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Church and State

May 31, 2011
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…” (First Amendment, US Consitution).
I was just reading an article on the Noah’s Ark museum, called the Ark Encounter,  that is being built in Kentucky. The article, from the New York Times, talks about how the tax incentives being given to this Christian project could, and should, become a lawsuit issue.
 “But granting tax incentives to the explicitly Christian enterprise clearly clashes with the First Amendment’s prohibition on government establishment of religion. Public money is not supposed to pay to advance religion. Kentucky’s citizens should certainly ask themselves if this is really the best use of taxpayer dollars” (Crossing the Church-State Divide by Ark).


It’s an age-old question, isn’t it? What does “no law respecting an establishment of religion” mean? Does it mean, as this article suggests, that not even, what I would call, quasi-giving (tax breaks) should go toward religious institutions? Is the governor of Kentucky justifed by his defense of the Ark Encounter because of its provision of jobs? Should Christians just try to get whatever we can take from the government in these kind of situations? 

Another thought from Jared Michelson: most of what we know (and therefore what we think about) separation of church and state today is precedent from court decisions. So how we see it may very well not be exactly how it was meant/written. One example: the Constiutional committee (or whatever that was called) actually met in a church building…that seems like it would go against our current understanding of the establishment clause; but clearly they didn’t see things the same way as we do now.

That’s all, just a couple thoughts about the whole church and state issue. I do think separation of church and state is a good, necessary thing. Maybe I’ll add one more quote from Ronald Reagan, “To those who cite the first amendment as reason for excluding God from more and more of our institutions and everyday life, may I just say: The first amendment of the Constitution was not written to protect the people of this country from religious values; it was written to protect religious values from government tyranny.” 

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