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.

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Swazool
Swazool
10 years ago

I think the bishop is given too much press, but if you want to listen to him, and I know you do Justin, that is fine. Just remember he also included immigration. I remember some of the things he has said in the past didn’t go over do well with the anti immigration people.

Warrington Faust
Warrington Faust
10 years ago

According to my reading, and that of many others, teh Constitution provides for freedom of religion, not freedom from religion.
I find it no more offensive that a Bishop should speak for the Catholic community, than Rev. Jackson, or Rev. Sharpton, speaks for the Black community.

brassband
brassband
10 years ago

Monday is a national holiday in the United States.
What are we commemorating?
The life and accomplishments of the late Reverand Doctor Martin Luther King, Jr.
Should an ordained minister of the gospel use his position to influence public policy?
Thank God, Rev. Dr. King answered this question, “yes:”
“… when we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, ‘Free at last! free at last! thank God Almighty, we are free at last!'”

helen
helen
10 years ago

That last paragraph nailed it Justin. So hard, hot and true that nail might have melted.
Excellent situational summation.

Doug Indeap
Doug Indeap
10 years ago

That last paragraph fundamentally misses it–and mistakenly posits some sort of secularist takeover theory. The principle of separation of church and state is designed to protect the freedom of all to exercise and express their religious views without expecting the government to endorse or promote those views and without fearing the government will endorse or promote the religious views of others.
Separation of church and state does not prevent citizens from making decisions based on principles derived from their religions. Moreover, the religious beliefs of government officials naturally may inform their decisions on policies. The principle of separation of church and state merely constrains government officials not to make decisions with the predominant purpose or primary effect of advancing religion; in other words, the predominant purpose and primary effect must be nonreligious or secular in nature. A decision coinciding with religious views is not invalid for that reason as long as it has a secular purpose and effect.
Wake Forest University recently published a short, objective Q&A primer on the current law of separation of church and state–as applied by the courts rather than as caricatured in the blogosphere. I commend it to you.

Phil
Phil
10 years ago

Monday is a national holiday in the United States.
What are we commemorating?
The life and accomplishments of the late Reverand Doctor Martin Luther King, Jr.
Should an ordained minister of the gospel use his position to influence public policy?
Thank God, Rev. Dr. King answered this question, “yes:”
“… when we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, ‘Free at last! free at last! thank God Almighty, we are free at last!'”
Posted by brassband at January 15, 2011 9:06 PM
Thank you to Brassband
At least Dr. King got one mention here.

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