Saturday, October 2

God and Government: The Separation of Church and State (Part Two)

In the previous entry, we covered a bit of history regarding the separation of church and state, documentation, and other such things. We left off talking about the 14th Amendment, which provides that no state shall "deprive any person of life, liberty, or property." Before I go any further, I feel inclined to mention that I am not giving my stance on the subject, merely facts that you may or may not have heard, and you may decide for yourself. (Photo credit to: Find Room 219)

The United States has a greater interest in religion than any other country in the world. Now, the US may not practice religion as much as others, but a lot of things in our society, economy, and political field deal with religion - especially in the fields of Creation Science, Theology, Logic, and Philosophy. James Madison once said, "Religion flourishes in greater purity, without the aid of the government." He was correct - for example, if you are trying to start a group for something, if you have an outside force that hinders growth, how then could it be beneficial? Several ways. Private schools provide courses in English, Social Studies, Science, Math, Foreign Language, and lastly, Biblical Principles and Doctrine.

Schools like St. Mary's are supported (in part) by public money from local, state, and federal governments. Local money pays for things such as bus rides to and from, federal funds pay for schoolbooks and money for remedial teachers for children who require more help. In one state, upwards of $10 Million alone is given to private schools, most of them church related, but not all. Understand that federal funds are used by religious schools to cover the costs of secular courses, and not religious courses. Now, Accomodists tend to argue that if the Government does not provide religious institutions with the funds that they need to survive, it will jeopardize the religious freedom of thousands, if not millions, of Americans, since a church's school is a vital part of the ministry.

Separatists argue that every dollar that is spend on religious education is a dollar lost from public education. They emphasize the 1st Amendment's opening words, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, whereas Accomodists emphasize the second clause, "or prohibiting the free exercise thereof." Now, what of taxes? Local, state, and federal tax laws are designed in such a way that educational institutions such as schools and colleges are exempt from local property taxes. Churches are tax-exempt. Even charities, such as the Red Cross, are not subject to income tax. In a recent estimate, the United States has upwards of $80 Billion worth of untaxed church property. Some people have misused this tax-exemption, and even Christian leaders question the tax exemptions, hoping it will not lead to a riot against churches.

Church and the Medical field have often intersected as well. In July of 1980, 33-year old Charles Williams was shot in Detroit, Michigan, while cleaning paint brushes. Williams was rushed to a hospital, but less than seven hours later, even though his doctor had said there was a 90% chance of survival, Williams was dead. He had refused a blood transfusion based on his beliefs as a Jehovah's Witness, quoting Acts 15:20.

Acts 15:20 says, "Instead we should write to them, telling them to abstain from food polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from the meat of strangled animals and from blood." Nowhere does it say you may not be given a blood transfusion to survive. The man who shot Williams got three years in prison for "careless and reckless use of a firearm," and was charged as such because the shot itself was not what killed Williams, it was because he refused blood transfusion. Is it moral for doctors to adhere to a patient's religious convictions when a life is in danger?

Take this for example: there is a two-year old with cancer. The patient's parents religious ideals do not allow them to receive medical care, and they do not believe he ought to receive it. Supposedly, Doctors could take the parents to court and gain temporary custody to treat the child, due to their "moral right," and if the parents refused and no action was taken the parents could be sued or even jailed for what could be perceived as murder - this is where rights come into conflict.

School seems to have the same issue. Christian students continue to lobby for the ability to pray freely and openly as they choose. Creationists say that Creation should be taught along with Evolution, so that the students may decide for themselves. However, again, rights come into play: some religious organizations do not even allow their children to pledge or salute to the American Flag. In the 1930's-1940's, this led to many court cases involving the Jehovah's Witnesses. The 1943 court decision allowed that no one had or has the right to force students to publicly display patriotism, especially the Pledge to the Flag. The same applies with military service, people who are religious cannot be forced (in the US) due to a decision of the Supreme Court. If people do not want to use, for example, birth control, that is their right. However, under the 1st Amendment, they do not have the right to compel others to do the same.

Most people assume that life is better in modern time because we are all connected. But is it? We see wives and children no longer submitting and obeying, we see Divorce, adultery, drug abuse, unmarried mothers, illicit sex, and ever-increasing violence. Court cases between religion and abortion, homosexuality, contraception, sex ed, evolution, and others, continue even to this day. 350 years ago, Roger William's experiment had protected the men and women of all religions. The adoption of the 1st Amendment liberated the Government from the laws of the former colonies, and to this day, no one church dominates the United States politically. Is it good that church and state are connected in many areas?

Laws that protect the rights of workers, including child labor laws, owe a great deal to religious groups, as do social service programs, slum clearance projects, educational programs, and the improved treatment of criminals and the insane. Our Constitution and the Bill of Rights do not forbid us to bring our religious ideals upon the affairs of the state, and from time to time, individuals use that to their advantage.

I trust this two-part series on the topic of the Separation of Church and State has provided the American reader with useful information, and the foreign reader with some insight into the U.S. Government. Take care, and may God bless you. Troy Hillman

Previous Entry: "God and Government: The Separation of Church and State (Part One)"

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