Myths About the Separation of Church and State

Myths, Misconceptions, Misunderstandings, and Lies

When discussing the separation of church and state, it quickly becomes apparent that there is a lot of misinformation, misunderstandings, and myths floating around which distort people's perception of critical issues. It simply isn't possible to come to a reasonable understanding about the nature of how religion and government should interact when people do not have all of the facts - or, even worse, when what they think are facts turn out to simply be errors.

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In order to argue against the legitimacy of separating church and state in America, many accommodationists make a variety of false claims about the nature of America's laws and government. The goal seems to be to argue that law and government in America should be blended with religion, preferably Christianity, otherwise their nature or foundations would be damaged. All of these arguments fail, though, because they rely upon misrepresentations and myths that can be shown to be false.

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The very idea of separating church and state continues to be controversial, despite how well it has worked for churches, governments, and citizens over so many years. Opponents of church/state separation are able to manufacture and prmote controversy by promoting misunderstandings about what church/state separation really means and what it does. The more you understand church/state separation and secularism, the easier it will be to defend it against attack from theocrats.

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Lawsuits over violations of the separation of church and state rely on arguing that these are violations of people's constitutional rights. This means that confusing people with myths about what the Constitution really says and means is an important tool for those who want to undermine church/state separation and secularism in favor of some sort of theocratic order. Americans need to understand what the Constitution guarantees and why church/state separation is important for them.

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In arguing against church/state separation, Christian Nationalists promote myths, misconceptions, and even lies about the relationship between religion and government. Confusing people about how religion and government should interact helps convince people that it's appropriate for the state to promote, endorse, or even fund one religion in particular. Seeing the right relationship between religion and government, however, reveals why the state should be secular and separated from religion.

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The status of religion generally and prayer in particular are very important for America's Christian Right. Many see public schools as a site of indoctrination: they think kids are already being indoctrinated into communism, secular humanism, and feminism; they would rather have their own beliefs promoted by the state through the schools with prayer, Bible reading, official religious events, and more. Prayer, though, is a primary focus for their attention.