Crossville Chronicle, Crossville, TN

April 15, 2013

STUMPTALK: Separation of church and state

By Phillip Chesser
Chronicle contributor

CROSSVILLE —  Secular fundamentalists, secular humanists, moral relativists, and cultural nihilists often rail against an imaginary theocratic threat from sincere Christians, who they say want to impose their beliefs on everyone. First, as to the imposition of beliefs: everyone who petitions the legislature to pass laws about anything is trying to impose his beliefs on all citizens. At this point in the nation’s history, many people struggle under imposed beliefs that violate their religious faith, and also under imposed beliefs about taxes, environmentalism, marriage, and sexuality.

These secular impositions arise also from religious impulses. For many on the left and too many on the right, politics is religion. The left’s religious and political orientation — their compulsion to control every aspect of everyone’s life — is pure New England Calvinism. It’s not surprising that today’s main center of political thought control, that is,  of modern liberalism, is in the North East, the original home of American Calvinism.

But back to separation: church/state entanglement rarely harms the state, as Barry Lynn and his followers believe, but it does harm the church. In fact, the current ObamaCare attempt to force the Catholic Church against its fundamental beliefs to provide contraceptive services in her Catholic hospitals, schools, and universities, is an example of church/state entanglement that harms the church, and this has happened because for years Catholic charities, Catholic hospitals, and Catholic schools and universities have had financial arrangements with the government. Against warnings from traditional Catholics (like me), church leaders have continued to take government money to fund church sponsored charitable and educational activities. No wonder Obama, Sibelius, Pelosi, and their statist minions think ObamaCare has the right to tell the church to go against her teachings. Haven’t church leaders for a long time been very willing to fill their coffers with government largesse?

Here I remind the church’s shepherds of Rerum Novarum: On the Condition of the Working Classes, Pope Leo XIII’s encyclical concerning wealth, property, and the treatment of workers. Among other things, Pope Leo condemns socialism and unequivocally reiterates man’s God-given right to keep as private property the fruits of his own labor. The socialist confiscation of private wealth in this nation, especially since the Great Society, violates church teaching, but against the teaching of Pope Leo XIII church leaders have too often been willing to take taxpayer money for charitable and educational purposes. No wonder this administration sees nothing wrong with the contraception requirement.

Very few institutions can resist the temptation to benefit from taxpayer money even though the penalties for not following government policies are well known. For example, if schools refuse to comply with the provisions of Title IX — part of the law that mandates equal support for women’s athletics — they can lose all their funding. For reasons related to Title IX and other federal mandates, two schools, Grove City and Hillsdale, have refused to take any government money at all and have thus been free to establish their own policies. Catholic institutions should have followed their examples a long time ago.

In another area, the matter of religious practice in public schools: trying to find non-sectarian, widely accepted prayers or meditative practices, Christians have had their religious customs watered down. Note to these Christians: watering down your beliefs in order to satisfy the masses violates Christ’s admonition about lukewarmness (Revelation 3:15-16).             

Separation of church and state serves the church very well. Religious people should quit complaining about prayer in the public schools or in other government supported fora. If they want their children to say discursive Christian prayers aloud in school, they should send them to private Christian schools or home school. If people’s faith is important, they will find ways to fund private education, which is usually better than public.

Catholics and other Christians inclined to feed at the government trough should remember what Ben Franklin said: “If you lie down with dogs, you get up with fleas.”