Separation of Church and State

THEY MIX LIKE OIL AND HOLY WATER - George Carlin was right.

After calls to unseat MN Dem Keith Ellison at least partly for being Muslim and advancing the swell idea the Constitution be amended to restrict the vote  only to property owners, Tea Party Nation founder Judson Phillips has declared war on the Methodist Church.

He claims the Methodist Church is Marxist and “little more than the ‘religious’ arm of socialism” for preaching its support of the DREAM act, health care, joining “the Socialists, Communists and Marxists for the ‘One Nation’ March”, and a host of other unpatriotic sins. Because of these radical ideas he says he, “left the Methodist church over 35 years ago [and has] never looked back.”

His screed is nothing new. He goes off on such things regularly. However, buried deep in his blog post (which, in a display of  his commitment to his own brave words, is open to the public only via subscription) he throws out a challenge that I’m more than happy to accept – “Say, where are the liberal complaints on the separation of church and state? I guess their outrage is selective.”

For the record, I’m an atheist, which in Phillips’ eyes probably makes me Joseph Stalin incarnate. More than 35 years ago I not only left the Methodists, but all religion, and have never looked back. So here’s my ‘selective outrage’ about the separation of church and state:

I agree with Phillips that religion and politics in America would be vastly better off without churches taking sides in secular political matters. I believe their preaching secular issues more often muddies the water than clarifies it and it sometimes dampens criticism of church hierarchy.  However, I don’t see how that is any different from Phillips’ support of churches that espouse his opinions about matters of state.

Keep Out

POPULAR IDEAL - Keep 'em separate.

There’s a vast difference between churches – including those Phillips agrees with – preaching political values that align with their religion and trying to co-opt official non-religious matters of state. One is the freedom to practice religion as one likes. The other moves the positions out of the pulpit and into the secular public square. This is where the tipping point where separating church and state lies.

Churches violate that separation when, for example, religious members of school boards rewrite secular history books to conform to their religious vision. The same is true of many churches’ insistence the 10 Commandments be posted on every flat surface in America. Ditto for repealing health care, preventing gay marriage, and a host of other church-promoted secular issues.

As long as churches preach and don’t co-opt secular responsibilities there is separation.  To me this isn’t a separation issue, it’s the difference between a theocracy and a democracy.

Judson, I both support your freedom to belong to a religion or not belong to a religion or to agree or disagree with a church’s position. All I expect are the same liberties for those who disagree with you. All I expect from churches is to refrain from officially forcing their beliefs onto others.

My outrage isn’t selective, it’s quite consistent.

Which is more than I can say for yours.

Cross posted at The Omnipotent Poobah Speaks!

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