With that understanding, I signed the ACLU’s pledge to support the separation of church and state:
The right to practice one’s religion, or no religion at all, and to live one’s life according to one’s own beliefs are among the most fundamental freedoms guaranteed by the Bill of Rights. I stand with the ACLU, pledge to vigorously defend the separation of church and state.
While religious believers should, with everyone, be free to express their beliefs, the basis of law must remain secular, founded on unbiased reason applied replicable empirical evidence.
The alternative to secular rule is theocracy, a state as dangerous for religious adherents as for those of us with narrower epistemological standards. In freedom, faith flourishes, for better or for worse. In a theocracy, religious freedom vanishes. Only one “true” faith prevails. Alternative views are suppressed, exactly the state that the settlers of this country were trying to escape when they fled England.
The founders’ were explicit, if terse, about the wall between church and state. The first amendment to the U.S. constitution states, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”
This separation has been recognized and embraced by political liberals and conservatives alike. Regardless of whether his political record reflected it perfectly and even if his political heirs do not embrace it, none other than the revered icon of Republican conservatism, Ronald Reagan, spoke eloquently in defense of the separation of church and state:
“We establish no religion in this country, we command no worship, we mandate no belief, nor will we ever. Church and state are, and must remain, separate. All are free to believe or not believe, all are free to practice a faith or not, and those who believe are free, and should be free, to speak of and act on their belief.”
Ronald Reagan, Speech to Temple Hillel and Community Leaders in Valley Stream, New York, 26-October-1984.
I stand with an earlier president, who saw an even stronger separation of church and state:
“I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute.”
John F. Kennedy, Address to the Greater Houston Ministerial Association, 12-September-1960.
With Kennedy, “I want a Chief Executive whose public acts are responsible to all groups and obligated to none.”