FEEDBACK

Balancing Church and State

December 14, 1984

Report Outline
An Ongoing Effort
Roots of Separation
Religious Activism
Special Focus

An Ongoing Effort

Post-Election Array of Religious Issues

Religion was the surprise issue of the 1984 presidential election campaign, and perhaps among the most divisive. It was a surprise largely because most American voters do not expect candidates for political office to campaign on religious or sectarian themes. Nor do voters expect their church officials to endorse political candidates. Yet both happened during the campaign, raising anew questions about the proper balance between church and state and between religion and politics.

The election is over but a host of church-state issues awaits court and legislative action. Others remain matters for further debate from the pulpit and in the press. Religious fundamentalists who say the nation has moved away from its traditional religious and moral values are striving to have those values sanctioned by federal and state law. Other groups, dedicated to a more complete separation of church and state, are working to ward off laws that they believe either infringe on religious liberty or entangle church and state.

At the center of the debate is the religious clause of the First Amendment to the Constitution which states that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof….” It seems clear that the founding fathers intended to prohibit the federal government from imposing a specific set of religious beliefs on its citizens or punishing those whose beliefs differ from the majority. What is not clear is the line between accommodating religion and advancing it. The Constitution may require, in Thomas Jefferson's words, a “wall between church and state.” But religious values are not, perhaps cannot, and, in the opinion of many politicians, clergy and historians, should not be divorced from public debate on civil issues. The question then is how to mix religion and politics so they do not excessively entangle church and state or infringe on religious freedom.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Religion and Politics
Nov. 07, 2014  Religion and Law
Oct. 19, 2012  Understanding Mormonism
Jan. 03, 2012  Sharia Controversy
Jan. 15, 2010  Government and Religion
Feb. 2009  Religious Fundamentalism
Dec. 07, 2007  Protestants Today
Jan. 19, 2007  Future of the Catholic Church
Jul. 30, 2004  Religion and Politics
Nov. 21, 1997  Religious Persecution
Nov. 25, 1994  Religion in America
Oct. 14, 1994  Religion and Politics
Sep. 12, 1986  Getting Religion in Politics
Dec. 14, 1984  Balancing Church and State
Aug. 27, 1976  Politics and Religion
Sep. 09, 1959  Religion in Politics
Jul. 24, 1942  Churches and War
Aug. 15, 1928  American Churches in National Politics
Apr. 09, 1927  The Religious Issue in American Politics
Aug. 01, 1926  The Religious Conflict in Mexico
BROWSE RELATED TOPICS:
Religion and Politics
Religious Freedom
FEEDBACK

Your Email Address

Subject

Provide Feedback

Suggest a topic here.

Type the characters you see below into the box

Take our survey to help us improve CQ Researcher!