Imagine having been born and raised in a society in which the federal government has controlled religious activity since the founding of the United States. All churches are owned and operated by the federal government. Everyone is required by law to attend church at least once a week and to take his children to church. Churches, ministers, and religious activity are funded through taxation.
Suppose someone were to propose a complete separation of religious activity and the state. All government involvement in religious activity would come to an immediate halt. All church buildings would be sold off or given away. No one would be required to attend church any more. No more government funding of churches, ministers, or religious activity.
You can easily imagine the outcry and controversy if someone were to propose that idea. People would exclaim:
What is wrong with you? Do you hate God or what? If we do this, people will turn against God. If people aren’t required to attend church, no one will attend. The churches will go out of business. If you think people will voluntarily support religious activity, you’re living in la la land. What about the free rider problem? Under this plan, hardly anyone will worship God anymore and many people will in fact even worship Satan and teach their children to do the same. Our society would be filled with godless atheists. Most everyone in society would be immoral. This plan is absolutely crazy. It would destroy America.
Yet, that idea was in fact embraced by our American ancestors when they, first, brought the federal government into existence with the Constitution and did not provide the federal government with the enumerated power to own and operate churches or control and regulate religious activity, and, second, when they enacted the Bill of Rights, which expressly prohibits the federal government from doing these things.
Despite previous centuries in which there was a combination of religion and state, our ancestors raised their vision to a higher level — one that holds that genuine liberty entails a complete separation of religious activity and the state. Modern-day Americans have come to accept this principle as a regular and ordinary part of everyday life. Hardly anyone gives a thought to the fact that the government plays virtually no role in religious activity.
So, I would like to propose that we Americans living today do the same thing that our ancestors did, but with respect to four other important areas of our lives: economic activity, education, healthcare, and charity. Why not raise our vision to a higher level, just as our American ancestors did with religion? Why not leave America and future generations with a freer society, just as our ancestors did for us with religion?
This would mean that the same principle that applies to religious activity would apply to those other four important areas of our lives. So, just as we don’t permit the federal government to interfere with, subsidize, or control religious activity, so it would be with economic activity, education, healthcare, and charity.
Here is how the constitutional amendments would read:
- No law shall be enacted by either the federal or state governments respecting the establishment or regulation of commerce or abridging the free exercise thereof.
- No law shall be enacted by either the federal or state governments respecting the establishment or regulation of education or abridging the free exercise thereof.
- No law shall be enacted by either the federal or state governments respecting the establishment or regulation of healthcare or abridging the free exercise thereof.
- No welfare, subsidy, or other special benefit shall ever be given or paid by either the federal or state governments to anyone.
Rather than simply accept that we live in a statist society and rather than devote our lives to coming up with ways to reform and improve it, why not instead do something glorious with our lives, much as our American ancestors did with the Constitution and the Bill of Rights? Why not build on what they did with religion and apply the separation principle they adopted to economic activity, education, healthcare, and charity? Why wouldn’t the results in these four areas of our lives be as positive and beneficial as they have been in the area of religious liberty? If they could do it, why can’t we?