Copyright © 2005 Henrietta W. Hay
Separating Church and State
October 21, 2005
Dear Readers: Please forgive me. I'm feeling unusually serious today. I promise to lighten up next week.
"I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute -- where no Catholic prelate would tell the President (should he be Catholic) how to act, and no Protestant minister would tell his parishioners for whom to vote -- where no man is denied office merely because his religion differs from the President who might appoint him or the people who might elect him.
"Finally I believe in an America where religious intolerance will someday end -- where all men and all churches are treated as equal-- where very man has the same right to attend or not to attend the church of his choice -- where there is no bloc voting of any kind -- and where Catholics, Protestants and Jews at both lay and pastoral level will refrain from those attitudes of disdain and division which have often marred their works in the past, and promote instead the American ideal of brotherhood."
These words were written by the first Presidential candidate in our country to be publicly criticized and feared because of his religion.
He was a Roman Catholic but he did not choose to defend it as the only true religion, but reached out to all of us. His name was John F. Kennedy and the year was 1960.
In 2005 we have we have a President who has repeatedly stated his religious beliefs, and who is trying openly to pack the Supreme Court with people who share them.
Certainly the Catholic Church has taken a stand n certain social issues, as have the Methodist, the Lutheran, the Episcopal, the United Church of Christ. and all the other Mainline churches. Only the Far Religious Right has tried to force its beliefs into all areas of government.
The First Amendment states: " . . .Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof..." Today they are not only trying to pass laws which are "prohibiting the "free exercise thereof" by restricting freedom of scientific research and cultural progress, but they are trying to influence the Court of final judgment.
It is not hard to imagine what the young John Kennedy would say if he were alive today and witnessed the efforts of the Bush administration to combine religion and government.
It is completely wrong to ask a candidate for the Supreme Court how he or she would vote on any issue. The function of the Court is to decide constitutional matters that have arisen. They are expected to listen to both sides, study the constitutional issues, discuss and make a decision.
I realize, of course, that I am talking true democracy rather than reality. Many Presidents have tried to influence the personnel of the Court. Franklin Roosevelt even tried to enlarge it so he could pack it. But it is still a dangerous thing to do. We are facing a very dangerous split in our country. It truly frightens me.
Ellen Goodman put it this way. "We are now beset by people who insist on dragging religion into governance -- and who themselves believe that they are beset by people determined to "drive God from the public square" This division is a recipe for an incredibly damaging and serious split in this country, and I believe we all need to think long and carefully before doing anything to make it worse."
So do I.