I am an atheist who lives in Georgia, and as you may know Georgia is a conservative bible belt state. I wanted to gather some input as to what defines separation between church and state. For instance in the God fearing state of Georgia one can not purchase alcohol on sunday. My question is if it's taxed by the government, shouldn't this violate church and state? Further more i had recently moved about a year ago. My location for me to vote had changed, and i was a bit shocked to find out that my new poll area was a church. is this a violation between church and state?
The issue of alcohol comes down more to is the store open? Here in Utah all alcoholic beverages, with the exception of beer, must be sold from a liquor store, which is closed on Sunday to allow workers free worship. However this does not violate the separation. Using a church is not a violation because it is usually a well known building in a community, and they have the capability to house the number of people and equipment necessary. Without someone to preach from the pulpit, it becomes a regular building with no special meaning.
After repeated court battles over a long period of time there was a decision regarding the blue law that Department stores could open on Sunday, but only certain retail items could be sold.
Maryland fined some employees of a department store for selling items not on the exempted list. The employees appealed their convictions all the way to the Supreme Court, arguing that the Maryland blue law violated the Equal Protection and Due Process clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment as well as the First Amendment's Establishment Clause. They contended that the law was based on specific religious beliefs and compelled all persons to minimally observe the Christian day of worship.
The Court rejected these arguments and upheld the law. The Supreme Court case McGowan v. Maryland, 366 U.S. 420, 81 S.Ct. 1101, 6 L.Ed.2d 393 (1961).Chief Justice Earl Warren (of the famous Warren Commission) writing for the majority acknowledged that the law and other similar laws had originally been enacted for religious purposes. He concluded, however, that the Sunday closing laws had evolved into further secular ends and that this defeated an Establishment Clause claim.
The Secular argument to uphold the blue laws were based on ideas such as, it was good for the government to encourage people to take a day off from work for rest and relaxation.
This was based (I guess) on the hilarious notion that the blue law was not based on religion but only to encourage a day of rest. As if America has an "official day of rest" and that day would of course be Sunday. Lord knows you can only relax on Sunday?
In addition, the Court ruled that the employees could not make an Establishment Clause claim because they did not allege that their religious freedom had been infringed.
Really! I guess that is because if they had been encouraged to take off for "a day of rest" none of this would have happened.
They had only claimed the law had caused them economic harm. The Court, however, did not address how the secular goals it described were achieved when the law merely banned the sale of certain retail items.
How did this encourage a day of rest? And the decision didn't address the fact that those items could be sold on any other day of the week but Sunday. I think we all know.
Justice WILLIAM O. DOUGLAS filed a dissenting opinion in which he argued that the state had no business restricting innocent acts because they offended the "sentiments of their Christian neighbors." In his view the law violated the Establishment Clause.
There is no doubt William O. Douglas was right. President Eisenhower appointed Earl Warren to the Supreme Court and after President Eisenhower left office he was asked, "what was your biggest mistake." Eisenhower replied, "Earl Warren".
The McGowan decision was the Supreme Court's last decision on the blue law. The only reason the decision stands is that these laws are deemed constitutional because of the idea that the law serves a secular purpose. Most of the states do not enforce the blue laws. The one exception is the sale of alcohol on Sunday.
I'm waiting on the ACLU and Americans United for Separation of Church and State to address the blue law issue and voting booths in churches.
A church is not just a building. No! People go to vote where they are told to go. I think our Constitutional rights are more important than finding a way to use all those Church buildings that are empty most of the week. They simply must find a secular alternative. We do have politicians running on religious issues and I think voting in church could be construed as support for those religious issues. That is one among many reasons I object to being forced to vote in a church.
That is what the constitution is about. Although Christians are in the majority, the majority does not rule. The constitution was designed to protect the weak from the strong, and the people from a tyrannical government or religion. There is no mob rule in a Constitutional Republic "of", "by" and "for" all of the people.
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The ACA Lecture Series continues Sunday, March 8th at 12:15pm at the Austin History Center, 9th and Guadalupe. The building opens at noon. Ryan Bell will talk on "My Year Without God: Now a Permanent Condition."