The Separation of Church & State Week falls in the week of Thanksgiving Day as a secular response to National Bible Week, from November 17 to 23 this year. The Americans United for the Separation of Church and State (AU) and the Institute for First Amendment Studies (IFAS) declared the week to challenge the notion that “we are one nation, under God” because we are in fact one nation, under our constitution. Starting on the Sunday before Thanksgiving Day, the whole week is dedicated to highlighting the secular values of the American republic and the important work activists and organizations do to raise awareness about legal options available to the victims of church-state violations.
History of Separation of Church & State Week
By organizing the first National Bible Week, President Roosevelt set a tradition followed by every president since. In response, the Separation of Church & State Week was conceived to promote the fight against the encroachment of religion in public institutions by rallying for a secular government and celebrating the secular values of the U.S. It advocates for religious liberty, freedom to worship, and other secular rights of the American people. It is a good time to understand our duty as citizens of the republic to defend our unalienable rights.
The first use of the phrase ‘separation of church and state’ comes from a letter written by President Thomas Jefferson to Baptists from Danbury, Connecticut, in 1802. In the letter, he reiterates that religion is the one thing that rests solely between a man and his God. He stood his ground against their request to establish a national church, citing the United States Bill of Rights, which he mentioned also meant the government would not interfere in their freedom of religion. The 1791 Bill of Rights made ten amendments to the U.S. Constitution and was among the first political expressions of religious liberty. The 1954 promulgation of the Johnson Amendment also implied a clear separation of church and state, setting a landmark precedent.
Activists, liberals, and intellectuals also raise their voices to educate the people about the importance of the wall limiting government interference in people’s religious choices. The week’s participants take inspiration from the remarkable work done by establishments like American Atheists and The Freedom From Religion Foundation. The American Humanist Association uses the week to promote advocacy for victims of violation.
Separation of Church & State Week timeline
Lord Baltimore drafts the first secular U.S. law to protect Maryland colonists’ rights to worship as they please.
The U.S. adopts the constitution without establishing an official religion of the republic.
The First Amendment, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion,” is ratified by the U.S. Government.
President Thomas Jefferson uses the phrase for the first time in a letter to the Danbury Baptists Association.
Separation of Church & State Week FAQs
Is the U.S. a Christian country?
No. The U.S. hasn’t had an official religion since its inception. However, Christianity is the most prevalent religion in the country, with nearly 205 million people identifying as Christians.
What does the separation of church and state mean?
The separation of church and state means that the elected government should not recognize any religion as supreme, enforce any law that prohibits the practice of any religion, and must remain neutral towards all religions.
Did the Founding Fathers intend to separate the church and the state?
Yes. The Founding Fathers believed that the American people should be free to make their choices and operate as they believe, including their freedom to worship. The Bill of Rights was specifically intended to separate the church and the state, although not mentioned in literal terms.
How to Observe Separation of Church & State Week
Educate the people
Multiple organizations work, pro bono, to fight violations of the separation of church and state. This November, you can educate people about their sovereign rights and duty to uphold the First Amendment.
Volunteer with an action group
Groups like the American Humanist Association, American Atheists, and many others, are constantly looking for volunteers and service members to expand their work throughout the country. If you care about religious liberty and secular values, sign up!
Share the message
Share your knowledge about the Separation of Church & State on your social media. Don’t forget to use the hashtag #SeparationOfChurchAndState.
5 Facts About The United States Government And Religion
The constitution and the crisis
The United States Constitution doesn’t include the word ‘God’ however, the constitution of every state does.
It’s a Christian party in Congress
Although only 65% of the country identifies as Christian, the United States Congress has always been overwhelmingly Christian (89%).
Bible and Bills? It’s a tough choice
Only half of the U.S. population agrees that the Bible should not influence the bills Congress writes.
Public schools can’t pray any more
A Supreme Court ruling in 1962 declares it unconstitutional for a public school teacher to lead a class in prayer.
So help me God, or not
Using these words during the oath ceremony of elected officials depends on personal preference as no law enforces it.
Why Separation of Church & State Week is Important
It’s a privilege to live in a secular state
The Separation of Church & State Week highlights the importance of religious liberty. In the past, millions of people were persecuted and killed for their religion. Forming a republic where religious freedom is a basic human right cannot be taken for granted.
Americans agree with the wall of separation
A 2019 poll conducted by American United for the Separation of Church and State concluded that more than 60% of Americans rank the protection of the separation of government and religion as one of their biggest priorities.
Discrimination still exists
There are countless cases of unjust treatment based on religion in the U.S., for example, the Colorado bakery that refused to bake a cake for a gay couple in 2018. Americans must unite to root out every kind of discrimination, and Separation of Church & State Week is a great opportunity to do that.
Separation of Church & State Week dates