Gay couple walking with kids
In Tennessee, it seems the desire to match children with loving families has taken a backseat to concerns over religious liberty.

Faith-based adoption agencies in Tennessee have been granted legal permission to turn away same-sex parents who are trying to adopt a child. Republican Gov. Bill Lee signed the controversial bill into law despite widespread criticism from the LGBTQ community and the ACLU.

According to proponents of the legislation, allowing such adoptions to occur would violate the agencies’ "written religious or moral convictions.”

But civil rights groups have panned the new law, pointing out that it effectively legalizes discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. Not only that, they argue, but it will also leave many deserving children in the foster system without a permanent home.  

And God Said: Sorry, You’re Stuck in Foster Care

In Tennessee, it seems the desire to match children with loving families has taken a backseat to concerns over religious liberty. “The governor believes that protection of rights is important, especially religious liberty," explained the governor’s spokesman Gillum Ferguson. "This bill is centered around protecting the religious liberty of Tennesseans and that’s why he signed it.”

But Joshua Lindsey, whose online petition to repeal the "Anti LGBTQ+ anti adoption law" has collected over 5,000 signatures, argues that the state has a duty to prioritize the well-being of kids over the religious beliefs of adoption agencies. “The amount of citizens adopting is already scarce enough, this law will only add to the problem. With the restrictions on abortion in this state, foster care and adoption centers will soon be full of children and babies just needing a loving home,” Lindsey says.  

What Happens Next?

It’s not the first time this issue has been raised in Tennessee.

Back in 2007, Tennessee's attorney general determined that nothing in the state statutes prevented gay and lesbian couples from adopting children. This most recent legislative effort appears to have been orchestrated by the Congressional Prayer Caucus Foundation, a group determined to "bring back God to America." 

Certain advocacy groups have already indicated a willingness to sue, encouraged by a recent settlement between the state of Michigan and the ACLU over religious objections.

"This law is clearly discriminatory," argues Rev. Jasmine Beach-Ferrara, executive director of the Campaign for Southern Equality. "As long as the LGBTQ community continues to be targeted by discriminatory laws, we will turn to the courts for recourse."

Adoption Wars Go National

The Tennessee measure follows a similar Trump administration proposal that would allow faith-based foster care and adoption agencies nationwide to exclude same-sex applicants and still receive federal money – rolling back Obama-era regulations which prevented just that. A case which could decide the matter once and for all has been sent to the Supreme Court for review.

There are currently about 440,000 children in foster care across the United States, many of whom will age out of the system without ever getting adopted.  

It begs the question: do those with strong anti-gay religious convictions honestly believe children are better off spending their entire childhood in foster care than in a home with same-sex parents?

Or is it a matter of principle – since God doesn’t “condone” such relationships, they cannot either, regardless of what’s best for the child?

Regardless of the underlying reasoning, if similar adoption laws are allowed to move forward nationally, there will be two clear losers: foster kids denied a shot at a loving home, and the American taxpayers stuck subsidizing adoption agencies that freely discriminate on the basis of "religious freedom."


  1. Lionheart's Avatar Lionheart

    As long as a child has loving parents isn’t that all that matters?



      if I was able to be give you a million thumbs up, I would have! God bless you and hugs hugs. Rev. HeidiAnne Leon. By the way it's funny , my last name means and my old user name was has heart.

  1. Nadah Valadanzouj's Avatar Nadah Valadanzouj

    I’m ashamed to be a Tennessean. Foster care IS NOT better than having same sex parents, or parents that an adoption agency disapproves of. It does not present a danger to children. Stop torturing children just because you can’t control others

  1. Wayward73's Avatar Wayward73

    What ever happened to the separation of church and state?

    1. Jim's Avatar Jim

      There is no such thing in the constitution that states separation of church and state. Only that no specific religion can be endorsed by the government. That said The country and the founding fathers based the setup of the country on Christianity, even though a few of them were atheists.

