We just concluded our poll, which was posted on September 1, along with our article "Politics and Religion: Reaping the Whirlwind". The poll asked our readers if they believed the wall between church and state should remain; come down; on be weakened.
The vote is in and our readers overwhelmingly said that church and state should not mix. 66% of our readers wanted to maintain or strengthen the separation between religion and government. 16% wanted to the wall between the wall to come down, while the remainder thought a little mixture of church and government was ok.
While not part of the Constitution, tradition has held the religion should be kept at arms length from government. Our founding fathers was concerned that if the two mixed, it could result in similarly repressive national religion such as the one England had. Secondly, they wanted a country that welcomed and treated all religions equally. In fact, they believed you had not only the right to practice any faith of your choice, but also the right to practice no faith (a crime at the time in some European countries which would have sent you to prison or worse).
Our founding fathers were mainly Protestant Christians (with a couple exceptions)and practiced their chosen religions in varying degrees (several later even became diestist). They founded this country based on not just Judeo-Christian values, but also on values derived from the Enlightenment, which in turn, were a rediscovery of ideals first proposed by the Ancient Greeks, Romans and even the Sumerians (these included such ideas as basic human rights and the dignity of human beings). As such, they would be appalled to see the Ten Commandments removed from courtrooms, government offices, and classrooms (afterall, they're already engraved all over the buildings in Washington, including such places as the Supreme Court Building and the US Senate).
They would have had no objection to a Christmas scene on public property, so long as other religions had the same right and no attempt was made to impose any religion on anyone else (equal access). Even those who didn't believe in God would have the same right to express themselves, however, they would not have the right to deprive others of their right to express their belief. I suspect this would include posting the Ten Commandments since isn't an attempt to impose a belief system, but rather a a display of one of the founding stones of this country (besides, it happens to be the a basic tenet of the overwhelming majority of our citizens).
Equally, they would often invoke God's name in public speeches, and believed they were morally right in doing so. They had no objections to any man (or woman) following their faith, be it in business or politics. However, they drew the line at when that individual tried to impose their religious beliefs on others. It's one thing practice your religion and quite another to try and pass legislation to require others do the same. Perhaps we truly are judged more by actions than words.
Thanks again everyone for voting! And to our Jewish readers, have a blessed Yom Kippur.