Jon Stewart had a guy on who is a big fan of the right, especially of Mike Huckabee and Glenn Beck. Those two guys tell you just about all you need to know about the merits of the arguments this guy makes. They claim he is some great and important historian, yet he doesn't have a ph.d or even a graduate degree in anything resembling history. Not that you need a degree in something in order to speak intelligently about it. But most of the time it helps.
Stewart kept running down the list of things the guy (forgot his name, too lazy to look it up) does until he got to the topic he really wanted to talk about, which is the title of this post. The guy went to the popular talking point on the right that a separation between church and state as it has been and is known isn't really what the founders wanted. This guy says that they only wanted to separate institutions. And they only wanted to do so at the federal level.
This is of course ridiculous. There is no more reason a state should be able to do whatever they want regarding religion than they should be able to limit freedom of speech, assembly, or the press. After all, those three things are right there in the first amendment along with religions. Yet I don't see anyone on the right claiming a state should have any more power over speech than the federal gov't has.
Before running out of time Stewart began a discussion on a case the guy argued in court about some state having a priest of some sort say a prayer before a legislative session. Yes, just saying a prayer doesn't establish a religion in a strict sense. And it more than likely doesn't restrict the right of anyone to practice their religion. But I think the founders made rules restricting the power of religion within our government because of the threat these situations pose. When you have a legislature that is over 90% Christian and has their religious leaders partaking in the legislative process you risk making policy based on said religion. And to me that is equivalent to establishing a state religion.
What this also highlights is the importance of protecting minorities, which the founders took great care to do. Because we are a nation that is heavily Christian it would be very easy to oppress other religions and effectively establishing Christianity as a national or state religion. We are actually seeing this right now in many states that are trying to ban Sharia law. Not only is trying to ban something that can't be made law to being with contradicting their claims about how states can handle religion, it is an effort to trample the rights of a very small minority to practice their religion.
So not only do they have the arguments about the Constitution and religion wrong. They are getting their arguments from people that have basically no credentials, ignoring key elements in our history, and then trying to make policy that flies in the face of the very rights the founders created that they claim to want to honor. The gov't should have practically nothing to do with religion. We shouldn't make policy based on what bibles or churches have to say. And we shouldn't give any state the right to do those things. The reason the right tries so hard to argue against that is because so many of their policy preferences come from bibles and churches. So taking away those crutches would destroy their policies and be a huge defeat for them and their ideology. The only reason they haven't succeeded is because of the rights the framers gave minorities.