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Church and state

05/19/04 | by [mail] | Categories: faith/skepticism

I'm thinking of writing an article on this for our church newsletter. My main thought right now is that church and state should be separate, for the good of the church and the good of the state. I ran across this quote from C.S. Lewis about why he doesn't want a theocracy.

What I don't know is to what degree they should be seperated and how that would look with specific issues, like gay marriage, 'In God We Trust' on money, the pledge of alligiance, prayer in school, evolution in school, etc. I know that when prayer was 'removed' from my school (teachers couldn't lead students in prayer) I was in junior high and I didn't panic. I knew that I could still pray silently. I didn't want teachers making me pray and I didn't really like listening to a sermon at the school Christmas and Easter assemblies.

So I'm not too sure about what I think, and I'm not sure if I'm ready to handle the backlash of questioning the generally accepted idea that separation is bad. Help me out here.



I have my apprehensions too. But I think sometimes it goes a little too far. We have a web site at work and also a bulletin board that staff can post things for sell and such. One of our radical union reps has protested this site because the web site has a mention of our staff recalled to the service and a message of “In God We Trust". Also another staff (a Jevohah Witness) always posts a message of his faith and to contact him if you are interested in his beliefs. Because of these protests, our Warden has taken these off the web site. My opinion is that you do not have to read his message or believe in the statement about our troups if you wish but it is your option. Because of this protest, the Warden took the Bulletin board and message off the web site. This is also the same individual that protested us having a Christmas Tree with needy children’s names and wishes on it for donations. I guess I am confused because I guess people could also post anti Christ or porn material for that matter and it would be our option to view or not. What have we come to???
Am I not being receptive or are these radicals just causing disruption?

MeME [Visitor]05/19/04 @ 19:12

That’s an interesting problem. The first two clauses of the first ammendment are in tension in this situation.

First: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.”

Second: “. . . or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”

Posts on the bulletin board could be viewed as the free exercise of religion, but since it is a web site paid for and run by the government, then it could be seen as the government supporting a religion.

But I agree with you. I think in this case it’s more a matter of exercise and free speech than it is of establishment.

Danny [Visitor]http://danny.brendoman.com05/19/04 @ 19:26

I think we have to make a distinction between the the plurality of religious sentiment in public life, and the absence of religious sentiment in public life. Richard John Neuhaus, editor of “First Things” calls the latter the “naked public square” and frequently criticizes those who advocate it.

The problem is if we consider atheism or naturalism another kind of religion. It’s one thing to say we don’t prefer any one religion. But when we say that secularism IS a kind of religion, then we have to choose: are we descriminating against atheism by allowing the public expression of religious sentiment? Isn’t that endorsing religion over non-religion?

At some point, you have to take one position. In the case of the bulletin board, I think it would be better to set guidelines about “civility.” That is, no personal attacks (I realize the interpretation of this is tricky). But then let everyone voice their opinion. This is the whole point of the Bill of Rights. If the union guy doesn’t like the religious stuff, let him post his own message on why religious thought should be kept to oneself.

If democracy is government “of the people, by the people, and for the people,” and if the the people are religious, there’s no way to have a democracy free of religious influence. Those that claim religion is a private matter don’t really understand religion, at least not the way most religious people understand it. This is what I get most tired of, people talking about how religion is being “shoved down their throats” because of some public expression of religion.

It’s a delicate balance, I think, and *because* I’m a Christian, I think it’s important to respect the dignity of everyone who doesn’t agree with me. I don’t know how prayer in school, for example, is good for anybody. I want other to come to Christ out of their own sense of need for him, not because public institutions are pushing them. But allowing for the free exercise of religion means allowing religious people to try to convert those who don’t agree with them.

I don’t know if this clarifies anything for anyone, but there are my thoughts for now.

Nate [Visitor]http://poorartists.blogspot.com05/20/04 @ 10:13

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