Separation of Church and State

A Flawed Policy

People have been trying to define the proper relationship between Church and State since the times of Ancient Greece and Rome. They still haven’t gotten it right.

In the Bad Old Days, the distinction between religious and secular authorities was blurred and, at times, almost completely erased. Theocracy, the concept that the religious leaders should rightfully control the entire political realm, was often the law of the land. Caligula styled himself as a god here on earth. At no time, however, has the melding of church and state gone completely unquestioned. Socrates, for instance, was condemned in part for failing to pretend to worship the ancient gods.

In the middle ages, St. Augustine took the first positive step in this on-going conflict. In The City of God he wrote that the role of the secular realm is to make it possible for a “heavenly city” to exist here on earth. Unfortunately, there emerged any number of false interpretations of how to make that happen. The monarchs of the middle ages all claimed to rule by Divine Right, and most of them used this conventional “wisdom” to rule in any draconian fashion they saw fit.

In modern times, we have gone astray by using the separation of church and state to enforce a negative. It is not possible to “separate” church and state. The President, for instance, cannot be told to stop being religious when he or she gets elected.

This country was founded on the principles of Religious Freedom. That means we believe in flexibility and open mindedness in religious preferences. Religious Freedom is the positive ideal that can, and must, be enforced.

History has rightfully rejected the concept of Divine Right. Now we must reject the Separation of Church and State in favor of  the collective right of many diverse ideologies to co-exist peacefully.