Church, State, and the Whole Crazy Thing

I seldom have debates with people about religion or politics.  If there’s one thing I’ve learned in my life, it’s that those are arguments you can never win.

So instead, I’ll take the passive-aggressive route and write a blog post about religion and politics.

When it comes to my belief systems, I’m sort of purist.  I don’t have much patience for people who like to hand-pick things to believe in.  The Bible is a great example of this.  People like to pick out certain verses of scripture that go along with the things they want to believe.  They take that and run, while completely disregarding the whole message.

Our constitution is another good example of this.

Folks love to talk about freedom of speech and of religion, but usually they think it only applies to their speech and religion.  When someone offends them, suddenly their beliefs in freedoms get a little murkier.  Just lately, the whole “separation of church and state” thing seems to be of growing concern.

Here’s the thing: if you truly believe in separation of church and state, then it has to be all the time, not just when it’s convenient or easy.  Same-sex marriage is a real hot button issue, and to a lot of people it doesn’t have anything to do with church and state, but I think it has everything to do with it.  Who is opposed to same-sex marriage? The various religious communities who say that marriage is sanctified by God as the union of a man and woman.  Those religious communities have every right to believe that.  (Freedom of religion, remember?) So from my perspective, the government can’t come in and tell a church they have to allow same-sex marriage.  If a church doesn’t want to do that, then they don’t have to.  It shouldn’t be up to a vote or a town council whether it’s okay.

There’s a flip side, though.

If a government wants to allow a non-religious civil union between same-sex partners, then the church has no jurisdiction to stop it.  Right?  Separation of church and state.

Here’s another one that I find particularly outrageous: some Catholic-based institutions were recently mandated by the Department of Health and Human Resources to provide abortifacient drugs, contraception, and sterilization to their employees.  Then the government (aka the state) stepped in to determine if the Catholic Church’s protests to this mandate were valid.  Here’s a little lesson for those who don’t know–the Catholic Church does not believe in abortion at any stage, artificial contraception, or voluntary sterilization.  The government has no right to step in and make the Church violate those beliefs.

However, this country is strongly Protestant, and so most of have been brainwashed into thinking that the Catholic Church has waged a war on women and women’s rights.  In short, based on the public reaction, people think the government should be able to tell the Catholic Church what to believe, and how to practice those beliefs.  The Catholic Church has had these same beliefs for centuries, and millions of Catholic women believe in them just as strongly–no, correction, they believe in them even more strongly than the men, since it affects them personally.

How would we feel if the government suddenly stepped up and declared that Baptists having church on Sundays wasn’t appropriate anymore?  Maybe the government might decide to appoint ministers to make sure a fair and equal message was being spread to all.  Can you say “communism?”

So my point is this: separation of church and state means just that–separation.  Freedom of speech and religion applies to everyone, not just Baptists and people who share your opinion.  The government has no business sticking its nose in people’s religion.  I certainly don’t want them telling me what to believe.  I have a hard enough time figuring that out for myself.

What about you?  Do you need the government to guide your religion?  Do you want them telling you what you already believe is wrong?

I didn’t think so.

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15 Comments on "Church, State, and the Whole Crazy Thing"

  1. Angela Shelton
    15/05/2012 at 12:08 pm Permalink

    Woooweee, I heart you! I love “So instead, I’ll take the passive-aggressive route and write a blog post about religion and politics.” HAHA!

    We are in a strange time when even sharing your opinion or just questioning something the president or the church did can get you called a racist or a bigot. It’s a good thing there are blogs. I’m so glad you wrote this. It is so true and I give you a huge thumbs up.

    Thumb turned up.

  2. Janice
    15/05/2012 at 2:29 pm Permalink

    Thanks! You do have to watch what you say…

    And I am in trouble for that!

  3. Missy | Literal Mom
    15/05/2012 at 2:40 pm Permalink

    I love this post! My husband and I talk all the time about freedom of speech and how that means EVERYONE’S freedom of speech, not just your own freedom of speech. I truly don’t think everyone gets that global position. Or at least they ignore it. Great stuff here.

  4. stephanie
    16/05/2012 at 7:58 pm Permalink

    I agree wholeheartedly in the separation of church and state. All of us ought to be allowed to believe what we believe without being criticized for it. All religions are created equal. I respectfully disagree with your take on that contraception issue, however. Catholic women take contraceptives, and they ought to be allowed that choice in a health care plan. So the result of that mandate in at least one university was to drop health insurance altogether for the students. Two ways of looking at that. One can fault the government, or one can fault the university. I fault the university. It’s all about money, not about religious beliefs. That’s the real issue.

