Understanding The Separation Of Church And State

In a North Carolina town, the meaning of the separation of church and state is being well demonstrated:

The Christian flag is everywhere in the small city of King: flying in front of barbecue joints and hair salons, stuck to the bumpers of trucks, hanging in windows and emblazoned on T-shirts. The relatively obscure emblem has become omnipresent because of one place it can't appear: flying above a war memorial in a public park.

This is in keeping with the First Amendment - which prohibits government endorsement of religion AND government interference with the exercise of religion. Thus, while the religious flag (I never heard of it before myself) can not be flown by the government, every person has the right to fly that flag (and apparently they all are.) The lesson is apparently lost on some:

The protesters are concerned not only about the flag, which was one of 11 flying above the memorial when it was dedicated six years ago, but about a metal sculpture nearby depicting a soldier kneeling before a cross. "I won't let it fall," Martini said. "I have already told the city, before you can take it down, I'll tie myself to it and you can cut me down first."

"We were concerned when the city was sponsoring the Christian flag, but we don't have any concern with veterans groups displaying the flag," legal director Katy Parker said. "We think it's great the city is offering citizens a chance to express their opinions."

Precisely right. But apparently, being free to express their views on religion is not sufficient for some:

The protesters, though, aren't satisfied with the vigil. They're planning an Oct. 23 rally in support of their ultimate goal, which is for the city to restore the Christian flag to the permanent metal pole on the memorial. At a recent public hearing, roughly 500 people packed the King Elementary School gymnasium, many waving Christian flags. Of more than 40 speakers, no one spoke in favor of removing it. "We've let our religious freedoms and constitutional rights be stripped away one by one, and I think it's time we took a stand," King resident James Joyce said.

Apparently, not allowing the government to display a religious symbol constitutes a restriction on the personal religious freedom of some. And herein lies the problem with the Right - their idea of freedom is the freedom to impose THEIR religion on the rest of us.

Interestingly, some of these folks understand the constitutional problem:

The Rev. Kevin Broyhill, pastor at Calvary Baptist, donated the flag now flying at the vigil. But Broyhill thinks having it returned permanently to the memorial is a losing legal strategy. He wants the city to transfer the memorial to a veterans group, which would make it private land.

I think SELLING the park at fair market value would work as a solution. Donating the land may not. But an interesting story regarding the separation of church and state.

Speaking for me only

< A First Amendment Threat Related To The Juan Williams Firing | Thursday Afternoon Open Thread >
  • The Online Magazine with Liberal coverage of crime-related political and injustice news

  • Contribute To TalkLeft

  • Display: Sort:
    Exactly! (5.00 / 3) (#1)
    by andgarden on Thu Oct 21, 2010 at 01:06:14 PM EST
    [H]erein lies the problem with the Right - their idea of freedom is the freedom to impose THEIR religion on the rest of us.

    you beat me (none / 0) (#5)
    by Capt Howdy on Thu Oct 21, 2010 at 01:15:51 PM EST
    that it in a nutshell.

    Have them fly a flag with the crescent moon (5.00 / 4) (#3)
    by republicratitarian on Thu Oct 21, 2010 at 01:14:17 PM EST
    and star on it for freedom of religion and see what they say.

    It is going (5.00 / 0) (#9)
    by Ga6thDem on Thu Oct 21, 2010 at 02:16:29 PM EST
    to be a huge fight over the next decade or so to have separation of church and state.

    The irony here is that (5.00 / 1) (#11)
    by MKS on Thu Oct 21, 2010 at 02:42:31 PM EST
    the more successful the wingers are, the more they hurt religion.....

    One could argue that the reason religion is so strong in this country is because of the First Amendment prohibition of government involvement/entanglement....

    The wingers wake up in a cold sweat in the middle of the night fearing that we are becoming like godless Europe.  But Europe has no real separation of church and state.  England has the Church of England. Germany apparently has the government directly withhold money from paychecks as tithing to the church of one's choosing....But the churches are mere museums in Europe (for the most part.)

    The wingers hurt religion and Christianity by making them look very unpalatable....

    The wingers can't really win.  They are fighting against modernity and change....They are bound to lose.  But along the way they put up one heck of a reactionary fight.  (I have seen intelligent wingers admit pretty much that they are fighting a losing battle--that is why they sound like a bunch of defiant persecuted underdogs.)

    The problem is the pain they inflict on others along the way of their doomed cause--gays, women, undocumeted, etc.


    Very true. (5.00 / 2) (#13)
    by Ga6thDem on Thu Oct 21, 2010 at 02:55:53 PM EST
    I have tried to make this point again and again with them to no avail.

    When they whine about Rosie O'Donnell I tell them that sleaze-bags like Pat Robertson are much more damaging to Christianity than she is.

    I also like to make the point that religious fundamentalism is a huge part of the problem in the world today no matter what kind of religion it is.

