Separation of Church and State

Separation of church and state is an interesting concept. The premise is that while there is freedom of religion, there should be no state religious doctrine – that all are free to choose what they believe from a religious perspective, but that no religious belief can be imposed on the people.

I fear that for some this is an untenable premise. The question is how can one be devoted to a faith and then not govern from that perspective. And, the answer lies in the word ‘perspective.’ No one can govern or represent him/her-self outside of her/his own value system.

It is perfectly valid to try to understand what a person’s values are when considering them for public office. And, often, one’s religious beliefs frame one’s values. If a candidate’s values resonate with your own, then you are more likely to vote for that candidate. One concludes that decisions will be made that would reflect how you might decide an issue.

That said, our country was founded on freedom of religion. There will be no state imposed religion. It is not acceptable for me to assume that if I am elected that my Unitarian Universalist faith could be, would be, should be imposed on the country.

I currently have real concerns relating to at least one candidate for president and his stance on the separation of church and state. This individual has indicated that it is okay to take direction from the leader of his faith in how decisions should be made for our government. I have no issues with the fact that we all come from a faith perspective – be it Christian, Muslim, UU, Atheist – and that who we are and our values that we hold are a reflection of that faith. Just do not tell me that I will be governed by the ‘rules’ of faith other than my own.

Again, the premise behind our country is that all people are created equal. Concurrent with that tenet is that all religions are equal in the eyes of the law. Most of us accept the fact that the laws of this country are not meant to constrain the practice of religion; rather, they are meant to encourage the practice of your faith.

I do not doubt the values are closely and faithfully held by the candidate about whom I am concerned. The issue is whether he would wish to overlay his belief system on the laws of this country. While his faith determines that contraception is wrong, my belief system (my personal faith based belief system) believes a woman has a right to choose how her body is used. While some in this candidate’s faith believe that woman are ‘less-than’ a man, my faith values men and women equally.

I do not expect that any candidate or elected official will only hold my values, nor would I expect that any elected official would try to impose his faith based values on me. Do not limit my freedom of religion by constraining my system of government based on your faith’s beliefs.

This is not a simple question. Things like this never are. If one governs from one’s values, and enacts legislation based on one’s values, then faith may enter into it, but it is not an imposition, rather it is based on shared values of those elected not from a religious perspective, but from a perspective of the common good.

I respect others beliefs, I just don’t want to be required to live those other beliefs particularly if they are at odds with my beliefs. One of the reasons this country has survived and become an increasingly diverse nation is because we have a separation of church and state.

This posting is not intended to take a partisan political stance, rather it is an attempt at an exposition regarding why the separation of church and state, while difficult, is essential to the freedom and foundation of the United States.