      1. Amber Fry's Avatar Amber Fry

        Nope, you have to further look through the articles and the papers Jefferson wrote on the subject.

        1. Dennis Wayne Starr's Avatar Dennis Wayne Starr

          Amber there were a lot of comments, statements and opinions wrote by many in articles, newspapers and other periodicals. These Do not put a legal stamp of approval on everything and anything that they wrote. nO MORE SO BY YOUR "NOPE" . With all their opinions and good intent of "meaning" the final "word" is CONSTITUTION.

        2. Daniel Gray's Avatar Daniel Gray

          Sorry Amber it makes no difference what you want to claim Jefferson wrote. The Constitution was ratified in may of 1787, the very first mention of this myth was in 1802 a good 15 years AFTER the final ratification meaning (and you would have known this if you paid attention in school) that to change or alter the constitution you would need a constitutional amendment, NOT a letter. And to this day no constitutional amendment has ever been put forth. As such it is not and never will be in the Constitution until this is done no matter how much you try and say otherwise.

          1. T Kosse`'s Avatar T Kosse`

            The separation of church and state in the US (continue because of a limit of 5000 words)

            The US Supreme Court has frequently resorted to an examination of the eighteenth-century Founding Fathers’ writings to ascertain the relationship between religion and state that was intended to undergird the American social and political order. The court has tended to rely extensively on Thomas Jefferson, the author of the Declaration of Independence and the nation’s third president, to determine much of the Founders’ “original intent.” In fact, the phrase “wall of separation between church and state” was first used in America by President Jefferson in 1802 as a shorthand explanation of the meaning he assigned to the religion clauses. This well-known phrase was enlisted by the US Supreme Court in 1947 as a useful metaphor in adjudicating religion clause disputes. The court thus acknowledges that separating church and state was fundamental to the Founders’ project.

            “Separation of church and state” is therefore a legitimate concept in America, but it describes more an institutional separation than a strict separation. In other words, the Constitution requires that the institutions of church and state in American society not be interconnected, dependent upon, or functionally related to each other. The purpose of this requirement is to achieve mutual independence and autonomy for these institutions, based on the belief that they will function best if neither has authority over the other. Affected are the institutional bodies of religion, that is, churches, mosques, temples, synagogues, and other bodies of organized religion, and the institutional bodies of governmental authority—state and federal governments, but also small local bodies such as school districts, police departments, city councils, utility districts, municipal courts, county commissions, and the like.

            Consequently, churches and other houses of worship receive no direct governmental funding, nor are they required to pay income or property taxes. Government officials appoint no clergy; conversely, religious bodies appoint no government officials. Governments, even courts, are not allowed to settle church disputes that involve doctrinal issues. And religious bodies, unlike the Catholic Church in the Middle Ages, have no authority to dictate law or public policy, although they might try since they are not excluded as participants in political discourse.

            The institutional separation of church and state is observed most frequently, and most controversially, in judicial decisions that limit religious activity in the public schools. The Supreme Court’s decisions limiting schools’ ability to entertain vocal prayers and scripture readings, to post the Ten Commandments and other religious texts, or to advance a particular religious worldview are intended to protect the sacred domain of religion from state interference. The High Court often stresses that children are highly impressionable, and that while it might be permissible for the state to occasionally accommodate religious observances in higher public education settings or in legislative assemblies, it is important to leave the religious training of young children generally to parents, religious bodies, and other private organizations. Thus it might be said that a “high” wall of separation is observed in the nation’s public K–12 schools.

            Yet it is important to remember that in the public school context, it is the precepts and practices of institutionalized religion that are prohibited from being embraced or proscribed. Courses that teach comparative religion, the historical or literary aspects of religion, or religion in a secular and objective way without any attempt to inculcate faith, are permitted, and even encouraged. As Justice Tom Clark wrote in Abington v. Schempp, “one’s education is not complete without a study of comparative religion or the history of religion and its relationship to the advancement of civilization … Study of the Bible or of religion, when presented objectively as part of a secular program of education [does not violate] the First Amendment.”

