Thursday, February 14, 2008

"Wall of Separation"

"The Wall of Separation" is a superb documentary on a much-abused and little-understood phrase: the separation of church and state. The documentary proceeds at a thoughtful pace, interviews scholars on both sides of the question (strict separationists and those who think that religion was meant to inform public life), and is generally pleasant to view.

Given the perennial role of religion in politics in American life, and impending elections, this video sheds needed light on the issues.


Jeff S. said...

Looks interesting. I think an important question to ask would be, is the wall meant to keep religion out of government, or vice versa? Or both? Neither? I usually hear the phrase used to keep religion out of government, but I am curious if this is historically accurate.

Doug Groothuis said...

The DVD explains this carefully. It not what the ACLU wants you to believe!

Ed Darrell said...

If the film says the "wall of separation" isn't what the ACLU says it is, it's one more inaccurate propaganda piece.

Jefferson was most explicit about what religious freedom should mean, when he described the passage of the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom in 1786; the next year Madison, who shepherded Jefferson's old proposal into law, led the Philadelphia convention that wrote the Constitution, and then in 1789 proposed the amendments that we now know as the Bill of Rights, including the First Amendment, which this film picks nits with by all accounts. Here's what Jefferson said:

Where the preamble declares that coercion is a departure from the plan of the holy author of our religion, an amendment was proposed, by inserting the word "Jesus Christ," so that it should read, "a departure from the plan of Jesus Christ, the holy author of our religion." The insertion was rejected by a great majority, in proof that they meant to comprehend, within the mantle of its protection, the Jew and the Gentile, the Christian and Mahometan, the Hindoo, and infidel of every denomination.

Is that the claim of this movie?