Friday, November 16, 2007

Separation of church and state

~Fr. Richard John Neuhaus on the politics and religion in the public square
I speak in favor of the separation of church and state, and therefore against the resolution that religion and politics should always be kept separate. Permit me to explain. To enforce the exclusion of religion from politics, or from public life more generally, violates the First Amendment guarantee of the “free exercise of religion.” The free exercise of religion is the reason for the separation of church and state—a principle that aims not at protecting the state from religion but at protecting religion from the state.

In the First Amendment, religious freedom is of a piece with, indeed is in the very same sentence with, free speech, free press, free assembly, and the right to challenge government policy. Hence the resolution put before this house flatly contradicts the guarantees of a free and democratic society enshrined in the Constitution of the United States.

Secondly, I urge you to oppose the resolution because it is foolish to attempt to do what by definition cannot be done. Such an attempt can only intensify confusions and conflicts, further polarizing our public life. To exclude religion is to exclude from politics the deepest moral convictions of millions of citizens—indeed, in this society, the great majority of citizens. Thus the resolution before this house is a formula for the death of democracy and should be resolutely defeated.
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