  1. Reverend Steve's Avatar Reverend Steve

    Let's not be politically correct in the face of the anti-christian and unamerican activities of those claiming to be Christians in the stultifyingly un-christian state of Tennessee. It's instructive to note that the Cato institute (as well as other statistical think tanks) consistently include Tennessee as one of the ten dumbest states in the union.The entire state - boys and girls, ladies and gentlemen.With the average IQ of 97.7, Tennessee ranks 41 (Massachusetts is #1) and both their dismal history and contemporary spiritual squalor give new meaning to the adage "Consider the source."

    Now those of us who are actual Christians believe that Jesus Christ is our Lord and Savior. He was a heck of a Rabbi. His words echo down through the corridors of time as the truth and the light. Sacred words; not one of which was negative about homosexuality. Jesus repeatedly admonished - in the strongest terms - those who deigned to judge others. Those who rejected or discriminated. He criticized merchants and rich people - and the "holier than thou" crowd. And Jesus loved children without reservation. He did not reject gay children (Yes, Virginia, there is a such thing as "Gay children") I must stop here or I'll be sermonizing about the hypocrites who judge and reject gays and others based on attitudes that contravene Jesus' teachings and yet call themselves Christians, and how many Tennessee "Christians" are a vile and contemptible insult to everything Jesus taught.

  1. James D Ingram's Avatar James D Ingram

    If they want to stick with biblical thinking; couples who are “barren” should not get children. It is God’s will that they don ‘t have children. - - Sarcasm intended, Just pointing out the hypocritical thought process here.

  1. Rev. Don's Avatar Rev. Don

    Please forgive the long response, but it is very disheartening to me when people use the Bible and to propagate hate and justify hurting children.

    There are many children who are orphaned, neglected, abused and even killed by biological parents because safe homes and loving parents are denied to them for various reasons. Denying children protective and loving parents based on 3,000-year-old biblical writings -- by imperfect humans -- is not only un-Christian, it is ludicrous.

    Those who profess to follow Christ’s teachings must, for their own salvation, consider their hypocrisy in advocating against same-sex parenting while simultaneously preaching God’s love. Doing so is a mockery of God’s word.

    One must remember that imperfect mankind wrote the books of the Bible in the context of the times they lived in. One must also remember that only those books that conformed to societal norms at the time were included in the book we now call the Bible; there are many books that were not included.

    Basing an understanding of God’s word through the lens of human beings who lived between 1200 and 165 BC -- imperfect human beings in a period of history when sexual orientation was not understood or accepted by society -- is in and of itself imperfect. For a true understanding, one must examine those 3,000-year-old writings in the context of humankind today.

    Those who use biblical writings to deny children loving parents – no matter the prospective parents' sexual orientation -- essentially make the choice to despise children by refusing to examine their own understanding of the Bible as it applies to current times.

    By doing so, they not only put children at peril, they put their own salvation at risk. As Christ said, “See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that in heaven their angels always see the face of my Father who is in heaven.”

    Continuing with a biblically-unjustifiable persecution (according to Christ’s concept of love), is a mockery of God’s word. For their own salvation, I hope they remember, as Jesus said, “God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap.”

  1. Robert H Donahue's Avatar Robert H Donahue

    I look at this as a separation of church and state issue. We allow a church to openly discriminate as long as it is within the confines of that religious institution. For example, the Catholic Church is allowed to prevent women from being in the primary leadership roles of the Church (priest, Bishop, Cardinal, Pope). However, that allowance for discrimination does not transfer once a Catholic is operating in the public arena. A Catholic business owner cannot use his religious beliefs to not allow women to have leadership roles in his business. Similarly, if the adoption agency is run by the Church and is serving only members of their Church, I could tolerate the discrimination. However, if the adoption agency operates in the public arena serving the general population, I do not think the discrimination should be allowed.

