Religion and American Government…How separate?

Saturday 31 March 2012 at 2:15 pm. Used tags: , , , , , , , ,

Essay: Religion and American Government…How separate?  April 2012


Summary: As we approach Easter, I selected a thorny subject to discuss. In 1787 the Continental Congress commissioned the first penny. The motto was "Mind Your Own Business”…not very religious. In 1864, during the Civil War, the Union introduced a 2-cent coin with the motto "In God We Trust". In 1956, “In God We Trust” was mandated for all our currency. Yet, our forefathers created the First Amendment of the Constitution: the right of freedom of religion. In 2012, we are among the most religious people in the world but our government plays a small role in promoting, endorsing or funding religious institutions. Today, there is a debate about the separation of Church and State and religious/moral issues regarding abortion, in vitro fertilization, contraception, marriage between two people of the same sex, and even birth control pills. These ethical/moral subjects have become heated during the presidential election season. This essay offers some history and perspective. I realize that this will be a long, perhaps tedious read. Since the issues regarding religion and government are complex and are rarely black and white, their history and evolution are placed in a “Detailed Review” section.

The full essay is attached.

DAVID SOWERS April 2012




Happy Easter to all!

Essay       Religion and American Government…How separate?    April 2012

Summary: As we approach Easter, I selected a thorny subject to discuss. In 1787 the Continental Congress commissioned the first penny. The motto was "Mind Your Own Business”…not very religious. In 1864, during the Civil War, the Union introduced a 2-cent coin with the motto "In God We Trust". In 1956, “In God We Trust” was mandated for all our currency. Yet, our forefathers created the First Amendment of the Constitution: the right of freedom of religion. In 2012, we are among the most religious people in the world but our government plays a small role in promoting, endorsing or funding religious institutions. Today, there is a debate about the separation of Church and State and religious/moral issues regarding abortion, in vitro fertilization, contraception, marriage between two people of the same sex, and even birth control pills. These ethical/moral subjects have become heated during the presidential election season. This essay offers some history and perspective. I realize that this will be a long, perhaps tedious read. Since the issues regarding religion and government are complex and are rarely black and white, their history and evolution are placed in a “Detailed Review” section.

Conclusions: Robert Wood, a recent military advisor in national security affairs and religion wrote “that America is a model for the world in terms of how a separation of church and state is good for both the church and the state, allowing a variety of religions to flourish.” He said that the freedom of conscience and assembly allowed under such a system has led to a "remarkable religiosity" in America that is not present in other industrialized nations. Wood explained that the U.S. operates on "a sort of civic religion," which includes a generally-shared belief in a creator who "expects better of us." Beyond that, individuals are free to decide how they want to believe and fill in their own creeds and express their conscience. He calls this approach the "genius of religious sentiment in the United States.

Regardless of the genuine attempt to separate religion and government, the wall (or line) will remain murky. With the growth of non-Christian religions, over the next 100 years, it will be even more ambiguous. The question is not church and state. It is many churches or many religions versus one state. What is moral or legal in one denomination is not necessarily moral or allowed in another. The clearest line in the sand is this: There will be no state sponsored religion in the United States of America. The fundamental tenet of morality repeatedly declared by Ben Franklin was “The most acceptable service to God is doing good to man.” So, we Americans must get along and accept that no institution has all the answers to life’s mysteries. When we gaze at the stars and a full moon on a summer night, we surely know they did not come from “nothing”.

Detailed Review:  Let us begin with the verbatim words in the Bill of Rights!

Amendment I - Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

What does that first phrase mean?

·        My government (at all levels) can neither impose a state religion on me nor punish me for exercising the religion of my choice. I can attend and support the religion or sect or denomination of my choice.

·        I do not have to practice or believe in any religion.

·        I may express my opinions on religious and moral issues.

·        I may write and publish what I wish regarding religion and God.

·        I may gather peacefully with others and formally ask our government to correct injustices that I think are morally wrong or inconsistent with my own religious beliefs.

·        I may gather peacefully with others in public places to pray or execute other religious practices.

·        I do not have to pay taxes to support any religious institutions.

In 1947, in the case Everson versus Board of Education, the Supreme Court declared, "The First Amendment has erected a wall between church and state. That wall must be kept high and impregnable. We could not approve he slightest breach." It is important to note that the "separation of church and state" phrase which the court invoked, and which today is so familiar, was actually taken from an exchange of letters between President Thomas Jefferson and the Baptist Association of Danbury, Connecticut, shortly after Jefferson became President. It is NOT referenced in the US constitution.

