Graduation Year

2008

Document Type

Thesis

Degree

M.L.A.

Degree Granting Department

Humanities

Major Professor

Robert Snyder, Ph.D.

Keywords

Constitution, Bill of Rights, Establishment, Wall of separation, Jefferson

Abstract

Much of the scholarly work in the area of the separation of church and state in America has centered on such lofty goals as examining the Constitution of the United States and voluminous court documents. Others meticulously scrutinize every word ever uttered by the founding fathers on the subject. During the last two decades, there has been a considerable increase in the debate concerning the separation of church and state. The religious right has become determined to infuse our governmental institutions with a decidedly more religious tone, while the religious left prefers the separation of church and state as it is. But how does the average American feel about the separation of church and state? This project will examine our religious heritage from Europe and the development of the separation of church and state in America.

Finally this project conducted surveys of Americans to determine just how much they know about how the separation of church developed in America and perhaps more importantly what they believe it should be. Two separate surveys totaling 19 questions were developed. The questions probed historical facts, the founding fathers and questions regarding the separation of church and state today. The surveys were conducted in Manatee County, Florida during the spring of 2008 and again in late August and early September, 2008. The survey respondents were made up of 4 distinct groups. Those respondents surveyed in Spring 2008 were in-class college students in the University of South Florida at Sarasota/Manatee. Two other groups were made up of high school graduates and college graduates who work for the Manatee and Sarasota District schools. The final group was surveyed during a multi family picnic on Labor Day weekend.

The results of the surveys were tabulated and the respondents were placed in groups according to 2 questions on the back of the surveys that asked the respondents to give their political party affiliation and their religious denomination.

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