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lettertotheeditor
Youth responds to “Lens” question




I am writing this letter in response to the Opinion section in the last issue of the farragutpress. I believe that churches should be able to rent school facilities for activities including worship. I also believe that this is not a violation of the U.S. Constitution for several reasons.

First, separation of church and state, as it is used today, is not found anywhere in the U.S. Constitution. The part of the Constitution most often used to argue this principle is the First Amendment. The portion of this amendment dealing with religion says that “Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” This phrase only forbids Congress from establishing a national religion. Nothing more.

Second, when Thomas Jefferson authored the phrase, “separation of church and state,” its meaning was completely different than it is now. The members of the Danbury Baptists Association of Danbury, Conn. were concerned that one day the civil government might establish a state religion like the [British] kings did. They feared that because the Constitution was vague on this point, one day the U.S. government might try to do the same. They wrote a letter expressing these concerns to Thomas Jefferson, the president at that time. He wrote back stating that the First Amendment had erected “a wall of separation between church and state,” which would prevent the state from establishing a national religion. It is a fallacy to take this phrase out of its context and use it as a pretext for government regulations on religion.

Finally, I would like to point out that a church meeting in a school building on Sunday morning in no way interferes with any of the school activities on the other six days of the week. The county benefits from having the church pay rent for the space, which would otherwise just sit unused. It is a win-win situation, the church has a meeting place and the school is generating revenue without having to sacrifice anything.

To sum up my arguments, the words “separation of church and state” are not found anywhere in the Constitution. The establishment clause of the First Amendment does nothing more than forbid Congress from establishing a national religion. Finally, churches meeting in schools do not harm the schools in any way, but actually benefit the community. It is obvious that there is no legal issue here, and that the arrangement is good for all concerned. I can therefore see no reason why churches should be forbidden to meet in Farragut schools.



Sincerely,

Bill Waldrep Jr., 13

 

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