a curious Yankee in Europe's court

blog about living in Europe, and Italy

On that squabble over separation of church and state: Thanksgiving redux

Posted on the November 26th, 2010

Among other criticisms that some Tea Party movement followers have been voicing about “big” government in the U.S., is some (rising) rumbling against the separation of church and state as historically established in constitutional law.

This week on the occasion of Thanksgiving, a New York Times op-ed by Harvard Divinity School Professor David D. Hall took a look back at some specific details of the holiday’s history. (“Peace, Love and Puritanism” Nov 23, 2010).

Whether what Hall writes may have any influence on those denying the constitution’s separation of church and state, I don’t know. But he doesn’t offer them any ammunition for historical argument, it seems to me.

Hall wrote about why it’s so important to get our facts straight about the deeply religious Puritans. And he precisely reviews some of the values and practices of these 17th century settlers who hold such a symbolic place in U.S. history and national mythology.

In regard to church and state, he wrote this:

And although it’s tempting to envision the ministers as manipulating a “theocracy,” the opposite is true: they played no role in the distribution of land and were not allowed to hold political office. Nor could local congregations impose civil penalties on anyone who violated secular law. In these rules and values lay one root of the separation of church and state that eventually emerged in our society.

For those interested in a true debate of this issue, I think it’s informative to read Hall’s history lesson — see here.

Reader Comments (0) Comments Off on On that squabble over separation of church and state: Thanksgiving redux