The election of Jefferson – our first Anti-Federalist President – elated many Baptists since that denomination was Anti-Federalist. Having a President who not only had supported the rights of Baptists in Virginia but who also had sought clear limits on the centralization of government powers, the Danbury Baptists wrote Jefferson a letter of praise. In their letter the Baptists also expressed concern over the First Amendment guarantee for "the free exercise of religion.” The inclusion of protection for the "free exercise of religion" in the constitution suggested to them that the right was government-given rather than God-given, and that the government might someday attempt to regulate religious expression. Jefferson understood their concern. He made numerous declarations about the constitutional inability of the federal government to regulate or interfere with religious expression.

He believed that the First Amendment had been enacted only to prevent the federal establishment of a national denomination. He wrote that  “The clause of the Constitution… which covered the freedom of religion, had given to the clergy a very favorite hope of obtaining an establishment of a particular form of Christianity… and as every sect believes its own form the true one, every one perhaps hoped for his own, but especially the Episcopalians and Congregationalists.”

He wrote: “Gentlemen, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should "make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, thus building a wall of separation between Church and State.”

Jefferson believed that God, not government, was the Author and Source of our rights and that the government, therefore, was to be prevented from interference with those rights.

The Supreme Court then summarized Jefferson's intent for separation of church and state: “The rightful purposes of civil government are for its officers to interfere when principles break out into overt acts against peace and good order. In this is found the true distinction between what properly belongs to the church and what to the State.

It should be noted that the colonies of New York, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia were officially Church of England.

A charter granted in 1632 to George Calvert and his son Cecil, both recent converts to Roman Catholicism, founded the Colony of Maryland. Under their leadership many English Catholic families settled in Maryland. However, Maryland’s government was officially neutral in religious affairs, granting toleration to all Christian groups.

In 1763, Spanish Florida was ceded to Great Britain. The British then divided Florida into two colonies. Both East and West Florida continued a policy of toleration for the Catholic residents.

In 1789 Georgia amended its constitution. "No person within this state shall be deprived of the privilege of worshipping God in any manner agreeable to his own conscience or be compelled to attend any place of worship contrary to his own faith…No one religious society shall ever be established in this state, in preference to another; nor shall any person be denied the enjoyment of any civil right on account of his religious principles."

Nevertheless, the court in the Nesbit and Lindenmuller case identified actions into which – if perpetrated in the name of religion – the government did have legitimate reason to intrude. Those activities included:

·        Human sacrifice

·        Polygamy

·        Bigamy

·        Concubinage

·        Incest

·        Infanticide

·        Parricide

·        Advocation and promotion of immorality.

Such acts, even if perpetrated in the name of religion, would be stopped by the government since, as the Court explained, they were "subversive of good order" and were "overt acts against peace." However, the government was never to interfere with traditional religious practices outlined in "the Books of the Law and the Gospel" – whether public prayer, the use of the Scriptures or public acknowledgements of God.

Earlier, the courts had always viewed Jefferson's Danbury letter for just what it was, a personal, private letter to a specific group. There is probably no other instance in American history where words spoken by a single individual in a private letter – words clearly divorced from their context – have become the sole authorization for national policy. Jefferson's Danbury letter should never be invoked as a stand-alone document.

The Congressional Records from June 7 to September 25, 1789 record the months of discussions and debates of the ninety Founding Fathers who framed the First Amendment. Significantly, not only was Thomas Jefferson not one of those ninety but also, during those debates not one person ever mentioned the phrase "separation of church and state." It seems logical to me that if this had been the intent for the First Amendment – as is so frequently asserted today-then at least one of those ninety who framed the Amendment would have mentioned that phrase.

In 1928 New York’s governor Al Smith, an Irish Catholic, ran as the Democratic candidate for president against the Republican Herbert Hoover. That campaign is considered by historians to be one of the dirtiest in American history. Many Protestant religious establishments mobilized against Smith, and stated that he would be the tool of the Vatican and turn America into a Catholic theocracy.

Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum recently stated that he “almost threw up” after reading John F. Kennedy’s 1960 campaign speech on the proper relation between church and state in American politics. Santorum has become a visible face of politically conservative Catholicism as a result of this and other statements. A cradle Catholic myself, I believe Kennedy’s 1,500 well-chosen words lifted a cloud of suspicion that had hung over our nation’s Catholics. The election of Jack Kennedy as president in 1960 was a happy day for American Catholics, in part because it helped heal deep historical wounds.

