Church and State Controversy Gets Turned Upside Down on Native American Land

August 4, 2005

Source: The Christian Science Monitor

On August 4, 2005 The Christian Science Monitor reported, "The relationship between government and religion has been a complicated issue ever since the architects of the new American republic made it the lead item in the First Amendment to the US Constitution and Thomas Jefferson argued for 'a wall of separation between church and state.'

It remains a difficult legal and political issue, as witness the US Supreme Court's recent split decisions on public displays of the Ten Commandments. It may be even more complex involving claims by Native Americans, whose spiritual and religious practices are so connected to what they see as holy ground.

A series of court cases and federal agency policy decisions have attempted to thread subtle differences between the constitutional protection of the 'free exercise' of religion and the equally important prohibition against the 'establishment' of religion.

As with the Supreme Court's two-way decisions on the Ten Commandments, federal courts seem to have moved in conflicting directions."