..it’s always struck as strange when people argue that Christians have every right to their beliefs, and that those beliefs ought to be firmly respected — but that in politics, those beliefs ought to be kept to oneself. For many Christians, it’s integral to their faith that every part of their life, including their work, be comported in accordance with their religious beliefs. The idea that one ought to turn off or conveniently ignore his or her faith when participating in public life is anathema to many devout believers, and when proponents of a purely secular politics suggest that believers should be able to do that without compromising their faith, they misunderstand the entire nature of religious belief. What the most ardent secularists end up saying is, "I’ll respect your beliefs — provided you never act upon them around me."
Peter, I think you're missing the point like an F22 Raptor going right over your head. You can do whatever you want in regards to your faith in your life. But when you want to compel others to conform to your beliefs & use the legal code to force that behavior, you have become a Godslinger: a modern day Pharisee with pious sounding words but is nothing more than a revisiting of the Pharisees.
The issue here is that some folks just can't stand it when others don't hold the same religious view. I'm not talking about evangelism or discipleship. No, those are things that change people internally. But when that religious conviction is forced upon others, the democratic process becomes another avenue of religious wars & theological wranglings, the very thing our Founders saw in Europe & in the colonies --- & they decided to stop it.
This is not a question of "is there a God;" or "is Jesus the only way;" or whatever theological question one wants to raise. No, this is a question about whether gov't should give favoritism to any faith & that faith's teachings.
Now I could go into the way our Baptist forefathers handled this, even talking about how John Leland dropped out of the election against James Madison on the promise that Madison would initiate the Baptistic principle of "separation of church & state" as a political reality. I could. But I won't. Most folks don't know about it, but they really don't care either, from what I've learned.
Godslingers --- modern day Pharisees who are more concerned about making & keeping rules than in impacting lives. Fundamentalism has shown it is no respecter of religion or nation. It has one goal & that is control. Add God to their side & there is nothing they won't do in the name of faith to coerce righteous behavior.
We need to realize the importance of why we hold the separation of church & state as a =political= reality. Try these:
1) It protects the church from the state. --- Corrupt politicians love to use the power of faith to manipulate the church to do its political Will, even an evil one. History is replete with those examples.
2) It protects the state from the church. --- Corrupt churchmen love to use the power of faith to manipulate the state to do the churchmen's Will, even an evil one. History is replete with those examples.
3) It protects the liberty of conscience from church & state collusion. --- The danger is a faith or political minority that is out of favor with both the church & the state can be doubly persecuted when they act in concert to wipe out an religious minority.
4) It protects the individual states from the Federal Gov't. --- Without the separation of church & state, no individual state can be compelled to act on the religious dictates of anyone politician in Washington. At the very least, the 1st Amendment refuses any national church.
5) It protects society from the requirement to support a faith via the Sword. --- The power to tax is the power to control. As long as there is separation of church & state, gov't is not allowed to use tax money to give special treatment to any religion. Madison's Remonstrance was very clear on this matter, for if 3 pence can support a general faith today, tomorrow it will be a particular church, & before long, a certain pastor or religious idea.
6) We've been down the road of melding church & state before --- Without exception, every nation/civilization that has melded faith & gov't, has ended up persecuting everyone, conscience is violated, & both faith & gov't become unbearable.