  1. Dan C Bowles's Avatar Dan C Bowles

    As a foster father of 13 "at risk" children over 5 years, I can assure you that these children only want to be loved! "At risk" meant children that had been severely abused by parents but oft times, re-abused by a series of "career" foster parents. Our home was a last resort. If these people in Tennessee feel children are better served in foster care, often a series of foster homes, rather than a loving same sex couple, we need to chat. The horrors of abuse and re-abuse need to be discussed openly.

  1. Jake Reynolds's Avatar Jake Reynolds

    Yup let's leave them anywhere but a good home.

    1. Theodore Richard Adams's Avatar Theodore Richard Adams

      LGBT couples are almost the only ones who have adopted many AIDS children and taken care of them till they passed. I have know some and I could not conceive of the love they have shown these little ones. It breaks your heart to see their love and know that they have only a short time with them. One I knew was on the the child. Otherwise most live in institutions in many states till they die. Tragic how many "christians" do not really love people but only rules. Instead of life, they give off death by their actions and words. They speak of grace and love, yet practice law and rules. Grace is messy, yet it is the only really life given in the New Testament in which Paul writes each letter to the issues of each church and tells what an issue is, then does not curse them, condemn them, or say to go to the alter, but then proceeds to remind them of who they are in Christ and then asks why they are living in the old ways of the life they left. Too many churches speak of grace mixed with law. Grace is what teaches us to live in Christ, not law (Titus 2:11-12). We are free to learn even if we do or say the wrong things from time to time. But that is the way to learn as awe know from even the natural life, we all have to take time to learn from our mistakes, why should this not be in a Christian's life. To love means that allowing others to fail or being a loving neighbor sometimes calls us to step out and say that we may not agree with someone, but we can walk with them in their journey. This is to make cakes for weddings, flowers for weddings, rent a venue, drive a couple to their wedding, or bless a couple when they love children regardless of orientation. What a witness about Jesus Christ in the world we can be, if we get off our pride and condemning attitude that Jesus never had and start relating to our neighbors in love, caring and justice. After all we are to "do justice, to love mercy, and to humbly walk with our God" (Micah 6:8).

  1. Robert Edward Szekely's Avatar Robert Edward Szekely

    Clearly, the welfare of the children was not even a consideration here. This is by no stretch of the imagination about religious freedom. It's about homophobia and discrimination against LGBTQI+ people, and IT HAS TO STOP. A federal amendment needs to be passed that precludes any spurious claims of "religious freedom" to be used to allow actions to be passed into law which effectively constitute discriminatory actions against "recognized minorities for whom there has been a demonstrable history of prejudice and persecution". This is "Jim Crow" laws all over again, just with a fresh coat of paint (of a different color).

    Just by virtue of of the foster parents being heterosexual does not guarantee that such a couple will provide a loving and nurturing home to a foster child. Depending on the state, temporarily housing foster children can bring with it remuneration to the foster parents. This, in and of itself, can be an incentive contrary to providing a proper home environment for a foster child.

    The practice of one's religion is a personal and private matter. It should not come into play in business transactions or lawmaking, if it favors or isolates one group over another.

    1. Tom's Avatar Tom

      Robert....i agree...if the welfare of the children was a consideration,, then spurious "religious" beliefs would not be considered...this is the same hypocrisy as expressed by the anti-aborion groups, who never volunteer to adopt the children they want to force into the world...Peace...Tom B

  1. Richard Lee Cornell's Avatar Richard Lee Cornell

    Turn those children over to the church. Make each family that have just a couple of children have a few more. Get the churchs directly involed since they have stopped children from being adopter by any other means.

    1. Lionheart's Avatar Lionheart

      Why turn the children over to the church? Doing so, they will become indoctrinated with the religious dogma of the church they are turned over to, thus denying them their ability to have original thought using logic and reason.


