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Posted by on Feb 28, 2012 in At TMV | 3 comments

Church, State, And Rick Santorum

Here’s a recent quote from Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum: “I don’t believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute.” The former Pennsylvania senator than elaborated on this statement by artfully trying to mix two very different concepts—freedom of religious belief, and the relationship of church to state.

His artfulness aside, they are very different things. And anyone with even a passing understanding of this country’s early history should realize as much.

America’s Founding Fathers would have been mortified by anyone who opposed the right of others to their own religious beliefs. They would also have been horrified by anyone who suggested that any church, or any church denomination, should have a direct or indirect say in making government policies.

This distinction becomes obvious when you look back to America’s beginnings. It was a breakaway English colony. Its non-slave population were overwhelmingly English immigrants or their descendants. Most of these people were not only literate, they had a genuine, indeed, a visceral understanding of recent English history and politics. This gave them a very clear appreciation for the profound need for freedom of religious belief, and an equally profound need not to link religion and government in the wrong ways.

Much of 17th century English history had revolved around religious-based struggles between kings and parliament, and between different parts of an England morphing into a Great Britain that included Ireland and Scotland. Only when toleration among different faiths came into being (at least formally) was there peace.

Also during the century that preceded the founding of the United States, there were obvious examples in continental Europe of what happened when church and state were too closely tied. There was the Thirty Years War on the continent (1618-48) that killed millions, a war largely over which religion would be the established one, the religion with power to impose its views on everyone, within a given state’s borders. A centuries-long conflict that pitted England against Spain also led most English to demonize the Catholic Church, and to have a particular loathing for the vast power it exercised over the Spanish crown.

What was the inevitable attitude of our country’s founders to these lessons of history, lessons they knew and understood so well? You let everyone believe what they wanted to believe on religious matters. But you never, ever, let a church or any religious denomination directly or through surrogates impose its will on the entire country.

No, Mr. Santorum. Religious liberty, part of our great national heritage, must not be conflated with, or warped by, giving any church group the liberty to impose its views on others. There must always be that absolute separation of church and state.

Make a church’s case in the public square? Sure. Use government to impose that case on others? That’s a no-no.

May we move now, sir? On to matters of economic and foreign policy? The appropriate subjects of political discourse in this republic.

More from this writer at: http://blog.wallstreetpoet.com/