-

The Observer is a Student-run, daily print & online newspaper serving Notre Dame & Saint Mary's. Learn more about us.

-

archive

Church-state separation misunderstood

Andrew Henrick | Sunday, October 12, 2003

I think that few of the founding principles of this country are as misunderstood as that of separation of church and state. According to today’s mainstream liberal interpretation, this article of our Constitution is translated to mean that the state cannot be influenced by the religious convictions of its constituents.This obviously cannot be the idea upon which our Constitution was founded. The preamble to the Declaration of Independence specifically states that our rights are inalienable precisely because God created us and endowed them to us. Similarly, our political system requires people to take oaths of office which call upon God to help them fulfill there civic duties. Even our currency bears witness to the role God played in forming our country.Rather, I would contend that the First Amendment is an attempt to protect religion from government intervention.It states, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” While we may not pass a law that institutionalizes a particular religion so as to prefer a particular creed in the civic arena, we may also not prohibit the free exercise of religion.In fact, exercising one’s civic duties can and indeed should include attempting to influence civic law according to the moral code which one holds as a result of their religious beliefs. This is the heart of our right to suffrage.As soon as heads of state claim religious authority, this amendment is violated. However, this article does not exclude our political leaders from being deeply religious individuals who attempt to govern according to God’s will. Indeed, their right to do so is expressly protected under the First Amendment.The idea that one can encapsulate their religious beliefs and insulate the rest of the world from them is ridiculous for anyone to honestly purport. A person’s beliefs inevitably influence their philosophy, how they choose to live their life and how they vote. Attempts to remove references to God from our civic lives would not constitute the separation of church and state; rather, it would be the indoctrination of atheism, a religion unto itself.We must not be ashamed of the Gospel, and I am afraid that a liberal interpretation of the First Amendment encourages just that: people being ashamed of being Catholic. We cannot use the First Amendment as a scapegoat; it does not give license for cowardice or for dissension within the Church. Active evangelization of the world in a natural way, through the ordinary lives that we lead, is a necessary characteristic of a disciple of Jesus.A true love for Christ naturally permeates the lives of his disciples. Consequently, Christianity requires us to live out our beliefs, not to hide them. From prayer at meals, to supporting the sanctity of marriage and of life, we cannot claim to be disciples of Jesus and not follow his Church.I guess it comes down to a simple question: If someone made the claim that you were a Catholic Christian, would there be any evidence to back it up?

Andrew Henrickgraduate studentOct. 9