Sunday, September 3, 2006

On the separation of Church and State (in the U.S.)

Katherine Harris is running for Senate in Florida, and was interviewed by the Florida Baptist Witness. Who's Katherine Harris? She was President Bush's campaign manager for Florida, while at the same time was the Secretary of State for Florida. The Secretary of State oversees elections, and of course isn't it an interesting conflict of interest that the person overseeing the election is also the campaign manager for one of the major election contestants? And isn't it interesting that not only did this pattern happen in Florida in 2000, it also happened in Ohio in 2004.

But, I digress.

The important part of this interview is:

What role do you think people of faith should play in politics and government?

The Bible says we are to be salt and light. And salt and light means not just in the church and not just as a teacher or as a pastor or a banker or a lawyer, but in government and we have to have elected officials in government and we have to have the faithful in government and over time, that lie we have been told, the separation of church and state, people have internalized, thinking that they needed to avoid politics and that is so wrong because God is the one who chooses our rulers. And if we are the ones not actively involved in electing those godly men and women and if people aren’t involved in helping godly men in getting elected than we’re going to have a nation of secular laws. That’s not what our founding fathers intended and that’s certainly isn’t what God intended. So it’s really important that members of the church know people’s stands. It’s really important that they get involved in campaigns. I said I’m going to run a campaign of integrity. I’m not going to run it like all of the campaigns that I’ve seen before…. And you know, it’s hard to find people that are gonna behave that way in a campaign and be honorable that way in a campaign. But that’s why we need the faithful and we need to take back this country. It’s time that the churches get involved. Pastors, from the pulpit, can invite people to speak, not on politics, but of their faith. But they can discern, they can ask those people running for election, in the pulpit, what is your position on gay marriage? What is your position on abortion? That is totally permissible in 5013C organizations. They simply cannot endorse from the pulpit. And that’s why I’ve gone to churches and I’ve spoken in four churches, five churches a day on Sunday and people line up afterwards because it’s so important that they know. And if we don’t get involved as Christians then how could we possibly take this back?

So, um, it's clear from the article and her background that she is one of these Conservative Republicans who loudly proclaim their Christianity so that everybody knows that's their faith.

The question I have for her is, since when did anybody say that people who practice a Religion were disallowed from participating in politics?

That has never happened. Never was it disallowed for the Religious to also practice Politics. Never. So why does she claim this happened? Oh, wait, her association with G.W. Bush probably makes it easier for her to be a liar.

The principle of the Separation of Church and State is not that Religion is disallowed from Politics. It's that the State cannot establish a State Religion, and that the State cannot favor one religion over another.

Maybe in Florida "everybody" goes to church on sunday, and "everybody" is Christian ... actually, I highly doubt this ... but that pattern isn't true everywhere in the U.S. In California the white folk are a minority, and there are many non-Christian religions that are widely practiced in California. And, I'm not talking about New Age weirdos here (of which I am one) but Hindus, Muslims, Buddhists, Jainists, etc. All those are ancient religions with long histories to them, sometimes longer history than Christianity.

Given that, why should there be favor of one religion over another? Why should the State give a rats ass about which religion someone practices or which religion is better than the other? Obviously it's a matter of personal preference which religion is better, or which religion suits one person better than it does another. And just as obviously the State should butt out of such distinctions.

But, to read Katherine Harris and her ilk, they want to establish Christianity as the dominant religion and have the State embody Christianity as the dominant religion.

Um, this is the United States. A country founded on a group who was escaping religious persecution. Why would our founding fathers have wanted the United States to engage in religious persecution? That's what it would be if the State were to begin giving preference for one religion over another, it would be a form of religious persecution.

The United States I grew up with does not practice religious persecution, but instead gives space for all religions to be worshipped on an equal footing.