The robust separation of Church and State at the federal level that we enjoy as Americans was never intended as an attack on people of faith; it was designed to guard against the sort of tribalism that ensues when this wall does is not present. While religion could be established at the state level, it was understood for centuries that the federal government had no role in this sphere whatsoever. This is a concept that conservative Christians who view government meddling with suspicion should not scoff at, but instead readily embrace as a guarantor of social cohesion.
After all, why should government be involved in religious matters in the first place? If the only reason for government’s existence is to protect citizen’s life, liberty, and property, regardless of race or religion, why should they have any say on religion? Enforcing contracts and protecting the states from invasion are things that can be embraced by Christians, Jews, and agnostics alike. The few functions that Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution grants to Congress are religiously neutral; this stems from its authors’ admiration for the ideas of localism.
Settling matters at the local level has long been a hallmark of America, a principle intended to apply as much to religion as the economy. Various religious groups will soon be pitted against one another in circular infighting if it is accepted that the central government is the arbiter of religious matters. Christianity would be reduced to just another special interest group grappling for scraps at Congress’s altar; the simple solution is to simply leave the federal government out of this matter completely.
This is precisely what our Founders sought to avoid by leaving issues of religion out of Washington’s reach. Controversies ranging from same sex marriage to drug laws need to be settled at the level closest to the people as possible, whether by state government or various localities or in an entirely private manner. Letting those in Washington have any say on religious issues or matters of personal conviction is a concept that should be abhorrent to anyone who holds that state’s rights and political decentralization are an essential component of our republic.Published in