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Separation of POWER of church & POWER of state versus separation of ethical VALUES

Reader comment on item: Confirmed: Barack Obama Practiced Islam
in response to reader comment: Daniel Redmond -in your dreams would that be true

Submitted by Goran A. (Israel), Jan 12, 2008 at 03:33

You write: "Separation of church & state is a figment of anti-Christian thinking and an overtly anti-church 1962 Supreme court."

It is not a figment of anti-Christian thinking. Quite to the contrary.

Separation of church and the state in our (historically Christian) Western civilization (not only in the US) stems from Jesus Christ's own words:

"Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's." (Gospel according to Matthew 22:21, RSV)

(Caesar meaning the supreme secular power at the time)

And thanks God that is the case !

Otherwise, if religious institutions had the full power of the state behind them, there would be no end to intolerance and, following on its heels, persecution of those who think differently than those in power. The notorious Church Inquisition of the 11 th and 12 th centuries was a clear demonstration of this dark side in man: to oppress those he disagrees with, even in a religion (Christianity) which claims to be based on loving other human beings as oneself.

I do think we would not be much better than Islamists !

However, separation of (a) the POWER of church and (b) the POWER of state, should not be confused with:

separation of (a) ethical VALUES espoused by a religion and (b) the ethical VALUES promulgated by the state (Congress) through democratically passed laws enacted by legislators who adhere to that religion.

This is why the existence of "Christian-based laws" does not indicate there is no separation of church and state! Often "Christian-based" laws are [democratically] passed laws which simply reflect Christian VALUES of the [democratically elected] legislators.

(True, one could interject: what about democratically elected Islamists e.g. Hamas in Gaza ? But elections are only one factor in democracy; freedom of speech, especially to criticize those in power, is another. It doesn't exist in Gaza)

So to sum up this very important issue:

Separation of (powers of) church & state is absolutely essential.

But religious ethical VALUES, if they are vetted and confirmed by democratically elected legislators, need to be separated at all. And they need not necessarily be Christian. If an Eskimo legislator proposes a good law based on traditional Eskimo religious values, and if Congress accepts it, so be it!


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