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Good Morning Nanty Glo!
            Wednesday, December 17 2003 

Jon Kennedy, webmaster

Frames of reference, 10

Separation of church and
Harmony between faiths and government

I've already mentioned in this series that "separation of church and state" is not mentioned in the United States Constitution but rather is a banner that anti-religionists, originally, and more recently liberals in general have raised and continue waving as part of their attack on conservatives and their worldview. Though the phrase isn't used in the Constitution, there is a legitimate sense in which church and state are "separated" by the First Amendment. Its provision that "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof" separates the government from the internal working of churches and prohibits it from setting up a national church. And of course the fear of the mostly Protestant founders of the Republic was that a state church would have the potential of usurping the power of the elected government.

Though Congress is restricted from legislating in this area, it has from that time (1789) to this paid the salaries of ordained clergymen to serve as congressional chaplains. Federal money also supports chaplains for the military. And beyond these examples of government support of religion, there are many laws pertaining to religion and churches, including the nonprofit organization laws of all the states and the tax-exempt status they establish, zoning laws restricting or allowing the building of churches in certain districts, licensing clergy to conduct marriage ceremonies, and others.

Though some liberals probably support President Bush's faith-based iniatives, which use "ministries" (along with secular nonprofit organizations) to channel tax dollars to provide welfare services for the homeless, drug addicts, delinquents (or "youth at risk"), and others from tax-based program funds, generally liberals oppose such programs. Conservatives have presented the case that so long as the funding does not discriminate about who's eligible based on their religious teachings, the socially beneficial work should be supported by such laws.

Advocates of the initiatives say the funds are likely to go farther when administrated by organizations that have many volunteers and staff members willing to work for less than civil servant pay to screen the recipients and disperse the funds. And a strong argument from the White House has been that where conscience and devotion to God and prayer can be factors, success at keeping resolutions to go clean or make it in the work force is more likely to result that when those factors aren't part of the equation. Ironically, in the county where I live, which is very liberal, some of the biggest tax-supported outreaches have been launched by church homeless and ministries to the physically impaired, which recruit and train the drivers, food pantry workers, and others who use resources like transit company-funded vehicles and food from public programs.

Conservatives hold that all religious segments of the society should have places to stand and that all should be treated equally, the secular humanists being no more "acceptable" or "supportable" in the laws and programs of the various governments than the Presbyterians, Sikhs, Catholics, or Muslims are. The founders of our Republic were overwhelmingly members of Christian denominations and it's apparent from their writings, and in the history of the situation that prevailed in the states where and when they lived, and which they made no effort to change, that they believed in a harmonious co-operation between the state and the religious citizens therein, acting as members of their faith communities. The liberal crusade against the churches and people of faith is part of a secularlist effort to divorce religious faith from real life...and in that they have already won many of the battles.

Webmaster Jon Kennedy

Quick reference for this series: First, second, third, fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh, eighth, ninth, tenth, eleventh. twelfth.

Fun facts (or "facts," so it says, but take with a grain)

John Lennon's first girlfriend was named Thelma Pickles.

Fred Rogers, PBS's "Misterogers," was an ordained Presbyterian minister. He was born in Latrobe and was a member of the founding staff of WQED, the nation's first educational television station.

—Sent by Trudy Myers 

Thought for today

My brother-in-law, Jim, has been in Baghdad for the past four months working for a company with a large rebuilding contract. He has a staff made up entirely of Iraqi people. He finds them to be kind, loving, concerned about his safety and hard workers.... Jim's Muslim staff is planning a Christmas party for him on his return to Baghdad. He tells me he hasn't been able to buy lunch or dinner for anyone since he's been there—because the Iraqis insist on paying for his lunch or dinner since he is the guest in their country. Two-thirds of the people in Iraq strongly support President Bush's decision to take out Saddam Hussein. About one-third of the Iraqis, opposed the actions. We just never hear about the good Muslim people of Iraq who can, and if we give them a chance, will build a nation based on sound principles.

— Mary Mostert in Renew America

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