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America's Legacy of Religious Liberty: pass it on!

A new poll of American attitudes toward church-state separation reveals some troubling data.

The poll, conducted by a Virginia nonprofit, the Council for America's First Freedom, found that 49 percent of respondents believe that separation of church and state does not need to be maintained or has been interpreted too strictly.

Equally alarming, a majority of Americans, 53 percent, do not know that the Constitution protects religious liberty. Only 47 percent knew that religious freedom is found in the First Amendment. Thirty-two percent thought it emanates from the Declaration of Independence, and 9 percent said the Ten Commandments!

When misinformation like this is so widespread, is it any wonder that the American people appear to be falling under the sway of Religions Right propaganda blasting church-state separation?

At the same time, the poll shows that Americans truly value religious liberty. Fifty-two percent ranked religious freedom above other rights found in the First Amendment.

Looked at side by side, these results are perplexing: Americans treasure their religious liberty, but they don't see separation of church and state as essential to protecting it. This is discouraging, to say the least.

The fact is, the religious liberty Americans value would not have been possible without separation of church and state. Church-state separation has been a great boon to religion in America. Because the government does not meddle in the affairs of religion, faith groups have been free to grow and prosper. The incredible diversity of religion in America is a testament to this.

But that message is not getting through--and it must if the wall of separation is to survive.

To help set the record straight, Americans United has produced a new brochure that explains how meaningful religious liberty cannot survive without separation of church and state. Titled "America's Legacy of Religious Liberty: Pass It On," the brochure uses clear, non-legalistic language to portray church-state separation as the protector, not the enemy, of religious liberty.

We hope to distribute this brochure widely. Americans United members and supporters can do their part by helping out. Order a batch and disseminate them widely. Give them to your friends and neighbors and to clergy, teachers, elected officials, news media representatives or anyone else who might benefit from it.

Copies of "America's Legacy of Religious Liberty: Pass It On" are 25 cents each or five for a dollar. Send requests to: Americans United, 518 C St., N.E., Washington, D.C. 20002.

America's legacy of religious liberty would not have been possible without church-state separation. Help AU spread the word.
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Title Annotation:Editorials
Publication:Church & State
Article Type:Editorial
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Nov 1, 2004
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