Segments in this Video

Separation of Church and State (02:56)


Political and religious controversies continue over separation of church and state. Pilgrims were quick to deny religious freedom to others. By the time of the Constitutional Convention, most Americans wanted religious freedom.

Contradictions of Religion in the American Republic (03:13)

Though separation of church and state is what Americans want, "In God We Trust" is on American currency, Presidents swear on the Bible, and God's mercy is invoked in the Supreme Court. By 1654, many states had representatives of all faiths.

Beliefs of the Founding Fathers (04:00)

The men at the Constitutional Convention, products of the Enlightenment, believed in the power of reason, yet they had a realistic view of human limitations. They invested hope in the people and limited the powers of government.

Founding Fathers Set Religion Free (03:09)

Though the Founding Fathers spoke well of the Bible, most of them were deists who did not believe in the divinity of Christ. They believed the contents of law should be drawn from the Bible or any other revelation, but from nature and reason.

Christian View of Thomas Jefferson (01:56)

Many Christians were passionately opposed to Thomas Jefferson, who was far from any kind of Christian orthodoxy. They called Jefferson an infidel because he did not believe in the divinity of Christ or the triune godhead of Calvinism.

Founding Fathers In Favor of Established Religion (04:20)

George Washington was among the Founding Fathers who supported an established religion favored by the State. Washington often attended church but did not take communion. He never refers to Christ, but respects the Bible.

Religion, Reason, and Religious Freedom (02:28)

The Founding Fathers encouraged religious freedom. They believed that human beings had reason and a moral sense that would prevail in difficult circumstances.

U.S. Constitution and Religious Extremes (03:42)

In the future, America might face the equivalent of holy wars as civil polity breaks down and fundamentalist passions rage. Can the U.S. Constitution keep religious extremes at bay?

U.S. Government and Religion (03:38)

Leonard Levy, editor of "The Encyclopedia of the American Constitution" discusses the First Amendment with Bill Moyers. The U.S. government has no power to legislate on the subject of religion.

States' Rights to Legislate Religion (03:53)

In 1947, the U.S. Supreme Court rules that neither the federal government nor the states may legislate on the subject of religion. The framers of the Fourteenth Amendment did not intend to incorporate the Bill of Rights.

James Madison's Beliefs About Church and State (03:09)

Founding Father James Madison believed in the extreme separation of church and state. He believed that publicly paid chaplains in Congress constituted a national religion.

Literal vs. Interpretive Meaning of Constitution (03:04)

There is now power on the part of the government expressively given to it by the Constitution to pass laws touching the subject of religion. There is an expressed prohibition on that power. Exceptions exist for every principle.

Contradictions in Constitutional Interpretations (02:34)

Tax exemptions for churches, church property, and ministers advances the causes of religion. This constitutes government passing laws on the subject of religion. Why this exception? Leonard Levy and Bill Moyers discuss this and other inconsistencies.

Inconsistencies in Supreme Court Decisions (04:21)

Professor Leonard Levy and Bill Moyers discuss inconsistencies in Supreme Court decisions relative to private schools. The erratic nature of certain decisions may be accounted for by the diversity of persuasions on the Supreme Court.

Prayers in Public Schools (03:14)

There do not seem to be clear answers to issues that come before the Supreme Court. Bill Moyers and Prof. Leonard Levy discuss prayer in public schools and in particular the "cookie prayer." The First Amendment protects atheists too.

1842: Religious Persecution (02:17)

In 1842, religious warfare broke out between Protestants and Catholics in Philadelphia that lasted for several years. Many deaths, injuries, and property damage came about when one father asked if his children could read a different version of the Bible.

Supreme Court's Duty to Uphold Constitution (01:26)

The Supreme Court's decisions about issues relative to church and state must always err on the side of keeping both entities as separate as possible. This is for the good of religion, religious liberty, and to keep the government clean.

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God and the Constitution

Part of the Series : In Search of the Constitution
DVD Price: $79.95
DVD + 3-Year Streaming Price: $119.93
3-Year Streaming Price: $79.95



Dr. Martin Marty, a professor of the history of modern Christianity at the University of Chicago, and Leonard Levy, editor of The Encyclopedia of the American Constitution and a professor of humanities and history at the Claremont Graduate School in California, examine the legality of school prayer. The program also explores the issues of religious symbols on municipal property as well as tax-exempt status for religious institutions. (60 minutes)

Length: 58 minutes

Item#: BVL4911

ISBN: 978-1-4213-9248-6

Copyright date: ©1987

Closed Captioned

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