Church/state conflicts are on the rise across the United States, according to a new report released by Americans United for Separation of Church and State, a group that favors a strict line between government and religious activities. The report, “Separation of Church and State in Crisis: A Report from the States,” pinpoints more than 100 cases of conflict in 38 states.
Cited in the state-by-state survey are 40 conflicts over public funding of religious organizations, 30 incidents of religion in public schools, 25 state endorsements of religion, and 23 threats to the free exercise of religion. Among the specific cases being battled: school prayer, prayers before football games, Christmas displays, the teaching of creationism in public schools, a city council day of prayer against drugs, an antiblasphemy law, and tuition vouchers for private religious schools.
At an Alexandria, Virginia, press conference, Americans United executive director Robert Maddox said his group compiled the report out of concern over what it perceives as a growing reluctance among Americans to abide by a “wall of separation between church and state.” Maddox, an ordained Southern Baptist minister, said the purpose of the report was not to abolish religion, but to protect religion by keeping the government out of it. He attributed the increase of conflicts to a trend of the “Reagan Supreme Court” to permit states to become more involved with issues of church and state.
“We can be relatively certain that the Court will reverse course on many issues of church and state law,” Maddox said. “As happened in the abortion controversy, this new trend is likely to give government officials greater leeway to involve themselves in sensitive issues of religion.”1
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