Interfaith Committee Releases Commentary on Church and State

A 32-page joint statement providing commentary on the relationship between church and state was released on Tuesday at the Brookings Institute in Washington D.C.

Drafted by members of various Christian, Muslim, Jewish and Sikh organizations, "Religion Expression in American Public Life: A Joint Statement of Current Law" addresses questions such as whether elected officials should be required to be sworn into office over the Bible or whether secular nongovernmental employers should accommodate employees' religious practices.

"The role of religion in public life has long been a source of controversy and litigation," said Melissa Rogers, director of Wake Forest University Divinity School's Center for Religion and Public Affairs, which produced the document. "We have brought together a diverse group of experts on law and religion to clarify what current law has to say about some of these matters."

An interactive version of the statement has been made available on Wake Forest University's website including biographies and information on members of the drafting committee, which was comprised of a diverse group of leaders from organizations such as the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America, the Islamic Networks Group, the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty and the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists

"Some of these groups are often on opposite sides of church-state litigation," Rogers said. "But while the drafters of this document may disagree about how the legal line should draw be drawn between church and state, we have been able to come together and agree in many cases on what the law is today."

The Center for Religion and Public Affairs promotes research, study and dialogue regarding the intersection of religion and public affairs and provides resources for policymakers, divinity school students and religious leaders on these issues. In 2006, the Center launched its Congregational Education Project, a resource providing a series of questions and answers on the electioneering prohibition that applies to houses of worship and other tax-exempt 501(c)(3) organizations.

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