THE CHURCH, THE CONSTITUTION, AND THE CULTURE: THE AMERICAN POLITICAL DEVELOPMENT OF THE SEPARATION BETWEEN CHURCH AND STATE
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Upon his arrival at Cape Cod, William Bradford—the future Puritan governor of Plymouth Colony—wearied, malnourished, and close to despair, wrote on behalf of his helpless group of settlers: What could now sustain them but the Spirit of God and His grace? May not and ought not the children of these fathers rightly say: ‘Our fathers were Englishmen which came over this great ocean, and were ready to perish in this wilderness; but they cried unto the Lord, because He is good: and His mercies endure forever. Yea, let them which have been redeemed of the Lord, shew how He hath delivered them from the hand of the oppressor. When they wandered in the desert wilderness out of the way, and found no city to dwell in, both hungry and thirsty, their soul was overwhelmed in them. Let them confess before the Lord His lovingkindness and His wonderful works before the sons of men. Since the initial landing of the Puritan colonists, the religious nature of the first Western arrivals to America has exerted influence upon the nation throughout its formative history. Codified within the First Amendment, the separation between church and state sought to avoid trouble, not encourage it. Troubled us it has, however, and the tumult has not yet passed. Conflicted between elements of its own character, the nation continues to wrestle with the interpretation of the metaphorical “wall” between the church and state. This analysis uses the American Political Development (APD) theory lens to study the developing nature of the separation and the impact of three distinct influences upon the wall: the church, the Constitution, and the culture. Analysis of these three “Cs” found that the Founders understood the crucial difference between civil structures of organized religion and the influence of values on government—specifically, those values used to guide elected and appointed officials’ decisions, and consequently intended the wall to insure religious liberty, not to prevent the influence of religious values upon the government. The U.S. Supreme Court, via interpretation of the U.S. Constitution, has consistently upheld the Founders’ intention for the wall; however, a new interpretation for the nature of the wall has emerged from the changing value system within American culture. Beginning in 1960 in response to political and economic modernization, shifts in American values developed through mediums of American music, education, and film. While religion does fall underneath the umbrella of “culture,” and also influenced American culture and society in the past, even to some degree today, this study analyzes how the secular culture influenced the contemporary era, notably the secularization of music, education, and film. The secularization of American culture contributed to a new interpretation of the wall; however, the Founders’ interpretation established precedent. The separation of church and state in America confirms the APD claim that nations continue to bear some marks of their origin throughout the entire course of their history; America’s religious founding continues to reverberate throughout the separation of church and state policy and informs America’s contemporary identity.