The Point of Separation
RI Bishop Thomas Tobin asks the key question:
Nor should the so-called “separation of church and state” be used as a weapon to silence the faith community, or restrict its robust participation in the debate of important public issues. I’ve found that whenever I’ve spoken out on public issues — e.g., abortion, gay marriage or immigration — some irritated souls, arguing the “separation of church and state” will insist that I’m out of line. In fact, religious leaders have every right, indeed the duty, to speak out on public issues. If we fail to do so, we’re neglecting our role as teachers, preachers and prophets. And if we don’t bring the spiritual dimension, the moral dimension to the discussion of these issues, who will?
The obvious answer is that they will — those who wish to push the notion of separation. What they tend to oppose, I’d suggest, is not the insertion of extralegal principles into the law, nor subjective judgments about morality. Such things are unavoidable and, in any case, their saturation of public discourse flows more regularly from secularists; they just change the terms to “rights” and “justice” and assert their interpretation of such concepts to be mere objectivity.
The objection of secularists is to foundations for government action that derive from other institutions and sources of authority than themselves, whether that means religion or, more generally, tradition. It is illegitimate, they argue, to look to a Supreme Being for guidance or the long history of mankind’s consideration of His moral demands, because they wish to provide the guidance in His place.