Tag Archives: separation of church and state

So You Really Want to Keep “Religion” Out of Politics?

Okay, I’m going to rant here for a minute. I ask your forgiveness in advance if what I’m about to say somehow offends you. Too bad… The politically correct gloves are coming off, and I make no apology for that.

This is called a losing, unjust cause

This is called a losing, unjust cause

I am getting sick and tired of the thoughtless bumper-sticker memes, slogans, and feel-good tripe out there suggesting that religion just “butt out” of politics, most especially the gay marriage/marriage equality debate. It’s same old yada-yada that there is this “constitutional separation of church and state.”

That it false. The phrase “separation of church and state” is attributed to Thomas Jefferson in his letter to the Danbury Baptist Association in 1802. You can read all about that. It’s not in any of the founding documents, and meant something completely different from the “kick religious voices out of the legislative process” sentiment that is out there now.

To all the folks who want religious people to just shut up about the legality and Constitutionality of marriage equality or any other important issue we face, let me remind you of a few things.

  • Major movements in civil rights and equality in America were spearheaded and championed by people of faith, including suffrage and equal rights for ethnic minorities.
  • There are many strong proponents for gay marriage/marriage equality who are from the faith community. Do you honestly want them to shut up, too? [pregnant pause] I didn’t think so…
  • There are people of faith seeking to influence all kinds of issues, including the issues you care about, and are most likely voicing your opinions in the places where laws are debated and passed.
  • There have been awful times in human history in which the church’s silence was either purchased or coerced. A prime example: Germany in the 1930’s. Hitler and the Nazi Party would have never risen to power if the Catholic Centre Party of the German Parliament had not been intimidated into silence. Now before anyone flies off the handle at this, I’m not comparing anyone to Hitler or the Nazis. But the point is, when the voice and influence of the faith community has been shut out, terrible things can and have indeed happened.
  • Laws are statements of what we value, what we hold to be right and wrong, and what we affirm to be just and unjust. What informs how we make these decisions? Isn’t it our philosophy, our values, existing law and tradition, and our morals? For most, faith is foundational to how we understand all of those things.

Now, I don’t believe that religious voices should possess any more power or influence than anyone else. I don’t believing in forcing you to legally abide by my religion or religious convictions. But that does not mean we don’t have a voice at the table. Our Constitution does uphold, in freedom of speech, the right of the faith community (and everyone else!) to be a voice in any pressing issue. Our prophetic voices cannot be silenced, and no one–God help us– will ever silence us in any arena, especially the political arena that molds and shapes our laws.

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Filed under Church Culture and Leadership, Politics