Friday, September 19, 2008

On Church-State Separation

An extended quote from the article A New Order of Religious Freedom by Fr. Richard Neuhaus:
In a democracy that is free and robust, an opinion is no more disqualified for being religious than for being atheistic, or psychoanalytic, or Marxist, or just plain dumb. There is, or at least there ought to be, no legal or constitutional question about the admission of religion to the public square; there is only a question about the free and equal participation of citizens in our public business. Religion is not a reified thing that threatens to intrude upon our common life. Religion in public is but the public opinion of those citizens who appeal to religion in public.

As with individual citizens, so also with the associations that citizens form to advance their opinions. Religious institutions may understand themselves to be brought into being by God, as the Catholic Church certainly does understand herself, but for the purposes of this democratic polity they are free associations of citizens. As such, they are guaranteed the same access to the public square as are the citizens who comprise them. It matters not at all that their purpose is to advance religion, any more than it matters that other associations would advance the interests of business or labor or radical feminism or animal rights or whatever.

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