What is the solution of the whole matter? If the First Amendment doesn't entirely divorce every aspect of religion from government (and, as we have seen, it does not), then to what extent should religion be allowed in government?
As was mentioned earlier, there are two extremes here, although we only concern ourselves with one, as that one seems to have taken a much stronger foothold in contemporary culture than the other. The first extreme is the complete unification of church and state, but the history of Europe teaches us of the evils that result from such a union. The second extreme is to remove every aspect of religion completely from government. Not only is this extreme impractical, it is blatantly and obviously not in the spirit of the Constitution.
A modest solution, therefore, would be to allow non-sectarian religious devotions within government. Prayers to "God," which go back to the founding of our republic, should not be shunned. "In God We Trust" should be left on our currency. Proclamations of days of prayer should continue. Thanksgiving and Christmas should be retained as public holidays. Although the latter is somewhat more specific in its religious aspects, it falls in line with the generic culture of Christianity which has coincided with the progress of Western Civilization for centuries.
Next, the government should not favor any particular Christian denomination over the others. Chaplains which are hired in Congress should represent the various denominations, and there should be no overabundant hiring of any chaplains belonging to a particular denomination. Ministers representing the various faiths should have the opportunity, if they desire it, to serve as public chaplains, whether in the military, in prisons, or in Congress.
With respect to school prayer, the issue should be left up to individual school boards. Each individual school should have the right to decide whether or not morning prayer should recited. If the good citizens of Alabama, as an example, wish to have school prayer, they should not be hindered from doing so. Of course, children who do not wish to participate in morning prayer, or whose parents do not wish them to participate, should not be forced to participate.
The school prayer issue, however, should not be solved by a Constitutional Amendment calling for prayer in school. There is no need for such an amendment, because, as we have seen, there is nothing in the Constitution that prohibits teacher-led prayer in school. To call for such an amendment would be to cave in to the rhetoric of the extremists who misinterpret the Constitution in order to further their own agenda. It is better to let the central government remain small, and allow individual school boards to decide on the propriety of morning prayer.
With respect to school vouchers, there should be no problem. If parents wish to send their children to private schools, such vouchers should be made available to them. The government already gives out Pell Grants to students who wish to attend religious schools and, as we have seen, the G.I. Bill also made a similar provision. While the NEA vehemently opposes school vouchers, it is fairly apparent that they are more concerned with the welfare of their own union than they are with the education of America's youth.
What about Nativity scenes on public property? Again, this shouldn't even be an issue. It is a clear manifestation of hypocrisy for the government to recognize Christmas as a holiday, but disallow the presentation of Christmas-related scenery on public property because it allegedly violates the Constitutional principle of separation of church and state. Again, this is the kind of hypocrisy that characterizes our opponents in this debate.
See that. There is a moderate solution to this question, and to the
specific issues which fall under the umbrella of the question. One that
follows the principles upon which this country was founded, is Constitutionally
sound, and departs from the radical rhetoric we hear from either side.
Working together, we can once again bring this country back to a place
in which it can truly be said, "In God We Trust."