate over what the framers intended. Of course, because it is impossible to know exactly what any author intended in any work, there are those who posit we cannot possibly make judgments based on “framer’s intent,” and thus must interpret the Constitution by today’s standards. Hence, we are back to the original question of what it would even mean to take the document literally.
This resolution also implicitly speaks to burgeoning democracy in Iraq in at least two ways. First, more generally, is the war in Iraq an example of a war fought for religious reasons? Can the war in Iraq be seen as an example of a modern-day Crusade of sorts, out of which Christianity or Islam will reign as the dominant world religion? Secondly, regardless of why the war is being fought, the United States is insistent upon sponsoring democratic elections in Iraq in January 2005. The questions is however would a country such as Iraq be expected to separate “church from state?” We might remember that Sadaam Hussein was not a religious leader either; then again, his was in now way a democratic form of government. Would a country so intertwined with religion culturally democratically elect a person who was not religious? Even if they did, could we ever say that church and state were truly separate?
Again, the above questions have no easy answers, but may be at the heart of this debate. This essay could not possibly speak thoroughly to all of the questions this topic raises. Rather, in this chapter I will try to raise the pertinent questions, and advance the major lines of argument on various sides of the debate. Therefore, this essay is divided into six sections. The first major segment details the four major areas of definition: “democracy;” “strict separation;” “church and state;” and “religion.” The second portion then provides the theoretical underpinnings of the issue of separation of church and state in democratic societies. In this section, I turn to John Locke for the answer for why many argue government requires a separation from religion. The third segment follows from this and discusses three ways in which “church and state” issues are most common in the United States. In the fourth part of this essay, I raise the question of whether a “strict separation of church and state” means a total exclusion of religion from society. The question becomes “what is best for society?” along with “what makes for best government.” Finally, I investigate some of the most obvious value premises for this resolution.
SECTION I: DEFINITIONS