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Austin Cline

The Specialness of Judeo-Christian Principles

By November 26, 2004

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Quite often when people try to argue against the separation of church and state or in favor of imposing Christian ideas via the power of the government, they invoke "Judeo-Christian Principles." These are supposed to be fundamental principles upon which American law, morality, and civilization have been founded. But just what are they, anyway?

Frank Salvato writes in Men's News Daily:

It cannot be denied that our country was founded using Judeo-Christian principles. For those whose ‚Äúliberal alarms‚Äů just went off I will clarify. This country was founded by men who believed in a philosophy that determined there existed good as well as evil. They believed the sun did not rise on their whim, rather that they were subservient to a higher calling. They believed there was something more important than self. That‚Äôs what made these men humble. It is also what made these men great.

So, "Judeo-Christian" principles are basically just the belief in good & evil, subservience to some "higher calling," belief in something "more important than self," and the "humility" that ensues from said beliefs. That's it? There's nothing especially "Judeo-Christian" there because similar principles can be identified in cultures and religions throughout human history. If this is all there is, it's certainly nothing to crow about and no reason at all to favor Christianity with a privileged status in American law or society.

It‚'s an undeniable fact that nowhere in the United States Constitution do the words "separation of church and state" exist. The only mention of religion comes in the First Amendment to the Constitution, which states: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof"

It is also an undeniable fact that nowhere in the United States Constitution do the words "fair trial," much less "right to a fair trial," exist. Should we conclude that this is therefore an invalid principle by which laws should be judged for their constitutionality? No. Salvato's ignorance of the Constitution is obvious here — after all, he's absolutely wrong about the above being the "only mention of religion" in the Constitution.

Some religious conservatives seem to forget that religion is mentioned in the main body, specifically in order to prohibit "any religious tests" for public office. Before the amendments were added, that was the only mention of religion in the Constitution and it makes clear the authors' desire to ensure that religion wouldn't be used for political games.

These words guarantee Satanists and Secularists — which are both recognized religions, as is Atheism — as well as Christians, the right to practice their religion.

If Salvato can't figure out what's in the Constitution or that his summary of "Judeo-Christian Principles" renders them completely mundane, then we shouldn't be at all surprised that he can't understand that atheism isn't a religion and labeling secularism a religion is a contradiction in terms — having a secular religion is like being a married bachelor. Only those unfamiliar with the language or who insist on mutilating language to advance an agenda will say such things.

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