The Establishment Clause : Fact Or Fiction Essay

1880 Words 8 Pages
Emily Feder
Western Political Thought
Paper Topic 5

The Establishment Clause: Fact or Fiction

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof” These words are an integral part of the establishment of the framework of the United States, but does religion really have no place in politics? The debate over the role of religion in civil society dates back to 18th century. The greatest analysis can be found in John Locke’s Letter Concerning Toleration and Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s Discourse on Inequality. While the two scholars disagreed on the role of religion, they both agreed that the interaction between the state and the church must be managed. Both Locke and Rousseau had a tremendous influence on the ideas of religion in their time but in such a non-secular society, only one could truly resonate.
The main question of Locke’s Letter Concerning Toleration was regarding whether the Anglican Church should force other religions to follow their faith or tolerate other religions. Locke believes in a complete separation of the church and the state for this exact reason, he does not see forced religion as true religion. He argues that keeping the church and state apart from each other is to each institution 's own good because when they are combined it gives rise to forceful religious submission. In Locke’s opinion, a person must have a genuine belief in his own religion or it will lead to the irrational use of force for…

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