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Separation Church And State Europe

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Separation of Church and State in the European Union

The separation of church and state is one of the most controversial topics known to man. The European Union, the intergovernmental civilization between 25 European nations, faces a lot of 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 economic unit and the closure 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 exclusion of religious reference in the Constitution. This issue raises many questions, and one of them is whether the EU should look for standard policy regarding the state-church relationships of the Member States. Maybe a reasoned way to look at and talk about 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 an alliance, believes that constitutionally, the church and state should be separated. This policy helps the US function as a successful body, under the main beliefs 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 home 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 a recognized 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 different to the extension of the established church of Virginia. They wanted to create a country that the government would respect the individual liberties of choice. Therefore, the 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 well-known religion. However, in 1791, the Bill of Rights, or the first ten amendments were added to the Constitution, in order to protect some precise individual or states rights, which the Constitution had not mentioned. Thomas Jefferson is recognized with the phrase "Wall of Separation" to describe the relationship between church and state in the First Amendment.

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 the writers of the Constitution made it possible for people with religious or other objections to swearing to become president. 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, but as times change and people change there have been questions about what the Constitution means about religion.

Since the First Amendment does not mention separation of church and state, there have been attempts to take this differently. The power to take the Constitution lies in the Supreme Court, and it has had quite a few 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, which the Supreme Court determined that state aid to narrow schools should have only material purpose, must not advance or restrain religion, and must not present too much government entanglement with religion, and the Engel v. Vitale in 1962, in which the Supreme Court made school prayer unconstitutional (Miller 127-128).

Also, there have been attempts to change the US government's attitude towards religion. The New York Congressman Frank J. Becker proposed an amendment that he hoped to bring prayers back to public schools, but it was not honored of course. Also, the Reagan Administration in 1985 attempted to make legal silent prayers in schools, pledge time off from work for Sabbath, and provide public aid to parochial schools, but again this didn't work either.

In spite of all the different interpretations of the Constitution and the attempts to change the connection between the church and state, this issue has not stopped the US from functioning as a successful body, and the fact that this policy is supported in every state of the US is a proof that uniform is needed in the union with central government such as the US.

On the other side, Europe, or more specifically the European Union is something completely different in relating to the separation of church and state, since the Member States do not have a common policy about this question. The split between the European states is a cultural leftover from the historical splitting up among Protestant, Roman Catholic, and secular countries.

Some common features of the church-state systems in Western Europe are: freedom of worship, individually and jointly; a degree of church

self-government (systems with established churches, at least for the non- established churches); state facilitated (financed) services in public institutions; financial release in the form of direct support and/or tax relieve; participation and/or representation in school systems; support on an equal treatment basis in the cultural and social realm, such as in the case of ancient church monuments and social care.

However, there are big differences surrounded by the different European countries, and



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