Friday, July 9, 2010

Separation of Church and State: Not So Great

I’ve always considered the separation of church and state one of the things that makes America great. Any person of any religion is free to practice their beliefs without fear of persecution. Pretty nifty idea. Catholics, Protestants, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, you name it, they can do it. As long as no one is getting hurt, it’s fair game. So what’s the problem?

The problem is that the separation of church and state is actually preventing me from fully practicing my religion. There can be no religious displays on public property. No one can put a Christmas manger on the grassy area downtown, or a Crucifix during Easter, and how about taking “Under God” out of the pledge of allegiance? It’s not just Catholics, I fully acknowledge that the other religions are stunted too. Therein lies the problem. We are required to be considerate not to force our religion onto other people. Force them to what? Drive by a Christmas manger on their way to work? I would GLADLY drive by a menorah during Hanukah if it meant I could put up a manger during Christmas. The law doesn’t allow for full religious freedom. We are permitted to practice our religion, BUT ONLY AS FAR AS THE GOVERNMENT SAYS WE CAN. Which brings me to my next point:

The separation of church and state has created a cultural norm where expressions of religion in public is abnormal and socially unacceptable except to people who share your beliefs. Now, I’m not so far removed from my high school and middle school days that I forget how to be cool. I saw plenty of kids at my school in CCD, but we never talked about what we learned in CCD at school. No cool kid ever talked about how he had to skip an engagement because he had to go to church. Kids from religious families are noticed in a negative way when displaying their religion outside of the home.

Society doesn’t change when you get older. Ever see what is most commonly referred to as the “Jesus Fish” on the bumper of somebody’s car? We all have. Once that became a nice way to show some religious expression, the “Darwin Fish” came out: a Jesus Fish with a pair of legs on it. A sticker intended to make fun of people who displayed their religion with a bumper sticker. The sticker isn’t particularly offensive, but it’s a good example of how religion in public is looked down upon. What have you been taught to not bring up in polite conversation? Money, sex, politics, and religion.

The Point: Religion is not supposed to be something you practice an hour each Sunday and at mealtimes on Fridays during Lent. Religion is supposed to be a lifestyle and is part of everything you do. The separation of church and state keeps us from being persecuted for our religious beliefs, but prevents us from certain religious practices.

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