      1. Rev. Dennis's Avatar Rev. Dennis

        Your argument that the children would be indoctrinated would be ok except in the fact that the religious organization is already indoctrinating them by denying them to same sex couples which would potentially raise them in a loving home. The children are being taught that mans intolerance of a sexual orientation trumps Gods commandment for us to love.

        1. Lionheart's Avatar Lionheart

          I understand your point Sir Dennis, however, I see it that children would have just as much chance of experiencing love, whether the parents are of the same sex or not. Only time would tell of course!

          As for suggesting that there is a god that has commanded people “to love” is actually a fallacious statement being as we still have no demonstrable evidence that any god really exists. But it’s in interesting concept! Thank you.


          1. Rev. Dennis's Avatar Rev. Dennis

            I appreciate your response. I believe that any person(s) should be able to adopt children after due diligence if they are willing to open their home, care for a child and help them grow into a well balanced contributor to society. I don't believe sexual orientation should matter as I personally know couples on both sides of the spectrum and both are very dedicated and loving. I also know single people (by choice, loss or divorce) which can and do provide a healthy and loving environment for children.

            As far as no evidence exists to demonstrate that there is a God which actually exists I would have to disagree. While I cannot definitively prove a singular entity I would suggest looking at the variety of life on this planet as that proof that something other than pure accident created the plethoric variety of species which exists.

            1. Lionheart's Avatar Lionheart

              Thank you Sir Dennis. Though you and I agree with your first paragraph, the second of course is very open to interpretation. I have looked at the variety of life on this planet of ours, which I find fantastically wonderful.

              I find evolution an amazing science. I also find nature incredible with its wonderful vistas and beautiful array of flora and fauna. However, none of this points to the design of any deity. Just like the wonders of nature we also know of the destruction of nature such as earthquakes, tsunamis, tornadoes, volcanoes etc which often comes with death for humankind, flora, and fauna. It’s just the way nature is, and has always been, for billions of years, way before religions were ever thought about.


  1. Angela Faith Hockenberry's Avatar Angela Faith Hockenberry

    The "Founding Father" were Mason's and it does state Separation of Church and State. This country is good at ripping away children from their families and adopting out to "Christian" families. Still to this day are doing it, ask the Indigenous tribes. Those babies need to be adopted to whomever will love them no matter their gender race sexual orientation age or religion.

    1. Daniel Gray's Avatar Daniel Gray

      The Constitution does not though and that is our supreme law. My apologies for busting your bubble

  1. Robyn Adrianne Reviere's Avatar Robyn Adrianne Reviere

    Those poor children deprived of a loving home. Let there be love.

  1. Theresa Graveline Leduc's Avatar Theresa Graveline Leduc

    A safe loving home is better than someone just adopting for another child in the home to help with the chores. Sorry but how else would you look at this?? Parents regardless of their gender preference are more mindful and understanding of differences, more accepting, and loving unconditionally. Why on earth would you deny any child a loving, caring, safe environment to grow and develop a broader understanding of the world. It is much better than feeling abandoned, unloved, and lost. Its a shame in this day and age that this is happening. I know of several churches in my area alone that welcome same gender couples with open arms. They are good Christian people, willing to open their heart and homes to give a child a safe haven where they can grow and flourish. These children are our future. Lets not keep them in the dark ages.. Wake up. Their future is our future, and they cannot flourish and be brave leaders if they have to hide because some people still are stuck in their own world where nothing changes. How sad.

  1. Rev. Dennis's Avatar Rev. Dennis

    Agreed. It is our job as Gods children to care for each other. It is his job alone to judge how a person lived when they are called home. Children in heterosexual homes have been abused by one parent (sometimes sexually) so is that better than having a loving home with two parents who happen to be of the same sex? I don't think so.

  1. Daniel Gray's Avatar Daniel Gray

    Sorry but if it is a faith based adoption agency, then they have the right to decide on who gets to adopt. If a gay couple wants to adopt they dont have to go to a faith based agency and can go through the courts so whats the big fuss?