  5. Janice
    16/05/2012 at 10:00 pm Permalink

    Catholic women may very well take contraceptives, but the Church forbids it. Policy is based on the Catechism, not on what some people may or may not do. Ultimately, though, my biggest problem with the whole situation was that the government felt it had the right to come in and interpret the Catechism themselves. From my perspective, that is a constitutional violation, regardless of what you believe about Catholicism, contraceptives, or the government.

    I’m sure you are right–the university probably saw an opportunity to save some money. Why drop coverage entirely? Certainly insurances have no trouble picking and choosing what they will and won’t pay for–mine doesn’t, that’s for sure!

    Thanks for commenting and disagreeing without calling me bad names, even if you may have thought them!

  6. Mayor Gia
    16/05/2012 at 10:23 pm Permalink

    I concur. With all of this. Completely.

  7. Kristin
    17/05/2012 at 3:07 pm Permalink

    I think I could agree with this more if religious institutions didn’t have tax exempt status.

  8. Carol
    17/05/2012 at 7:36 pm Permalink

    I am a lifelong practicing Catholic. Just because the law requires ALL employers to provide a benefit doesn’t mean a Catholic has to take advantage of them. I think this would be called the free choice to practice your religion. For me it is simple, you don’t have to violate your religious beliefs just because it is included in your insurance coverage.
    A side issue for me would be the benefit of receiving school vouchers (tax money) and teaching your religious beliefs as part of the educational system. We paid for our children to attend Catholic school and never wondered why someone else wasn’t paying for it. We felt strongly enough about early religious education to pay for it and not complain why tax payers weren’t footing the bill. I think the church opened the door when they accepted vouchers plus it may very well water down the Catholic schools as we know them today.

  9. Janice
    18/05/2012 at 9:36 am Permalink

    But wasn’t the issue more that a Catholic institution was being asked to provide the contraceptive, and not that the Catholic students didn’t want to have it? That’s a big difference in my opinion.

    And again, it was more the idea of the government’s response that I found disturbing.

  10. Doug Indeap
    19/05/2012 at 3:41 pm Permalink

    Arguments against the health care law are largely predicated on basic misunderstandings of facts and law. The law does not contravene the Constitution Nor does it force any employer to act contrary to his or her conscience. Nor is the mandate to purchase insurance unprecedented.

    First, the Constitution. Confronted by questions about the government requiring or prohibiting something that conflicts with someone’s faith, the courts have generally ruled that under the Constitution the government cannot enact laws specifically aimed at a particular religion (which would be regarded a constraint on religious liberty contrary to the First Amendment), but can enact laws generally applicable to everyone or at least broad classes of people (e.g., laws concerning pollution, contracts, torts, crimes, discrimination, employment, etc.) and can require everyone, including those who may object on religious grounds, to abide by them. (E.g.,

    When the legislature anticipates that application of such laws may put some individuals in moral binds, the legislature may, as a matter of grace (not constitutional compulsion), provide exemptions for conscientious objectors.

    The real question here then is not so much whether the First Amendment precludes the government from enacting and enforcing the generally applicable laws regarding availability of health insurance (it does not), but rather whether there is any need to exempt some employers in order to avoid forcing them to act contrary to their consciences.

    Second, no need for an exemption. While some, e.g., Catholic bishops, may well oppose the law’s policy of promoting the availability of medical services they find objectionable, the law does not put employers in the moral bind they suppose. Many initially worked themselves into a lather with the false idea that the law forces employers to provide their employees with health care plans offering services the employers consider immoral. The fact is that employers have the option of not providing any such plans and instead simply paying assessments to the government. Unless one supposes that the employers’ religion forbids payments of money to the government (all of us should enjoy such a religion), then the law’s requirement to pay assessments does not compel those employers to act contrary to their beliefs. Problem solved. Solved–unless an employer really aims not just to avoid a moral bind, but rather to control his employees’ health plan choices so they conform to the employer’s religious beliefs, and avoid paying the assessments that otherwise would be owed. For that, an employer need an exemption from the law.

