Ken Buck Doesn’t Like The Idea Of Separating Church And State

Move over Christine O’Donnell, Colorado’s Ken Buck not only doesn’t think “separation of church and state” is in the Constitution, he doesn’t think it should exist:

WASHINGTON — Colorado Republican Senate candidate and Tea Party favorite Ken Buck last year said he “strongly” disagrees with one of the bedrock principles of American society: the separation of church and state.

“I disagree strongly with the concept of separation of church and state,” said Buck at a forum for GOP Senate candidates last year. “It was not written into the Constitution. While we have a Constitution that is very strong in the sense that we are not gonna have a religion that’s sanctioned by the government, it doesn’t mean that we need to have a separation between government and religion. And so that, that concerns me a great deal.”

In his statement, he also criticized President Obama for calling the White House Christmas tree a “holiday tree.”

Video:

While Buck (and O’Donnell) are correct that the phrase “separation of church and state” does not appear in the Bill of Rights, the clear import of Supreme Court precedent stretching back more than a century is that government establishment or endorsement of religious belief is impermissible under the First Amendment. That is what is meant by “separation of church and state,” and the fact that Republicans like Buck and O’Donnell don’t endorse that idea is troubling to say the least.

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2010, Quick Takes, US Politics
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Tim says:

    First, “establish” and “endorse” are different words. Oddly enough, they mean different things.
    Second, but more important, is the fact that the Bill of Rights protects us from the government, not the other way around. Following your logic, the press can’t cover the government because of the “separation of press and state”, and of course the “separation of speech and state” means we can never talk about or criticize the government.

  2. Tim,

    If the only thing that the First Amendment had been intended to bar was the creation of an official government sponsored church (which is an argument that Buck and others make) then it clearly would’ve been worded differently.

    The fact that it is worded the way that it is seems to me to be a clear indication that the drafters of the Bill of Rights were concerned with more than that. In that regard, one should consult the Virginia Statute on Religious Freedom, which predates the First Amendment, and which covered more than just barring an official church

    Using the force of the state to compel religious piety is what the First Amendment was designed to prevent, and that covers not just an official church but also government mandated school prayer, the teaching of religious doctrine as science, and actions which seek to put the imprimatur of the state on a specific faith or sect.

  3. john personna says:

    His own argument is self-contradicting:

    While we have a Constitution that is very strong in the sense that we are not gonna have a religion that’s sanctioned by the government, it doesn’t mean that we need to have a separation between government and religion.

    If you don’t separate, then you will endorse some, but not all. You’ve just sanctioned the ones you endorsed.

    There is historic context, for those who have not read it, in Rousseau ‘s Civil Relgiion and Robert Bellah’s American Civil Religion.

    Buck seems to want to go beyond the civil and generic to something more specific. The Tea Party too.

    Not surprising when you consider that Evangelicals don’t really get the Scottish Enlightenment, and its role in our founding. They are very conservative if they want to undo innovations predating the Republic 😉

  4. Juneau: says:

    @ mataconis

    The fact that it is worded the way that it is seems to me to be a clear indication that the drafters of the Bill of Rights were concerned with more than that.

    Of course, to support this contention it is only necessary to totally ignore the first 170 years of our country’s history. Not to mention the societal norms which flourished while the founding fathers controlled the government. For generations after our founding documents were written, the Bible was used in schools as a textbook, politicians wrote frequently about their religious beliefs in official government policy position papers, and Presidents invoked the Almighty in public speeches (the Gettysburg Address, for example; “that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom”).

    To state that the founding fathers meant for the public arena to be devoid of religion is to claim that the founding fathers were fostering a society which violated the very things they had just stipulated as being of paramount interest to a free society. This is completely unsupported by history.

  5. wr says:

    Juneau: What you learned from Glen Beck isn’t actually history. It’s fantasy.

  6. Juneau: says:

    @ wr

    Juneau: What you learned from Glen Beck isn’t actually history. It’s fantasy.

    As usual – complete denial with no proof in opposition. You’re a one trick pony, and the trick is endless repetition of the phrase, “D’oh!” Just squint your eyes a little, put yourself in your “magic place”, and pretend that historical documents were forged or redacted by the illuminati to make it “look” like the founding fathers were publicly religious. Enjoy.

