Why We Separate Church and State
So, first things first.
I am a Christian. I was raised as a protestant in the United Methodist Church. I pray daily and I try to read my Bible daily. I believe in God, heavenly grace, and that there's divinity to be found in all life.
So, to me, when Jesus is asked what is the most important commandment, and he replies "to love the lord God with all your heart and to love your fellow man as if he were yourself", I take that as strict marching orders.
Which, in my mind, means, I must respect the right of every individual to come to their own understanding of existence because I defy anyone to tell me that my own personal relationship with God is wrong.
I also take to heart the moment where Jesus tells his disciplines not to wear their religion like a badge of honor. If I may paraphrase, he says something to the effect of "don't stand up and pray loudly in public like the hypocrites do". You don't need a bull horn to preach the Gospels. If you live your life according to the Word, that, in and of itself, will speak volumes. Your very existence as a Christian is all the evangelism necessary.
Which is why it always makes my blood boil when other Christians start demanding that the government do more to promote their faith. Have they forgotten that this country was founded by people who wanted freedom from oppressive religions with state powers like the Anglican and Roman Catholic Churches during the Colonial Age? Don't they know we just went to war with a theocracy that gave state power to fundamentalist extremists called the Taliban?
Yes, the founding fathers were very much men of faith. And their faith formed the basis of their sense of equity and justice, which is why the 1st Amendment of the Constitution of the United States of America says:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.
If faith is a believe in things unseen, than religion is an inherently irrational thing. There is no reasoning with someone's faith. No bargaining. No equity. By putting the government outside the reach of the instruments of faith, they gave everyone the opportunity to come to God on their own terms, not someone else's. It keeps the power to coerce out of the hands of those who may not necessarily be bound by the constraints of the law if they believe their faith calls them to break it.
Why am I saying all this?
Consider, for a moment, the article in the link above: An extremist minister wants to put up a monument in a public square to Matthew Sheppard, a homosexual who was killed in a hate crime, that basically says Sheppard is burning in Hell because he violated God's will.
Do you really want to invite the possibility of putting governmental powers behind this kind of rhetoric by, say, for instance, having teachers leading elementary students in prayer, and this guy is the one sitting on the school board, setting policy?
Just an example that's been on my mind lately.
As far as Matthew Sheppard goes, I'll get into my thoughts on God, the church, and homosexuality at a later date. My short answer on that subject is this: If you think homosexuals are going to Hell because of the verse this guy Phelps quotes in his condemnation of Sheppard, I really hope, for your sake, you don't shave. Ever. Because it's also outlawed in the same section of Leviticus.
Sweet dreams, Shaggy.