The American church/state quagmire: A major cause and a proposed solution

Mary Fleming Morton, University of Nevada, Las Vegas


The primary purpose of this thesis is to clarify possible legitimate interactions between churches and government bodies in America. Finding that the present interpretation of the First Amendment has actually precipitated much of the current controversy, evidence is presented of its lack of validity. Instead an alternative interpretation is offered that clearly shows that the American colonists had come to recognize an entirely new manner in which to organize a society. This new manner of organization gave sovereignty to the individual in two major societal systems: the political and the religious. The consequence of this was the recognition that churches and governments are simply institutions organized by people. Each of which has its own responsibilities within society. There was no need to separate the two into autonomous spheres. They both were recognized as two distinct institutions of the same body of people, who held sovereignty over them. It is after a presentation of these facts that the concluding chapter suggests a new configuration for church/state interaction that would give more clarity to future contacts between the religious and political institutions of American society.