    I have made the point about separation and church and state in England but that seems to just go over their heads. I also ask them if you are so much against the government then why do you want it running religion? Or is Christianity such a weak religion that it needs the government to prop it up?


    Seems clear, no? (5.00 / 1) (#19)
    by MKS on Thu Oct 21, 2010 at 03:07:49 PM EST
    But wingers in reality conflate religion with cultural hegemony....Their religion is about their "way of life"....

    The rulemonger authoritarians inhabit evey religion....They are the ones who wreak havoc....

    It is not so much an issue of  Christianity v. Islam v. Buddhism v. Janism etc.  It is about the fear of change and modernity, and the need of the fear-based to control others through rules and authority.  Instead of the univerasl compassion which underlies all the major religions....

    But humans have brains, and ultimately the winger creed cannot convince all to ignore science....


    Well (none / 0) (#20)
    by Ga6thDem on Thu Oct 21, 2010 at 03:11:38 PM EST
    there are a lot of Christians who disagree with the fundamentalist/evangelical mindset but it seems that we have been drowned out because of the squeaky wheel getting the grease etc.

    I think the fundamentalists' reign (none / 0) (#25)
    by MKS on Thu Oct 21, 2010 at 03:23:24 PM EST
    is about up.

    I think gay marriage may actually be the thing that really undoes them.....Having lost that major battle, they will melt away into quiteness...There will need to be a coherent reason for being religious other than opposing gay and women's rights....They will be at a loss....


    There's always that issue (none / 0) (#28)
    by jondee on Thu Oct 21, 2010 at 03:34:13 PM EST
    centering around the immanent return of Jesus (or some other Messiah), in the Holy Land..

    All I have (none / 0) (#33)
    by Ga6thDem on Thu Oct 21, 2010 at 04:01:52 PM EST
    to say about that is I hope you are right. Of course, my views of the whole situation are rather skewed considering the part of the country I live in and I'm sure they'll be holding onto fundamentalism down here until the last dog dies as we say in the south.

    The radicalism here really started reaching the boiling point here in the 90's with the election of Bill Clinton. I think it has just continued but I certainly hope and pray it will fizzle out.


    What kills me is the way these people (5.00 / 1) (#29)
    by Anne on Thu Oct 21, 2010 at 03:41:56 PM EST
    think flying their flags or building their crosses or slapping this-or-that color ribbon on their car is what make them good Christians or good people, but I have to say that when I come across this kind of near-obsession with pushing symbols on others, I suspect there's more than a little overcompensating going on for some decidedly un-Christian behavior.


    Somewhere along the line, a lot of people lost sight of how being a good person may be the best kind of "flag" to fly, regardless of what one's religion is - including no religion at all.

    This is probably the kind of community where people attend church because people talk about you if you don't - which means a lot of them are just killing time on Sunday morning before going back to being who they are the other 6 11/12 days of the week.  The kind of place where, no matter how good you are, how kind, compassionate, and giving, if you don't do that in the structure they accept, it doesn't matter.

    And they don't even know how un-Christian that is.

    Yes, they do think that freedom of religion gives them the right to impose their beliefs on the rest of us, and they see government as the best way to impose those beliefs on the maximum number of people.

    All I can say is, they can knock themselves out forcing people to look at religious symbols in every public building and space across the land - they could stamp the word "God" on everthing, recite prayers in every school, erect crosses and fly flags and put Jesus' face on stop signs and toll booths - but it still won't force people to believe and live as they do.

    And then what?  What do they do next?

    Would kind of like to avoid finding out.

    Don't think any of us would (5.00 / 1) (#30)
    by MO Blue on Thu Oct 21, 2010 at 03:46:04 PM EST
    like to find out "What do they do next?"

    oy. (none / 0) (#32)
    by nycstray on Thu Oct 21, 2010 at 03:57:35 PM EST
    don't even want to think on it . . . .

    Way too scary to contemplate. (none / 0) (#37)
    by Angel on Thu Oct 21, 2010 at 04:46:32 PM EST
    ironically... (2.00 / 1) (#45)
    by diogenes on Thu Oct 21, 2010 at 08:28:29 PM EST
    Juan Williams is villified for complaining about Moslems, when you can be imprisoned in most Arab countries and in Iran, which do have establishment of religion, for the "heinous crime" of changing your religion from Islam to Christianity.  This is standard operating procedure, and if you don't believe it then try to open a mission church in Saudi Arabia, Turkey, or Iran.  

    How is that "ironic"? (5.00 / 2) (#46)
    by Yman on Thu Oct 21, 2010 at 10:09:56 PM EST
    You would expect people in the US to refrain from criticizing Williams because you can't open a church in some other countries?