  7. Steve says:

    Mr. Mataconis,

    Since Mr. Buck is also an attorney, could he have a valid opinion? I was under the impression that the first amendment said “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” Therefore, there is no law separating church and state, it simply states that congress can not “establish” a state religion ala “Church of England.” I can understand the case law that prohibits forced prayers in school, but not law that prohibits prayer at school (football players praying at half time – Santa Fe, Texas). Since I am not a member of the elite and “don’t know anything” about the constitution, I called my lawyer (who happens to be my daughter – 177/180 on the LSAT, admitted to Harvard Law, but accepted the full scholarship to a prestigious public university). She said that case law is “all over the place” on this and the Supreme Court has been inconsistent, as well. Based on that, I believe that there is room for polite disagreement. BTW, with the lack of esteem that you hold over us in flyover country, have you considered changing the name of your blog to “inside the beltway?”

  8. Juneau: says:

    @ steve

    have you considered changing the name of your blog to “inside the beltway?”

    Indeed.

  9. John P says:

    @ Juneau: you complain about denial with no proof in opposition but you provide little to support your arguments above. I’m reading this as an interested observer so here is your opportunity to help make your case and change an opinion. Here are are the question I have reading your post above.

    The fact that it is worded the way that it is seems to me to be a clear indication that the drafters of the Bill of Rights were concerned with more than that.

    It is not clear to me. Perhaps you could point directly to the section in the Bill of Rights you are speaking of…

    Of course, to support this contention it is only necessary to totally ignore the first 170 years of our country’s history. Not to mention the societal norms which flourished while the founding fathers controlled the government. For generations after our founding documents were written, the Bible was used in schools as a textbook, politicians wrote frequently about their religious beliefs in official government policy position papers, and Presidents invoked the Almighty in public speeches (the Gettysburg Address, for example; “that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom”).

    This is still true today, however personal religious beliefs and use of language to illustrate said beliefs do not equate to laws for the public at large, nor does it mean that our founders felt that their own personal convictions should be a federal standard.

    To state that the founding fathers meant for the public arena to be devoid of religion is to claim that the founding fathers were fostering a society which violated the very things they had just stipulated as being of paramount interest to a free society. This is completely unsupported by history.

    The public arena is filled with religion today as it was then. Public arena does not equate to public funding or forced religious burdens. The fact of the matter is that our founders lived under the rule of law that saw some of their taxes used to fund state supported Churches of England in each colony and major city.
    http://nationalhumanitiescenter.org/tserve/eighteen/ekeyinfo/chureng.htm

    You may find good resources here, however I did not see anything other than opinion regarding the teaching of the Bible in public schools: http://www.bibleintheschools.com/www/docs/126.77/

  10. mantis says:

    it simply states that congress can not “establish” a state religion ala “Church of England.”

    Man, you don’t even know how to read, do you?

    Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;

    That does not say “Congress shall make no law establishing a religion,” or “Congress shall make no law establishing a religious body/church/institution,” it says “no law respecting an establishment of religion.” In this context, “respecting” does not mean “endorsing” or rendering judgement upon, but something more like “relating to.” In addition, it’s not “the establishment of a religion,” but “establishment of religion.” All religion. Basically, it means Congress should should not be involved in religion, the end. That is how the wall of separation Jefferson wrote of is established.

  11. Steve says:

    Mantis,

    I really can read. I promise. I am aware of the founding principles of our nation. In fact, one of my ancestors was the only Catholic signer of the Declaration of Independence and he was prohibited from practicing law in the colonies due to his religion. If you are correct, why did / does congress begin each session with a prayer? Why are there “congressional chaplains?” If you believe in “original intent” of the law, then none of these “religious observances” would be allowed. If you believe that the constitution is a “living breathing document,” then it means whatever I say it means. Or whatever you say it means. Or whatever the candidate with the most votes says it means. In any case, there is room for reasonable people to disagree and no need for invective – unless it is somewhat humorous.

  12. John Personna says:

    Steve, do you ignore the special role of “civil religion?”

    We’ve been careful to always set bounds.

  13. mantis says:

    If you are correct, why did / does congress begin each session with a prayer? Why are there “congressional chaplains?”

    The conventions and rituals of the Congress are not laws governing the people.

    If you believe in “original intent” of the law, then none of these “religious observances” would be allowed.

    Incorrect.

    In any case, there is room for reasonable people to disagree and no need for invective – unless it is somewhat humorous.

