What You Need to Know
About the Most Important Issue
In the World Today

Bruce A. Roth

Chapter 13

Church and State—Integrate or Separate?

“Those who would renegotiate the boundaries between church and state must therefore answer a difficult question: why would we trade a system that has served us so well for one that has served us so poorly?”
—Sandra Day O’Conner, Former US Supreme Court Justice [1]

Freedom of choice is desirable in all areas, but one’s choice should not be between “our way and the highway.” A secular government can permit freedom of religion; however a theocracy merges both institutions, which precludes a choice of state. Since church and state cannot be fully kept from influencing each other, a government that provides free access to all religions, which are not chosen or subsidized by the state, affirms that its constituents are of different beliefs. One people of different beliefs may be better than a government of no beliefs.

Both church and state are highly susceptible to corruption merely because of human involvement. It should be no surprise that money, politics, and religion are taboos of polite conversation. They are the proximate causes of man’s most impolite behavior—war. In order to reduce the potential for corruption compounded by both church and state, and in deference to divergent individual preferences for state models and religious beliefs, separating church and state serves to protect the integrity of both institutions.

According to Charles Kimball, “At some level, any state in which rights and status are tied to a particular religious tradition will relegate some of its citizens to second- and third-class status. Whatever rhetoric or intentions toward people “protected” by those in power, the reality presents serious problems.” [2] And, when comparing a secular form of government to a theocracy, it is important to remember that the separation of church and state in a secular government permits not only freedom of religion, but also freedom from a particular religion that others may wish to impose.

[1] U.S. Supreme Court, Van Orden v. Perry, June 27, 2005, www.firstamendmentcenter.org/faclibrary/case.aspx?case=Van_Orden_v_Perry.

[2]Charles Kimball, When Religion Becomes Evil: 111.
He quotes Jerusalem, vol. 2 in The Crusades
(London: British Broadcasting Corporation, 1995).


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