He wrote: “I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute--where no Catholic prelate would tell the President how to act, and no Protestant minister would tell his parishioners for whom to vote--where no church or church school is granted any public funds or political preference--and where no man is denied public office merely because his religion differs from the President who might appoint him or the people who might elect him.

"I believe in an America that is officially neither Catholic, Protestant nor Jewish - where no public official either requests or accepts instructions on public policy from the Pope, the National Council of Churches or any other ecclesiastical source -- no religious body seeks to impose its will directly or indirectly upon the general populace or the public acts of its officials -- and where religious liberty is so indivisible that an act against one church is treated as an act against all."  Kennedy provided the template for dealing with one of the trickiest issues in American governance, the proper coexistence of church and state.

For more than 50 years his speech has stood as the guiding statement on this subject. At a campaign event during the Michigan primary, Senator Santorum described his vision for the role of religion in public life. "I'm for separation of church and state. The state has no business telling the church what to do” and that Kennedy’s speech “had thrown his faith under the bus." Religion has become a cornerstone of his campaign in recent weeks.  Senator, what if Islam became America’s primary religion? Would you still advocate more religious activity and expression in the public square?  Look at today’s enormous growth of Islam in Europe. Time reported that by 2030, there would be more Muslims in the world than Christians.

Religious practices still remain a cloudy issue. Let us review key examples.

Ø Until 1877 the New Hampshire Constitution required members of the State legislature to be of the Protestant religion.

Ø The North Carolina Constitution of 1776 disestablished the Anglican Church, but until 1835 it allowed only Protestants to hold public office. From 1835-1876 it allowed only Christians (including Catholics) to hold public office. The current NC Constitution still forbids atheists from holding public office. Such clauses were held by the United States Supreme Court to be ‘unenforceable’ in 1961.

Ø In the 1878 Mormon polygamy case Reynolds v. U.S, the court cited Jefferson and Madison, seeking a legal definition for the word religion. Writing for the majority, Justice Field cited Jefferson's letter to the Danbury Baptists to state that "Congress was deprived of all legislative power over mere opinion, but was left free to reach actions which were in violation of social duties or subversive of good order." Considering this, the court ruled that outlawing polygamy was constitutional.

Ø In 1962, the Supreme Court addressed the issue of officially sponsored prayer or religious recitations in public schools. By a vote of 6-1, it determined it was unconstitutional for state officials to compose an official school prayer and require its recitation in public schools, even when the prayer is non-denominational and students may excuse themselves from participation. (The prayer required by the New York State Board of Regents prior to the Court's decision consisted of: "Almighty God, we acknowledge our dependence upon Thee, and we beg Thy blessings upon us, our parents, our teachers, and our country. Amen.") The court stated:  “that the constitutional prohibition against laws respecting an establishment of religion must at least mean that it is no part of the business of government to compose official prayers for any group of the American people to recite as a part of a religious program carried on by government.”

Ø In 1968, the Supreme Court considered an Arkansas law that made it a crime "to teach the theory or doctrine that mankind ascended or descended from a lower order of animals," or "to adopt or use in any such institution a textbook that teaches" this theory in any school or university that received public funds. “The court held that the Establishment Clause prohibits the state from advancing any religion, and has no legitimate interest in protecting any or all religions from views distasteful to them."

Ø In 1971, the court determined that a Pennsylvania state policy of reimbursing the salaries of teachers of secular subjects in religious schools or the costs of secular instructional materials in religious schools violated the Establishment Clause. The court's decision argued that the separation of church and state could never be absolute: "Our prior holdings do not call for total separation between church and state; total separation is not possible in an absolute sense. Some relationship between government and religious organizations is inevitable…Judicial caveats against entanglement must recognize that the line of separation, far from being a "wall," is a blurred, indistinct, and variable barrier depending on all the circumstances of a particular relationship."

Ø  Subsequent to this decision, the Supreme Court has applied a three-pronged test:

1. First, the law or policy must have been adopted with a neutral or non-religious purpose.

2. Second, the principal or primary effect must be one that neither advances nor inhibits religion.

3. Third, the statute or policy must not result in an "excessive entanglement" of government with religion.

Ø The decision in Lemon v. Kurtzman hinged upon the conclusion that the government benefits were flowing disproportionately to Catholic schools, and that Catholic schools were an integral component of the Catholic Church's religious mission, thus the policy involved the state in an "excessive entanglement" with religion. Failure to meet any of these criteria is a proof that the statute or policy in question violates the Establishment Clause.