    I was being generous. Either you cannot properly read and understand plain English, or you were deliberately claiming the amendment says something it does not.

    it simply states that congress can not “establish” a state religion ala “Church of England.”

    It most certainly does not. It does not use the verb “establish” at all, but rather “an establishment.” It quite clearly and simply states that Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion. You omit words and their meanings in order to falsely claim that the 1st Amendment merely prohibits the government from starting its own church. So, you’re either confused, or dishonest. Take your pick.

  14. Buffalo Rude says:

    Every time a teabagger opens their pie-hole and lets this crap fly, I’m kinda amazed that it never occurs to ANYONE to wonder what wingnut thinks about the guy that coined the phrase “a wall of separation between Church & State”. Shit, they hire guys to dress up like him all the time for their rallies.

    http://www.loc.gov/loc/lcib/9806/danpre.html

  15. Juneau: says:

    @ John P

    The fact that it is worded the way that it is seems to me to be a clear indication that the drafters of the Bill of Rights were concerned with more than that.

    This was not part of my point, it was the response from another commenter that I was highlighting for my post, which followed.

    “This is still true today, however personal religious beliefs and use of language to illustrate said beliefs do not equate to laws for the public at large, nor does it mean that our founders felt that their own personal convictions should be a federal standard.”

    You’re correct, and this is exactly my point. No one is advocating passing federal laws mandating religious practice or teaching – on the contrary everyone is clear that this is exactly what we originally fled from in europe. However, it has gone far beyond putting restrictions on what a public official can mandate. The ACLU and others seek to abuse the left’s interpretation of “separation of church and state” to hamstring any personal religious expression. even when citizens are acting outside official capacities and duties, as private individuals. A good example of this is at the link below:

    http://www.examiner.com/evangelical-in-national/aclu-attacks-school-district-employees-for-private-prayer

    This is not what the founders intended. There is no historical precedent for this type of action. It is a modern phenomenon of the liberal left.

  16. sam says:

    Not too surprising, but Juneau, as usual, gets the facts wrong (probably because he goes no further than a headline). See, Does v. Santa Rosa County School District: Top 5 Myths and Facts

    Myth #1: Three school employees face contempt-of-court hearings as punishment for praying.

    The Facts: Principal Lay, Athletic Director Freeman, and Administrative Assistant Michelle Winkler face contempt-of-court proceedings because they purposefully defied a court order.

    Further Facts: As explained further below, several months after the lawsuit was filed in August 2008, Principal Lay, the Santa Rosa Superintendent, and the School Board admitted to the court, in writing, that they had repeatedly violated the constitutional rights of students, parents, and staff [my emphasis]. With the agreement of the defendants, including Principal Lay’s attorney, the judge entered a preliminary injunction in January 2009 prohibiting the school district officials from unlawfully sponsoring prayers, proselytizing students, and generally promoting religion throughout district schools. Only weeks later, Principal Lay, Director Freeman, and Assistant Winkler violated that order. Thus, any contempt penalties imposed by the court will not be punishment for praying; rather, they will be the consequences of refusing to follow a court order. No one is above the law. As the success of our judicial system depends on fidelity to this fundamental principle, the courts have an inherent duty to ensure compliance with their orders.

    I suggest the whole thing be read.

    On the admission in writing, see:

    Does v. School Board for Santa Rosa County, Florida – Defendants’ Notice of Admission of Liability where there is a link to the a pdf of the admission of liability for violation of rights presented to the United States District Court, Northern District of Florida, Pensacola Division.

  17. Nightrider says:

    Even if we put aside the microanalysis of the Founding Fathers (some of whom, incidentally, apparently held views about religion that would have them banned from the GOP today), the even bigger point to me is what Ken Buck would want to do after dismantling the wall. It clearly is very important that the federal government step in to give Christianity a boost in places where it is really struggling to have adherents, visibility, and influence, like South Carolina, Texas, Idaho, and in his own Colorado Springs, where Christianity has nearly vanished under the oppression of a century of Supreme Court mandates.

  18. […] Ken Buck Doesn’t Like The Idea Of Separating Church And State (outsidethebeltway.com) […]

  19. Buffalo Rude says:

    @Nightrider: “Even if we put aside the microanalysis of the Founding Fathers (some of whom, incidentally, apparently held views about religion that would have them banned from the GOP today). . . ”

    Some?