The High Road:
The Separation of
Church and State

The High Road

Every Monday through Friday.

Down Anderson.

Up Chapel Hill.

Onto Main.

And eventually into the offices at American Underground.

Forty-five minutes at a brisk pace, but it is “me time” not so easily found throughout the week. There are only a few variables on the walk. The same combination of Duke students and Duke employees walking the opposite direction towards West Campus. No smiles, eyes down. Everyone at the bus stop with their head in an iPhone. By now, I have grown accustom to the cold shoulders (no pun) and I have a music playlist distracting enough to keep my spirits high. A couple brushes with Death, but an honest start to the day.

Right before entering the heart of the city, there is a moment in every walk where I stop and recognize an aspect of symbolism one could easily overlook if not deliberately searching for it. Separated only by a single 3 lane passageway sit two entities who have been at constant battle for centuries. Two entities represented by Duke Memorial United Methodist Church and The Durham Police Department.

CHURCH and STATE.

An Overview of Duke Memorial United Methodist and the Durham Police Department

An Overview of Duke Memorial United Methodist and the Durham Police Department

I am not implying that these two facilities themselves are directly waging war on the corner of the ironically named intersection of DUKE street and CHAPEL HILL street, whose battle is as old as time itself. However, both pieces of architecture exemplify a debate taking place in America that is at the core of political banter nationwide.

Is it possible to separate the two, church and state? Our forefathers believed in the ability to celebrate both with respect to the other. In America, with each represented so deep in our history, the difficulty to remove religious influence from the public square, and vice versa, seems as though we are leading two lives as Americans.

My religious beliefs do not extend very far, though I am not one to prevent another from practicing what they preach. I have heard many peers say that religion has no place in the public conversation in a country so diverse and void of any particular personal identification other than “American” or “Human.”

This excerpt from the King James Version of The Bible illustrates a plausible idea when searching for answers in regards to Public vs Private:

“But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly. “But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking.”

Is it fair to say one idea must stay private while another roams free in public conversation? Is there a middle ground to be reached between statesmen and religious enthusiasts? Both the Durham Police Department and Duke Memorial church members take the same road to and from their respective establishments.

Could this be a metaphor for the future of America as well?

Take the High Road…

Columnist Justin Laidlaw is a renaissance man. His interests range from the music business to politics, from Durham’s history and culture, to the world beyond. The co-host of Clarion Content’s podcast, he is fast becoming a veteran columnist. He is a fashion model, a tech sceptic, a business manager and more.

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