Ø In 2002, a three judge panel on the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals held that classroom recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance in a California public school was unconstitutional, even when students were not compelled to recite it, due to the inclusion of the phrase "under God." Congress then passed measures reaffirming their support for the pledge, and condemning the panel's ruling. The case was appealed to the Supreme Court, where the case was ultimately overturned in June 2004, on procedural grounds not related to the constitutional issue. The majority held that Newdow, suing on behalf of his daughter, lacked standing to sue.

Ø When the Louisiana state legislature passed a law requiring public school biology teachers to give Creationism and Evolution equal time in the classroom, the Supreme Court ruled that the law was unconstitutional. The court said that it was intended to advance a particular religion, and did not serve the secular purpose of improved scientific education.

Ø The display of the Ten Commandments as part of courthouse displays was considered in a group of cases decided in summer of 2005. While parties on both sides hoped for a clarification of the Lemon test, the two rulings ended with narrow 5-4 and opposing decision.

Ø In 2005, the United States Court of Appeals ruled that the continued display of the Ten Commandments as part of a larger display on American legal traditions in a Kentucky courthouse was allowed, because the purpose of the display (educating the public on American legal traditions) was secular in nature.  In ruling on the Mount Soledad cross controversy in 2006, however, a federal judge ruled that the cross on public property on Mount Soledad must be removed.

Ø While sometimes questioned as violations of separation, the appointment of official chaplains for government functions, voluntary prayer meetings at the Department of Justice outside of duty hours, voluntary prayer at meals in U.S. armed forces, inclusion of the (optional) phrase "so help me God" in the oaths for many elected offices, FBI agents, etc., have been held not to violate the First Amendment, since they fall within the realm of free exercise of religion.

Ø Relaxed zoning rules and special parking privileges for churches, the tax-free status of church property, the fact that Christmas is a federal holiday, etc., have also been questioned, but have been considered examples of the governmental prerogative in deciding practical and beneficial arrangements for the society. The national motto "In God We Trust" has been challenged as a violation, but the Supreme Court has ruled that ceremonial deism is not religious in nature.

The Biggest controversy: Roe v Wade!

This was a landmark decision by the Supreme Court on the issue of abortion. Decided simultaneously with companion case Doe v. Bolton, the Court ruled that a right to privacy under the due process clause in the Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution extends to a woman's decision to have an abortion. The court stated that this right must be balanced against the state's two legitimate interests for regulating abortions: protecting prenatal life and protecting the woman's health. They concluded that the state’s interests become stronger over the course of a pregnancy, and the Court resolved this balancing test by tying state regulation of abortion to the woman's current trimester of pregnancy.

The Court later rejected Roe's trimester framework, while affirming Roe's central holding that a person has a right to abortion until viability. The Roe decision defined "viable" as being "potentially able to live outside the mother's womb is usually placed at about seven months (28 weeks) but may occur earlier, even at 24 weeks."  In disallowing many state and federal restrictions on abortion, Roe v. Wade prompted a national debate that continues to this day. It has reshaped politics, dividing much of America into pro-choice and pro-life camps, while activating grassroots movements on both sides.
Background of abortion laws

According to the Court, "the restrictive criminal abortion laws in effect in a majority of States today are of relatively recent vintage." In 1821, Connecticut passed the first state statute criminalizing abortion. Every state had abortion legislation by 1900. In June 1969, Norma McCorvey discovered she was pregnant. She returned to Dallas, where friends advised her to assert falsely that she had been raped, as she could then obtain a legal abortion (with the understanding that Texas' anti-abortion laws allowed abortion in the cases of rape and incest). However, this scheme failed, as there was no police report documenting the alleged rape.

In 1970, attorneys filed suit in the U.S. District Court in Texas on her behalf (under the alias Jane Roe). The defendant in the case was Dallas County District Attorney Henry Wade, representing the State of Texas. McCorvey was no longer claiming her pregnancy was the result of rape, and later acknowledged she had lied earlier about having been raped.

The district court ruled in McCorvey's favor on the merits, and declined to grant an injunction against the enforcement of the laws barring abortion.

