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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