Conservatives Discover Separation of Church and State

The creation of an atmosphere in which basic Constitutional rights were ignored under during the Bush years might be contributing to this bizarre measure introduced in the Connecticut legislature which would “remove control of Roman Catholic parishes from bishops and place them instead in the hands of lay panels.”

Despite the many efforts by elements on the right to promote a revisionist history denying separation of church and state, conservatives did not manage to make the entire Constitution irrelevant during the Bush years, no matter how hard they tried. There is little doubt this measure would quickly be declared unconstitutional if it ever passed and went to court.

There is one benefit from this. While historically it was often religious groups which most strongly defended the principle of separation of church and state as intended by the Founding Fathers, in recent years part of conservative dogma has been that separation of church and state is an anti-religious attitude. In reality, separation of church and state is essential to guarantee the rights of all to worship, or not worship, as they choose.

By linking to any particular conservative blogs I do not intend to suggest that any particular individuals or blogs were involved in the promoting the revisionist history which denies separation of church and state. Conservatives, like liberals, hold a variety of views. Still, there is some value in readers of conservative blogs seeing support for the concept of separation of church and state in conservative blogs such as here and here. Perhaps this will remind them of the importance of this principle.

Of course some conservatives continue to promote their revisionist history thinking you can defend basic rights when you agree with them while denying such rights when you find them inconvenient to your political beliefs. Such selective support for civil liberties risks loss of such liberties by all.


  1. 2
    Eclectic Radical says:

    The Connecticut state issue is actually a result of the conservative attacks on the separation of church and state on several levels. Most notably, it is a direct result of the conservative trend in Catholic leadership over the last decade or so and their increasingly aggressive bid to bring American Catholics ‘to heel’ in the dogmatic and political sense.

    Conservative bishops, with the support of the pope, have been denying sacraments to pro-choice and/or pro-gay-rights politicians. Some liberals see this as a blatant attempt by the church to interfere in the working of the state through ecclesiastical means, in Connecticut they are hitting back with the machinery of government. It’s all a very dirty, petty, unappealing squabble in which the really important issues are being lost.

    I support liberal Catholics at odd with the leadership of the Church, but this is ridiculous. Church issues must be addressed in the Church, they will not be solved by a resort to authoritarian government measures.

  2. 3
    Fritz says:

    It is factually incorrect to state that the “Founding Fathers” believed in the separation of church and state.  Patrick Henry tried to create a VA state tax to fund churches.  Thomas Jefferson (among many others) opposed it.  Neither thought the First Amendment to the Federal constitution had any bearing on the issue. 

    It is amusing to me that the Vatican is comfortable with their current path.  I am old enough (and was raised Catholic) to remember how stridently hands-off the priesthood was during the 1960 election.

    The only appropriate action for a pro-choice or pro-gay-rights Catholic to take is to not feed the beast.  

  3. 4
    Ron Chusid says:


    Separation of church and state, along with other Constitutional liberties, did not extend to the state government until the 14th Amendment. Initially we had separation of church and state with regards to the federal but not state governments. Thomas Jefferson most definitely did consider the First Amendment to support separation of church and state.

  4. 5
    Fritz says:

    Yeah, I only meant that you can’t lump them all together.  Any group that includes both Thomas Jefferson and Patrick Henry is going to be a tad divergent.  And then there is Tom Paine.

    I’m more of a Tom Paine type.

  5. 6
    Ron Chusid says:

    True, you can’t lump them together. As with anything passed by a legislative body, there were people on different sides with regards to the issues back then. That’s also what I was insinuating with the comment on John Adams.

  6. 7
    David W. says:

    Fritz.  Not to be snarky, just a correction.  The debate between Patrick Henry, who introduced a bill to fund all Christian sects, and Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, which led to the passage of the Virginia Act for Establishing Religious Freedom, occurred in 1785-1786.  The first debates on establishing the Constitution began in May, 1787 and concluded in September of that year.  The proposed document was then sent to the states for further debate and ratification.  It wasn’t until 1789 that Madison proposed the first draft of the first amendment, because of concerns in the state assemblies that the government would usurp state and personal rights.  Thus, the debate you are talking about occurred several years before the first amendment was proposed.  Small correction.

  7. 8
    JeffM says:

    Christianity is the most perverted system that ever shone on man.  -Thomas Jefferson

  8. 9
    J Edward says:

    However Jefferson made a copy of the New Testament that removed anything not said by Jesus. He regarded the philosophy of Jesus to be the most sublime philosophy extant. Yet he decried what had been done to it by “priestcraft and kingcraft” Imagine what Jefferson would have to say about TV preachers.

Leave a comment