    1. Pastor Susie Timlick's Avatar Pastor Susie Timlick

      Any child that is starving for nurturing first security for loving care in a loving home that's the big deal. I am a pastor and I have to tell you I am so over people using their prejudices their judgments their sinful behavior in the name of God. Cuz I can bet you on my love of the Lord above that if he was asked he would say.. bring the little children unto them who will love them ,as I have loved you. Pardon the paraphrasing..

      1. Pastor Susie Timlick's Avatar Pastor Susie Timlick

        He was asked ..He ..sorry about the rapid response and not referring to Our Father as He..✝️😇

        1. Pastor Susie Timlick's Avatar Pastor Susie Timlick

          First bakeries and their cakes. And now the well-being ,emotional,spiritual and nurtuing health of innocent children... Oh that's right they don't vote so they don't have a say in this.. think back on this in November of 2020 and ask yourself are we going to allow this to continue another four years.

          1. Pastor Susie Timlick's Avatar Pastor Susie Timlick

            NUTURING....sigh Pastor Susie

      2. Daniel Gray's Avatar Daniel Gray

        Again if its a faith based adoption agency then they go by their rules. So the same thing that is said to anti abortion people, if you dont want to go to Tenn and adopt then keep quiet.

        1. Rev. Dennis's Avatar Rev. Dennis

          Sometimes rules by "faith based" men are not the truth of God. The inquisition in the middle ages is an example of men working in the name of God. Islamic extremism using extermination of Gods children is another example of men working in the name of God. Neither is what God wants yet it is done by "mans law" not Gods.

          1. Lionheart's Avatar Lionheart

            And your demonstrable unquestionable evidence to prove your claim of your god and his edict, is where?


            1. Rev. Dennis's Avatar Rev. Dennis

              36 'Master, which is the greatest commandment of the Law?'

              37 Jesus said to him, 'You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.

              38 This is the greatest and the first commandment.

              39 The second resembles it: You must love your neighbour as yourself.

              40 On these two commandments hang the whole Law, and the Prophets too.'


              40 And the King will answer, "In truth I tell you, in so far as you did this to one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did it to me."


              34 I give you a new commandment: love one another; you must love one another just as I have loved you.

              35 It is by your love for one another, that everyone will recognise you as my disciples.


              4 It is true that my conscience does not reproach me, but that is not enough to justify me: it is the Lord who is my judge.

              5 For that reason, do not judge anything before the due time, until the Lord comes; he will bring to light everything that is hidden in darkness and reveal the designs of all hearts. Then everyone will receive from God the appropriate commendation.


              1 Though I command languages both human and angelic -- if I speak without love, I am no more than a gong booming or a cymbal clashing.

              2 And though I have the power of prophecy, to penetrate all mysteries and knowledge, and though I have all the faith necessary to move mountains -- if I am without love, I am nothing.

              3 Though I should give away to the poor all that I possess, and even give up my body to be burned -- if I am without love, it will do me no good whatever.

              4 Love is always patient and kind; love is never jealous; love is not boastful or conceited,

              5 it is never rude and never seeks its own advantage, it does not take offence or store up grievances.

              6 Love does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but finds its joy in the truth.

              7 It is always ready to make allowances, to trust, to hope and to endure whatever comes.

              8 Love never comes to an end. But if there are prophecies, they will be done away with; if tongues, they will fall silent; and if knowledge, it will be done away with.

              9 For we know only imperfectly, and we prophesy imperfectly;

              10 but once perfection comes, all imperfect things will be done away with.

              11 When I was a child, I used to talk like a child, and see things as a child does, and think like a child; but now that I have become an adult, I have finished with all childish ways.

              12 Now we see only reflections in a mirror, mere riddles, but then we shall be seeing face to face. Now I can know only imperfectly; but then I shall know just as fully as I am myself known.

              13 As it is, these remain: faith, hope and love, the three of them; and the greatest of them is love.

              1. Lionheart's Avatar Lionheart

                And again, your demonstrable unquestionable evidence to prove your claim of your god and his edict, is where?