    Indeed, some have continued clamoring for such an exemption, complaining that by paying assessments to the government they would indirectly be paying for the very things they opposed. They seemingly missed that that is not a moral dilemma justifying an exemption to avoid being forced to act contrary to one’s beliefs, but rather is a gripe common to many taxpayers–who don’t much like paying taxes and who object to this or that action the government may take with the benefit of “their” tax dollars. Should each of us be exempted from paying our taxes so we aren’t thereby “forced” to pay for making war, providing health care, teaching evolution, or whatever else each of us may consider wrong or even immoral? If each of us could opt out of this or that law or tax with the excuse that our religion requires or allows it, the government and the rule of law could hardly operate.

    In any event, those complaining made enough of a stink that the government relented and announced that religious employers would be free to provide health plans with provisions to their liking (yay!) and not be required to pay the assessments otherwise required (yay!). Problem solved–again, even more.

    Nonetheless, some continue to complain, fretting that somehow the services they dislike will get paid for and somehow they will be complicit in that. They argue that if insurers (or, by the same logic, anyone, e.g., employees) pay for such services, those costs will somehow, someday be passed on to the employers in the form of demands for higher insurance premiums or higher wages. They counter what they call the government’s “accounting gimmick” with one of their own: “religious dollars.” These dollars, it seems, can only be used to pay for things conforming to an employer’s religious beliefs even after the employer spends them and they thus become the property of others, e.g., insurers or employees. I can only wonder what proponents would think of their tag-the-dollar idea if they realized that I have loosed some “atheist dollars” into society, some of which have found their way into their wallets. Those dollars can be used only for ungodly purposes, lest I suffer the indignity of paying for things I disbelieve. If one lands in your hands, whatever you do, for god’s sake, don’t put it in the collection plate.

    Finally, all the hoo-ha about the insurance mandate being “unprecedented” (as if that is even an argument about its legality) is simply false. Congress passed and Presidents George Washington and John Adams signed bills mandating that all able-bodied white men between 18 and 45 provide themselves with arms, knapsacks, and ammunition and that shipowners and seamen purchase medical insurance.

  11. Janice
    22/05/2012 at 8:39 pm Permalink

    Sorry it took me so long to catch this and approve it. It got shuffled into spam.

    I’m obviously not going to win any debates with you, so I’m not going to try. I will say that I appreciate your comment.

  12. Carol
    21/05/2012 at 8:33 pm Permalink

    Maybe I am missing your point. The government is trying to provide benefits to all employees without except to their religious beliefs. Free choice allows you to use these benefits or to reject the use of them. How does that compromise the Catholic Church or a Catholic’s liberty to practice their religion?
    Abortion is legal but Catholics know the Church stands firm in the belief that it is wrong. The Catholic Church never felt compromised or without the liberty to express their beliefs that they are moral opposed to abortion. That being said, the Church would be able to continue to provide the Catholic views and it is the Catholics responsibility to make the choice.

  13. Janice
    22/05/2012 at 8:32 pm Permalink

    Well, in reading about the lawsuit they have filed against HHR, the Church feels it should not have to provide contraceptives ect. to anyone. This is based on Catholic organizations which are being told they have to provide these services. Should they offer it and just hope people will remain moral in the eyes of the Church? It isn’t about the person receiving the health care or what they believe. I equally don’t understand your point and why you think the Church should feel okay about providing services they don’t believe in.

  14. Carol
    23/05/2012 at 4:50 pm Permalink

    You said, “This is based on Catholic organizations which are being told they have to provide these services. Should they offer it and just hope people will remain moral in the eyes of the Church?”

    Is that not what the Church does each and everyday? They give the guidance but the free will is still there.

  15. Janice
    23/05/2012 at 10:08 pm Permalink

    Absolutely, but there is a line there. Hoping people avoid sin is maybe just a little different than providing the source of the sin and THEN hoping they stay away from it.

    I’m not sure how to feel about this. The more I delve into Catholicism, with my own conversion still incomplete, I’m surprised to find the number of lifelong Catholics who view the leadership of the Church with much the same skepticism as we view our government. Maybe that shouldn’t surprise me, but I guess I’m a little naive when it comes to religion. However, I can’t get past the idea that a Catholic organization would be required to provide, for example, a “morning after” pill, which they would consider a grave sin. Would they not deem the offering a sin, even if their “hope” that others wouldn’t partake of it was fulfilled?

    Like I said, there seems to be a fine line here somewhere.

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