The Separation of Church and State is a Two-Sided Coin

19 Oct

He’s correct. So is he writing Congressmen demanding they stop telling the church how to run its affairs?

The risks and rewards of the doctrine of the separation of church and state are many. What I find is that conservative Christians who say they oppose C/S separation appreciate only the potential risks of that doctrine (that some will construe it to exclude religious voices or input or accommodation in the public square). So they deny it (which is a shame given the Christian and Protestant roots of the disestablishment of religion). They often fail to appreciate the rewards of that doctrine though (that the state must leave religious institutions more or less alone in handling its own affairs, such as with employment decisions and maybe health care coverage mandates; also the highly coveted tax exempt status). Among those on the secular left, those who say they strongly favor the separation of church and state, they too seem to be one-sided, appreciating only the rewards (less influence from religious voices, organizations, and principles in the public square). But they fail to appreciate the risks, which is that there will be a significant segment of society (religious institutions of all sorts) that will credibly claim, under the separation of church and state doctrine, autonomy and immunity from ‘progressive’ laws and programs that are popular among secular liberals like federal employment law, health care, etc.  The separation of church and state is a defining and rather unique principle of the American political system. But it often comes with a price that neither side is willing to risk paying. If you deny the separation of church and state, don’t be surprised when your religious institution is not exempted from public policies you detest. If you are going to strongly embrace it, don’t be surprised when religious institutions operate as parallel autonomous self-governing systems relatively free from civil government control. Thought for the day!

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