                All I see are here-say statements that are listed in an old book written by men decades after the death of the man called Jesus. We don’t even have any evidence that what is written in that book are true statements, especially when you consider that there are some very questionable stories of speaking animals and serpents, a man walking on water, a virgin woman giving birth from a deity, etc.


  1. Reverend Steven DeGon's Avatar Reverend Steven DeGon

    Those of you who believe gay ccouples should adopt and or foster your wrong. Teaching our kids that life style is not bad shame on you. The bible even says that man shall not lay with man and woman should not lay with woman.

    1. James D Ingram's Avatar James D Ingram

      The Bible speaks more about adultery than it does about same sex relationships. Please focus on cleaning your ‘own house’ before throwing stones at others.

  1. William Cureton Fox's Avatar William Cureton Fox

    Why shouldn't the next "parents" be picked with the next child, regardless of any qualifications?

  1. Dorothy E. Cogswell's Avatar Dorothy E. Cogswell

    So let those children be left with no loving families?

  1. Andrea Christina McGough's Avatar Andrea Christina McGough

    I have several gay friends who are adoptive/foster parents, and really, the bigger question here is why does it matter if a religious organization holds to their belief system? It doesn’t matter if they recruit gay couples or not because there are plenty of state organizations that also train foster and adoptive parents. Same sex couples are not without options, as my friends who have children can speak to. There’s more than one game in town!! How about letting BOTH people groups have their religious rights?

  1. Patricia Proctor Bee's Avatar Patricia Proctor Bee

    Unfortunately it is their religious right. But I would hope that the acceptance of same sex marriages would give unwanted children more chances for love with a family.


  1. T Kosse`'s Avatar T Kosse`

    Um no sorry you're wrong again Daniel Gray

    First I like to say that: This mythological school that you attended, and was such a good little studious child of, and everyone else you chastise for lack of attendance. Perhaps this school was just a figment of your imagination, a fart in the wind

    The second part is about: The separation of church and state in the US

    While contradictory in many respects, the principles of separation of church and state, cooperation between sacred and secular, religious equality in the treatment of religion, and the integration of religion and politics combine to provide unique but important contributions to American life.

    The United States Supreme Court plays a significant role with respect to religious institutions and religious practice in America. The role of the court derives specifically from its authority to engage in judicial review, that is, its authority to invalidate legislation or executive actions that violate the Constitution. The court’s jurisprudence in the realm of religion has generally been constructed by interpreting the meaning of the First Amendment’s religion clause: “Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”

    Overall, the court seems committed to at least four themes: separation of church and state, cooperation between sacred and secular activities in religion-based contexts, equality of government treatment among religions and religious persons, and integrating religion and politics. One must see these various themes as integrated into a much larger Supreme Court framework that seeks to set forth the contours of how government authority interfaces with religious practice in the United States.

    The court’s decisions sometimes seem contradictory, even to the most ripened experts. But by examining many of the court’s decisions under these four themes, the court’s difficult task of balancing the religion clauses and giving them meaning becomes more apparent and their decisions more rational. Apparent inconsistencies abound. How is it, for example, that students in public schools cannot have vocal prayers in their classrooms or at their football games, but the US Congress can have its own chaplains to lead it daily in prayer? Or why is it that the Ten Commandments cannot be regularly posted in public school classrooms, yet the US Supreme Court building in Washington, DC, both inside and out, features several displays of the Ten Commandments?

    And how can a nation committed to the separation of church and state adopt a national motto that proclaims to the world, “In God We Trust?” On their face, these seemingly contradictory rules and practices might be bizarre. But understood in the broader, elaborate framework of Supreme Court decisions, examined through the grid of the four themes already mentioned, these apparent consistencies can be understood, even justified.

    Obviously, the American tradition of separation of church and state does not mean that a separation of religion from government is required in all cases. So, while the phrase is too broad to embrace the whole system, it nevertheless does accurately describe an important part of the system.

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