Our readers speak: separation of church and state

9 August 2012

To the editor:

Much has been said about the separation of church and state in the United Sates, often very emotionally and misleadingly.

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The Constitution clearly states: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”  The first part prohibits the federal government from setting up a denominational religion as England did with Anglicanism, giving it legal favoritism and power in the post-Reformation era to the exclusion and persecution of other faiths including Catholicism.  France did the opposite, favoring Catholicism to the detriment of other religious expressions; for example, the French government religion led to the persecution of the Huguenots.  This intertwining of government and religion was so onerous that the people ultimately revolted violently as in the French Revolution when the government/church partnership was severed through the beheading of the ruling hierarchy at the guillotine.

The second part enables any and all religions to thrive equally, be it Catholicism, Protestantism, Islam, or Hinduism.  All faiths are protected by the Constitution.  Contrast this freedom of religion with the Iranian theocracy, which seeks to establish its own version of an exclusionary government/religious alliance.

The framers of the Constitution were very aware of the abuses of a government/religion marriage and wanted to avoid the pitfalls of the European fusion of politics and religion.  Their approach has resulted in religious strength through impartiality.

Christ Himself expressed the right of both government and religion to co-exist freely. “Render to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.”

Ross Paradis

Frenchville