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Separation of Church and State in the European Union

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Essay title: Separation of Church and State in the European Union

Separation of Church and State in the European Union

The European Union, the intergovernmental organization between 25 European nations, faces many challenges concerning where it will go, how it will develop, and how and when it will expand. As its work continues and further develops, the Member States take many steps to be more united and uniform. Such developments are the birth of the Euro as the EU�s monetary unit and the abolition of borders between the Member States except the United Kingdom.

The writing of the EU Constitution is another development. However, this one has raised much controversy over one issue: the omission of religious reference in the Constitution. This issue raises many questions, and one of them is whether the EU should seek standard policy regarding the state-church relationships of the Member States. Perhaps a coherent way to look at and discuss this question is by comparing the EU to another union, such as the United States. The difference between their structures and developments can point out how the EU should behave about the separation of church and state. The US, being a federation, believes that constitutionally, the church and state should be separated. This policy helps the US function as a successful body, under the principles it has set. However, unlike the US, the EU does not need to find a uniform way in dealing with the church-government relationships in order to function as a successful body, since the EU has no central government and is not an organization which interferes with the strictly internal policies of the Member States.

The US developed in such a way that a uniform in church-state relationships is needed. Ever since the colonial period, there was an established religion in some of the colonies. For instance, New England had a Puritan domination, and the Colony of Virginia had the Anglican Church as official religion. However, with the Revolutionary War, these things changed. “Important leaders, including Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, were opposed to the continuation of the established church of Virginia”(Kleeberg 22). They wanted to create a country in which the individual liberties of choice would be respected by the government. Therefore, the afore-mentioned people decided that for the US to develop in a democratic country of equal citizens, it should separate the church and state as much as possible.

The US Constitution was introduced in the Philadelphia Convention in 1787, and afterwards the states had ratified it. “When delegates from the US met to work on the Constitution, the majority of the states had some form of established religion “(Kleeberg 19). However, in 1791, the Bill of Rights, or the first ten amendments were added to the Constitution, in order to protect some specific individual or states rights which the Constitution had not mentioned. “Thomas Jefferson is credited with the phrase �Wall of Separation’ to describe the relationship between church and state in the First Amendment”(Kleeberg 8).

The separation of church and state in the US is mentioned specifically in three places in the Constitution. In Article II, Section 1, Part 8, the US Constitution, providing the oath of office for the president, reads that the president swears of affirms to faithfully execute the office. “By offering a choice of �swear’ or �affirm’ the writers of the Constitution made it possible for people with religious or other objections to swearing to become president”(Kleeberg 2). Further, in Article VI, Section 3, the Constitution says that the holders of public office will not be required to take a religious test in order to be trusted.

However, the most important Constitutional reference to the separation of church and state is the First Amendment. It says that Congress cannot establish a religion or prohibit anyone from respecting certain religion. Since this Amendment only refers to Congress, and not the states, the Fourteenth Amendment was added, in order to prohibit individual states from establishing a religion. “It all seems very clear at first glance, but as times change and people change there have been many questions about what the Constitution means about religion”(Kleeberg 2).

Since the First Amendment does not mention “separation of church and state” exclusively, there have been attempts to interpret this differently. The power to interpret the Constitution lies in the Supreme Court, and it has had several occasions when it was forced to do so. Such examples are the 1947 Everson v. Board of Education case, in which the Supreme Court allowed New Jersey to provide bus transportation for students of parochial schools, 1971 Lemon v. Kurtzman, in which the Supreme Court decided that state aid to parochial schools should

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