The district court's decision was based upon the Ninth Amendment, and the court relied upon a concurring opinion by Justice Arthur Goldberg in the 1965 Supreme Court case of Griswold v. Connecticut.

Before Roe v. Wade reached the Supreme Court in 1970, the Justices delayed taking action on Roe and a closely related case until they decided Younger v. Harris, as they felt that the appeals raised difficult questions on judicial jurisdiction. The Court narrowly upheld the statute, though in doing so, it treated abortion as a medical procedure and stated that the physician must be given room to determine what suffices as a danger to (physical or mental) health. The day after they announced their decision they voted to hear both Roe case.

After a first round of arguments, seven Justices tentatively agreed that the law should be struck down, but for varying reasons. Chief Justice Burger assigned the role of writing the Court's opinion in Roe to Justice Blackmun, who began drafting a preliminary opinion that emphasized what he saw as the Texas law's vagueness. Justices Rehnquist and Powell joined the Supreme Court too late to hear the first round of arguments. Additionally, Blackmun felt that his opinion was an inadequate reflection of his colleagues' opinions. Blackmun proposed that the case be reargued. Justice Douglas threatened to write a dissent from the reargument order (he and some other Justices were suspicious that Rhenquist and Powell would vote to uphold the statute). The case was reargued on October 11, 1972. Weddington continued to represent Roe, and Texas Assistant Attorney General Robert C. Flowers stepped in to replace Wade. Blackmun continued work on his opinion over the summer recess.
The actual Supreme Court decision

The Court issued its decision in 1973 with a 7-to-2-majority vote in favor of Roe. Given today’s political climate, it is important to note that Republican presidents appointed five of the seven in the majority. The Court deemed abortion a fundamental right under the United States Constitution, thereby subjecting all laws attempting to restrict it to the standard of strict scrutiny. The Supreme Court rejected the district court's Ninth Amendment rationale, and instead asserted that the right of privacy was broad enough to encompass a woman's decision whether or not to terminate her pregnancy.

The Court asserted that government had two competing interests:

1. Protecting the mother's health.

2. Protecting the "potentiality of human life.

The Court stated that during the first trimester, when the procedure is safer than childbirth, the decision to abort must be left to the mother and her physician. The State has the right to intervene prior to fetal viability only to protect the health of the mother, and may regulate the procedure after viability so long as there is always an exception for preserving maternal health. The Court additionally added that the primary right being preserved in the Roe decision was that of the physician's right to practice medicine freely absent a compelling state interest. The Court explicitly rejected a fetal "right to life" argument.

The Justices had discussed the trimester framework extensively. Blackmun wrote: "You will observe that I have concluded that the end of the first trimester is critical. This is arbitrary, but perhaps any other selected point, such as quickening or viability, is equally arbitrary.” Political scientists and legal scholars can parse that speech better than I. There really are no permanent and definitive bright lines separating “churches” and state in American society, try as we might. The boundaries of debate on politics and religion are ever shifting, as new issues arise, and our thinking as a result must evolve to suit circumstances.

Health and Religion versus Government

The religious freedom debate extends to so many denominations. Again, it is important to note that the issue is the “separation of churches and state.”

Dr. Gerald Howard, (also a book editor) in New York wrote “Jehovah's Witnesses won’t allow blood transfusions...I almost had a patient die after surgery because she refused.” Often, this church causes quite a dilemma when someone has injuries and they die because they refuse blood transfusions. Several cases have gone to higher courts. There have been court cases where the courts had to force parents to have medical treatment for their sick children…or even to place them in a hospital. The Wall of Churches and State is very fragile in so many practical situations.

Mary Baker founded Christian Science, a homegrown American religious and medical sect. She suffered from a variety of ailments. After Parkhurst Quimby effected a cure through his system of massage, encouragement, and "mental healing," she became his student and associate. Later, in 1866, she fell on an icy street and was confined to bed. She began reading the Bible and came to believe that her “life was in God”. From this revelation followed her healing; she got out of bed, dressed and walked.

In 1875, she asserted that "all is mind and there is no matter," death and sickness are illusions, and that everything emanates from God.

In 1892, Mrs. Eddy founded the “First Church of Christ, Scientist, of Boston”. This denomination often denies medical treatment.

