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From its founding, America has been celebrated as nation grounded in the principals of freedom of religion and separation of church and state. But skeptics question the secularism of laws and policies that mirror religious values, such as those that outlaw same-sex marriage and protect prayer in school, and the influence of traditional religious organizations in American politics. Are the ideals of a secular state being upheld in American law and policy, or is the United States just too damn religious?
For the motion
Author of seven books
Susan has written several books including Freethinkers: A History of American Secularism and Wild Justice: The Evolution of Revenge, a Pulitzer Prize... Read More
Rev. Barry W. Lynn
Executive Director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State
Rev. Barry has been the executive director of Americans United since 1992. A long-time civil liberties attorney and ordained minister, Lynn is a frequent... Read More
Professor of Political Science and Director of the Boisi Center for Religion and American Public Life at Boston College
Alan's books include Does American Democracy Still Work? and The Transformation of American Religion: How We Actually Practice Our Faith. He currently... Read More
Against the motion
Jean Bethke Elshtain
Laura Spelman Rockefeller Professor of Social and Political Ethics at the University of Chicago
Jean is a political philosopher. Her books include Public Man, Private Woman: Women in Social Thought, The Family in Political Thought, and Democracy... Read More
William A. Galston
Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution
Prior to 2006, William was a professor at the School of Public Policy, University of Maryland; director of the Institute for Philosophy and Public... Read More
Albert J. Raboteau
Henry W. Putnam Chair in Religion at Princeton University
Albert specializes in religion in America, teaching and researching in the areas of African-American religious history, Roman Catholicism in America... Read More
Where Do You Stand?
For The Motion
While the separation of church and state is heralded as a cornerstone of American democratic ideals, many U.S. laws and policies are based in religious values, particularly those governing the right to marry and the inclusion of Evolution in school curriculums.
Though there is no religious requirement to run for public office in the U.S., many politicians invoke religious values and seek support from religious organizations to win elections.
Despite the American promise of a secular government, American taxpayers subsidize religious organizations through tax-funded grants and the availability of tax benefits to religious groups.
Against The Motion
Any attempt to limit an individual’s ability to employ their religious beliefs in their political actions would violate American’s First Amendment right to free exercise of religion and freedom of speech.
Americans face no political or economic penalty for choosing not to associate with a religious community or organization, and secular citizens are guaranteed equal protection under the law.
As moral values decline and social need increases, Americans would benefit from a renewed commitment to religious values like caring for the sick or helping the needy.