Can the “state” really be separated from the “church”?
We have all heard this now famous statement as a justification for any event in which a Christian who works within a secular government system or private sector business who uses their religious Faith as a means to justify their practices at the office.
But how can we ever expect this alleged divide to actually occur?
I want to first point out that the phrase “separation of church and state” does not exist in the U.S. Constitution. Many of those who throw it around like it has some sort of legal precedent are simply incorrect. In fact the phrase, written by Jefferson in a letter to the Danbury Baptists, was meant to further explain what the First Amendment says: “[the] Constitution prohibits the making of any law respecting an establishment of religion, [or] impeding the free exercise of religion.”
The government cannot establish a religion, which is an obvious shot at the Church of England. The Constitution also protects against “impeding the free exercise of religion.” This is possibly the most important part, and is clearly the section of the clause that gets forgotten. The government cannot make a law that prohibits our religious practices. There can be no law that outlaws prayer.
Where the courts have parsed this argument over the past few decades, is that they separate Congressional “law” and public “policy.”
However, how can anyone expect that people of faith can simply leave our worldview at the door when we walk into a government building? That would be like telling an atheist that they MUST believe in God when they enter into a religious structure. It is absurd.
Religion is one of the foundational belief systems in any person of any faith. It informs our opinion on almost every subject from gender relations to abdication of power. The Bible instructs Christians to love everyone, including their enemies. Christians are to follow the laws of man, so long as they do not supersede the laws of God. Christians are to pay their taxes, not steal, lie, or murder people.
Those of us who obey God’s laws are some of the most trustworthy and decent citizens on the planet, regardless of the culture we are in. Those who do not are often vile and bitter individuals, and we should all take a moment to understand that a Christian person does not represent Christianity. People are not always consistent with their principles. Again, this would be like refusing to be a vegan because someone you know who refuses to eat animal products is also a liar or thief.
It would be like saying you are not an American because you’ve broken a speeding law (which I know you have—probably even today).
Being a Christian means that we are to meet the standard of perfection that God himself, in the form of Jesus Christ, put forth as an example. It is an impossible task, and Christians are aware of it.
That being said, in order to try and meet Christ-like standards, we sometimes act against social norms.
If Scripture is clear about certain sins, such as same sex relations or murder, then our principles dictate that we should love the homosexual or murderer, while not condoning their actions. For a Christian, it is a bedrock, fundamental principle that participating in a gay wedding is akin to participating in a murder, in a lie, in a robbery, etc. We become an accomplice.
I tend to use murder because it is such an extreme example of a sin, but it is something that is actually illegal. How about infidelity?
If your best friend came to you and asked you to help facilitate an affair, would that be unethical? Would it be unchristian? Of course. If someone were to come into a store you owned and explicitly told you that they were purchasing an item with the full intent of cheating on their spouse, would you have a right to tell them no? I think most of us would feel the conscious pricking desire to say no, and I would like to think that most of us would have the decency to not become an accomplice.
Would the government then be able to come fine you and FORCE you to sell the item?
I would argue that monogamy is actually more of a social construct than homosexuality. Human nature is to seek pleasure as often as possible. Evolutionary psychology would say that it is due to our need to perpetuate the species. History would say that pre-civilized sexual relations were rarely monogamous. Christianity would call this our “sin nature.” Regardless of title, the idea of infidelity is more natural than marriage.
So why would we have a problem with stopping a cheating husband, while not having a problem with celebrating a gay wedding?
Yet this is the society that has been created for us. Our reality is that it would be better assist in an extra-marital affair than to refuse to bake a wedding cake.
I believe that our principles should be what guides us. A Christian business owner should be able to say no to both of these cases. I also believe that someone who is anti-Christian should be able to say no to making a Christian item that may offend their own beliefs. Either way, the business owner should express their faith, whether it be faith in God or faith in humanism.
A religious person of any kind should have reasonable accommodations made for them, even if they work for the government. Just as a smoker gets several five minute breaks a day, a Muslim should be able to get their prayer time. Just as an atheist can choose to not advocate on behalf of a religious institution, a religious person should be able to choose to not participate in an event that goes against their belief.
It really is not that confusing, and should not be controversial by any means. The true separation of church and state is impossible, just as throwing off decades of parental socialization is impossible. The church guides many of us even more than parents and peers.
I understand that open expression of faith can make non-believers uncomfortable, but do unbelievers understand that their open expressions of fornication, smoking, drinking, drug use, etc. makes Christians feel uncomfortable? Do they understand that telling someone who fundamentally believes in something that informs every action that that foundation is not welcome once they walk through certain doors?
There can be no separation of church and state for the Christian, and that was never the intent of our Founders. The government, however, is constantly overstepping its bounds. Society needs good, honest, decent people in order to thrive. Society is also stopping many good, honest, decent people from being completely free to express themselves.