    Really (5.00 / 2) (#47)
    by gyrfalcon on Fri Oct 22, 2010 at 12:09:59 AM EST
    I always want to ask people who make these comparisons whatever happened to "American exceptionalism"?

    Turkey? (5.00 / 0) (#48)
    by CST on Fri Oct 22, 2010 at 10:04:17 AM EST
    Really?  Just throw that in there for good measure?

    Go nuts.

    In any event, this is not Saudi Arabia, last time I checked.  We do not have establishment of religion.  For a reason.


    Turkey.. (none / 0) (#50)
    by jondee on Fri Oct 22, 2010 at 12:53:25 PM EST
    Sure, why not? There's always room for one more uninformed eejit on that all-Muslims-are-the-same bandwagon. Where do people think that big Fos News audience comes from?

    Diogenes is always demonstrating (none / 0) (#51)
    by Harry Saxon on Fri Oct 22, 2010 at 09:17:36 PM EST
    how dark his lamp is.


    Huh (none / 0) (#18)
    by Zorba on Thu Oct 21, 2010 at 03:06:10 PM EST
    I never knew this, either, s.u.  I would have thought that the "Christian flag" would have been the chi-rho labarum of Roman emperor Constantine I, he who made Christianity the religion of the Roman Empire.

    you clearly (none / 0) (#21)
    by CST on Thu Oct 21, 2010 at 03:12:37 PM EST
    aren't civilization players :)

    I had to (none / 0) (#26)
    by Zorba on Thu Oct 21, 2010 at 03:27:36 PM EST
    Google this, CST.  Somehow, I don't think that the citizens of King, NC are big computer/video game players to any great extent.    ;-)

    It looks home-made, perhaps made-up to me (none / 0) (#34)
    by DFLer on Thu Oct 21, 2010 at 04:10:00 PM EST
    See the seam across the white field?

    From wiki (5.00 / 1) (#36)
    by sarcastic unnamed one on Thu Oct 21, 2010 at 04:32:25 PM EST
    The Christian Flag is a flag designed in the early 20th century to represent all of Christianity (see also Christendom), but it has been adopted mainly by Protestant churches in North America, Africa and Latin America.

    The flag has a white field, with a red Latin cross inside a blue canton.

    The shade of red on the cross symbolizes the blood Jesus shed on Calvary, the blue represents Jesus' title of King of Kings, and the white represents Jesus' purity.

    The dimensions of the flag and canton have no official specifications.

    Well, (none / 0) (#41)
    by Zorba on Thu Oct 21, 2010 at 06:23:30 PM EST
    there you go.  I'm not Protestant, so I was never aware of this.

    Me too. (none / 0) (#49)
    by sarcastic unnamed one on Fri Oct 22, 2010 at 12:34:03 PM EST
    yes I saw that after I posted, via google (none / 0) (#44)
    by DFLer on Thu Oct 21, 2010 at 07:23:48 PM EST
    The city of King's own version (none / 0) (#4)
    by MO Blue on Thu Oct 21, 2010 at 01:15:34 PM EST
    of helping small businesses survive in this economy. ;-(

    In King, it's virtually inescapable. Gullion's Christian Supply Center, an area retailer, has sold hundreds of flags since the dispute began, according to Leanne Gay, who was running a tent at Calvary Baptist Church in King where everything from Christian flag decals to T-shirts were for sale.

    "In the first couple weeks, we were running out of flags every two hours or so," she said.

    I'm no theological scholar... (none / 0) (#6)
    by kdog on Thu Oct 21, 2010 at 01:38:20 PM EST
    but isn't all this flag worship a blatant violation of the 2nd Commandment?

    The townspeople should thank god for the seperation of church and state, if the 2nd Commandment was the law of our land, they'd all be up on felony charges.

    The don't actually worship (none / 0) (#7)
    by jondee on Thu Oct 21, 2010 at 01:51:27 PM EST
    the flag per se, they worship other idols that are only symbolized by all those flags, decals, tee shirts, hula hoops, water slides etc

    So you're saying... (5.00 / 1) (#8)
    by kdog on Thu Oct 21, 2010 at 02:07:20 PM EST
    they'd get off on a technicality...err, delay prosecution till after death:)

    I think maybe it's time (none / 0) (#10)
    by jondee on Thu Oct 21, 2010 at 02:22:59 PM EST
    Keith Urban or whoever did a country version of John Prine's "your flag decal won't get you into heaven anymore, it's already overfull from your dirty little wars.."

    Throw in a whiny steel guitar and a drankin' beer reference and some stations might play it, at least until the complaints started mounting up.  


    Thou shalt keep and bear arms? (none / 0) (#14)
    by roy on Thu Oct 21, 2010 at 02:58:34 PM EST
    Just don't covet... (none / 0) (#16)
    by kdog on Thu Oct 21, 2010 at 03:01:43 PM EST
    your neighbors AK and you're all good in God's eyes.

