An Explaination of Current Church/State Law

Today, the Wake Forest University Divinity School’s Center for Religion and Public Affairs released a document entitled “Religious Expression in American Public Life: A Joint Statement of Current Law.”

The document’s drafting committee included everyone from former staff members of the ACLU and People for the American Way to Richard Land of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention and representatives from Pat Robertson’s American Center for Law and Justice.  The document seeks to explain church-state law as it stands today:

“The drafters’ purpose in crafting this statement is to help foster an accurate understanding of current law and improve our national dialogue on these issues. While there is disagreement among the drafters about the merits of some of the court decisions and laws mentioned in the document, the drafters agree that current law protects the rights of people to express their religious convictions and practice their faiths on government property and in public life as described in the statement. In other words, while this diverse group often disagrees about how the law should address issues regarding the intersection of religion and government, it agrees in many cases on what the law is today. More broadly, the drafters also agree that religious liberty, or freedom of conscience, is a fundamental, inalienable right for all people, religious and nonreligious, and that there is a need to correct misunderstandings about this right. The joint statement, which is formatted in a Q and A style, seeks to provide accessible and useful information for Americans about this area of law.”

The full text of the document (pdf.) can be found here.  There are many things in these pages I wish were different, but it is interesting, and I think important, to have a consensus out there as to what the current constitutional and case law really says.  Without spin – from either side.

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