Today, there has been heated discussion regarding the Obama Administration’s contraception coverage mandate. Much of the debate has focused on women’s sex lives and the types of birth control that doctors prescribe for women to prevent pregnancy. Related considerations are the separation of church and state, the mandate’s infringement on religious freedom and the Catholic Church’s First Amendment rights. Other considerations are women’s health, women’s rights, use of birth control pills to treat certain medical conditions, including polycystic ovary syndrome and endometriosis. These conditions can cause severe pain and lead to other health problems. Most medical panels recommend the contraception coverage because “those services are basic to individual health.”

The Catholic bishops, however, believe that contraceptive coverage and some hospital services are in conflict with the church’s “moral conscience.” The bishops believe that the church has the right to deny certain types of health insurance coverage for women who work for Catholic institutions. It does not matter to the bishops whether their female employees are members of other religions…or even atheists. The church’s position is that all female employees of Catholic institutions should be denied access to all forms of contraceptives and not be provided medical insurance that would cover the cost of certain medical procedures. The bishops also believe that certain types of treatment and procedures—including tubal ligations—should not be provided to women at Catholic hospitals.

In January 2011, the National Women’s Law Center issued a report on women’s health and lives being at risk at some hospitals because of religious restrictions. Their report described cases where doctors noted a discrepancy between the medically accepted standard of care for miscarriage and ectopic pregnancy and the treatment provided by hospitals due to their religious affiliation. When the standard of care for certain ectopic pregnancies required patients to receive methotrexate, the study reported many hospitals disallowed the use of that drug. Instead, patients were either transferred to another hospital or required to undergo unnecessary and invasive surgery to resolve their condition, thus being denied the standard of care.

In some of the miscarriage cases described, the standard of care also required immediate treatment. Yet doctors practicing at Catholic-affiliated hospitals were forced to delay treatment. Even though these miscarriages were inevitable, and no medical treatment was available to save the fetus, some patients were transferred because doctors were required to wait until there was no longer a fetal heartbeat to provide the needed medical care. This delay subjected these patients to further risks of hemorrhage and infection and could have violated their right to receive emergency medical treatment under federal law.

Jill Morrison, Counsel for NWLC, said that religious dictates should not “trump bedrock legal protections that entitle patients to the standard of care and informed consent in the American medical system.” According to the National Catholic Reporter, “Catholic health care facilities form the largest not-for-profit health service sector in the United States, caring for nearly one-sixth of all U.S. hospital patients each year.”

Twenty percent of U.S. hospitals abide by directives created by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. They ban abortions for any reason, forbid distribution of birth control (often including “morning after” pills for rape victims), deny sterilization operations, and nullify advanced directives and “living wills” that conflict with Catholic doctrine. Generally, when Catholic hospitals merge with non-Catholic institutions, the latter are required to accept the directives as part of the deal.

Sister Margaret McBride, an administrator of St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center in Phoenix, Arizona, chose to sign off on an abortion “for a woman who was eleven weeks pregnant and suffering from life-threatening pulmonary hypertension.” The woman was twenty-seven-years-old and the mother of four children. Doctors at the hospital had determined that terminating the woman’s pregnancy was the only way to save her life. Phoenix Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted was “furious” and demoted Sister McBride. He also announced that she had automatically excommunicated herself from the Catholic Church by her actions. The New York Times wrote that Bishop Olmsted had spent much of his life “as a Vatican bureaucrat climbing the career ladder.” They concluded that we would see more clashes like the one between the bishop and the hospital in Arizona in the future “as the church hierarchy grows more conservative, and as hospitals and laity grow more impatient with bishops who seem increasingly out of touch.”

As stated in the Conclusion, the genuine attempt to separate religion and government, the wall (or line) will remain murky. With the growth of non-Christian religions, over the next 100 years, it will be even more ambiguous. The question is not church and state. It is many churches or many religions versus one state. What is moral or legal in one denomination is not necessarily moral or allowed in another. The clearest line in the sand is this: There will be no state sponsored religion in the United States of America. The fundamental tenet of morality repeatedly declared by Ben Franklin was “The most acceptable service to God is doing good to man.” So, we Americans must get along and accept that no institution has all the answers to life’s mysteries. When we gaze at the stars and a full moon on a summer night, we surely know they did not come from “nothing”.

No comments



(optional field)
(optional field)
To prevent automated comment spam we require you to answer this silly question.
Remember personal info?
Small print: All html tags except <b> and <i> will be removed from your comment. You can make links by just typing the url or mail-address.