Church and State

To the editor:

Christianity, and religion in general, has a complex and checkered history in America. Many among the first settlers were religious refugees fleeing persecution by the Church of England and seeking freedom to practice their beliefs, which included the fanatical Puritan Salem Witch Trials. The separation of Church and State was the caveat then applied to freedom of religion when both were enshrined in the Constitution.

The result is that America today is a virtual patchwork, jigsaw puzzle of religious beliefs and places of worship, all living in a relative state of accepted coexistence, albeit not without longstanding tensions between Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, and now Islamic believers. There have been noteworthy crossovers between the two sectors. The Church of Latter-day Saints was forced to disavow polygamy to allow statehood for Utah and black Southern Baptist churches have been the target of White Supremacists after the passage of voting rights legislation, but peyote is now recognized as a legal sacrament for the Native American Church and we have had both a Catholic and a Black President, although JFK had to state his Catholic beliefs would not intrude into office, and Barack Obama was caught continually in America’s Black/White divide. Christianity itself, be it Protestant or Catholic, seems deeply divided over a preference for Old Testament or New Testament values, and currently the separation of Church and State is under constant attack.

Betsy DeVos, as Secretary of Education, is pushing for public funding of religious schools, and the opposition to contraception, abortion, and same-sex sexuality as interpreted in the Bible is being pressed into federal and state legislation. Catholics on the Supreme Court appear poised to upturn earlier decisions on these issues. Clearly a line esteemed by the Founding Fathers is being crossed and should be patriotically resisted. 

RP

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