    Maybe thou shalt stop obsessing (none / 0) (#22)
    by jondee on Thu Oct 21, 2010 at 03:15:20 PM EST
    about keeping and bearing arms; since no one here  serious has ever made a serious attempt to stop anyone, outside of keeping them away from lunatics and gangbangers who travel to God 'n Guns country to load up..

    not endorsement (none / 0) (#12)
    by diogenes on Thu Oct 21, 2010 at 02:49:35 PM EST
    The first amendment forbids government ESTABLISHMENT of religion.  The context is one in which the Anglican Church was the church of state and in which the head of government (the king) was also he head of the Anglican Church.  It wasn't until the 1950's that liberal courts decided that the first amendment forbids "expression" of religion.

    Heh (5.00 / 2) (#23)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Thu Oct 21, 2010 at 03:17:58 PM EST
    it wasn't until the 1950s (5.00 / 1) (#27)
    by CST on Thu Oct 21, 2010 at 03:28:35 PM EST
    that the liberal courts decided segregation was against the 14th amendment.

    What's your point?


    Doesn't it say "Respecting" (none / 0) (#35)
    by Radix on Thu Oct 21, 2010 at 04:26:10 PM EST
    an Establishment of religion? Wouldn't that mean congress is forbidden from showing any deference or feelings of esteem, by law, towards one religion or another?

    No. (5.00 / 1) (#39)
    by Peter G on Thu Oct 21, 2010 at 05:56:11 PM EST
    It says "no law respecting an establishment of religion" (or "prohibiting the free exercise thereof" - two sides of the same coin).  Pretty clear that "respecting" in this context does not mean "showing respect for" (as Radix's comment suggests) but rather "with reference to" or "on the subject of."  Grammatically (and I'm not saying that grammar is the be-all and end-all of constitutional interpretation), it is necessarily different from "no law establishing a religion."  Just as a matter of English usage, it has to mean something broader than that.  (Thus, the theory that Diogenes recites is incorrect, also.)  How much broader?  Only a little 18th Century history and a bigger dose of contemporary constitutional theory can answer that $60,000 question.

    Perhaps, (none / 0) (#40)
    by Radix on Thu Oct 21, 2010 at 06:05:24 PM EST
    I would suggest it would be impossible for anyone to establish anything, while maintaining they have no feelings of esteem or deference for that which is being established.

    exactly right n/t (none / 0) (#43)
    by eparrot on Thu Oct 21, 2010 at 06:53:26 PM EST
    i wasn't aware (none / 0) (#15)
    by cpinva on Thu Oct 21, 2010 at 03:00:12 PM EST
    that there's an "official" christian flag? who decided this, and was it agreed to by all the christian sects? was there a secret conclave held, where this was voted on? was the pope there?

    seriously, these people are such easily taken rubes. for all they know, that flag could be the standard for some wiccan sect. which would actually be kind of funny, and possibly truly ironic.

    According to wikipedia (none / 0) (#24)
    by MO Blue on Thu Oct 21, 2010 at 03:18:30 PM EST
    there is even a pledge of allegiance to the christian flag.

    I pledge allegiance to the Christian Flag, and to the Savior, for whose kingdom it stands. One Savior, crucified, risen and coming again, with life and liberty for all who believe.

    I pledge allegiance to the Christian Flag and to the Savior for whose kingdom it stands; One Savior, crucified, risen, and coming again with life and Liberty to all who repent and believe The Gospel

    I pledge allegiance to the Christian flag and to the Savior for whose kingdom it stands; One brotherhood, uniting all (some versions add true) Christians in service and in love.

    I pledge allegiance to the Christian flag and to the gospel for which it stands; One Savior, crucified, risen and coming again, with life eternal for all who believe. wikipedia

    Doesn't seems go well with a literal interpretation of the 2nd. Commandment.

    BTW, no pope - mainly adopted by Protestant churches in North America, Africa and Latin America.


    we seem to have a number of folks here (none / 0) (#31)
    by nycstray on Thu Oct 21, 2010 at 03:56:54 PM EST
    who were not aware of this flag {grin} i seem to be in good company . . . . .

    Without this story, if anyone had (none / 0) (#38)
    by MO Blue on Thu Oct 21, 2010 at 04:49:36 PM EST
    mentioned a Christian flag, I would have automatically thought of the flags carried during the Crusades. link

    Well, there you go (none / 0) (#42)
    by Zorba on Thu Oct 21, 2010 at 06:29:53 PM EST
    I was thinking of Emperor Constantine's Chi-Rho flag, but then, I'm Greek Orthodox. (And those of us of the Eastern Orthodox faith do not contemplate the Crusades fondly.  Not that we were in any way enamored of the Ottoman Empire, by any means, far from it, but the Western Christians managed to kill a whole lot of Eastern Christians on their way to "save" the Holy Land.)