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separation, Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II
“Laws are made for the government of actions, and while they cannot interfere with mere religious beliefs and opinions, they may with practices. . . . Can a man excuse his practices to the contrary because of his religious belief? To permit this would be to make the professed doctrines of religious belief superior to the law of the land, and in effect to permit every citizen to become a law unto himself. Government could exist only in name under such circumstances.” Reynolds v. United States
In his call for deference to Catholic teachings in national legislation and regulation, E.J. Dionne wrote:
At the heart of the love many of us have for the church [. . .] is a profound respect for the fact on so many questions that count, Catholicism walks its talk and harnesses its faith to the good works the Gospel demands.
I do not understand why a profound respect for the good works done by people of faith, including the Catholic Church, leads to a desire, indeed, a demand, that good public policy be compromised to accommodate religions when they choose to engage in the secular. Indeed, it was, and is, profoundly disturbing that Catholic progressives were so willing to overturn fundamental progressive values in order to placate unreasonable demands of the Catholic Church.
The confusion appears to stem from the view that religions must be unbound from the secular rules of our society even when religions choose to act in the secular world. It was a view that appeared to be rejected in our constitutional law and one that Catholic progressives fully renounced, an event certainly marked by JFK’s famous 1960 speech on the separation of church and state:
I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute, where no Catholic prelate would tell the president (should he be Catholic) how to act, and no Protestant minister would tell his parishioners for whom to vote; where no church or church school is granted any public funds or political preference; and where no man is denied public office merely because his religion differs from the president who might appoint him or the people who might elect him.
The relitigation of church state separation is not new (though the zeal of some Catholic progressives in their defense of religious exceptionalism in the secular world seems new to me). And on the 50th anniversary of JFK’s famous speech, Rick Santorum delivered an anti-JFK speech at the same location:
Kennedy chose not just to dispel fear, he chose to expel faith.
Santorum’s crude premise is, of course, ridiculous. Consider his argument:
Of course no religious body should “impose its will” on the public or public officials, but that was not the issue then or now. The issue is one that every diverse civilization like America has to deal with -‐ how do we best live with our differences. Our founders’ vision, unlike the French, was to give every belief and every believer and non-‐believer a place at the table in the public square. Madison referred to this “equal and complete liberty” as the “true remedy.”
Ironically, just a few weeks before, Santorum had this to say about “giving every belief and every believer and non-believer a place at the table in the public square”:
Former Republican Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania told Fox News that [President] Obama seems to misunderstand that Islam is not just a religion, but also a political doctrine. [. . . ] “I don’t think Barack Obama would say, ‘Well we have religious tolerance, we’re going to allow them to do that,’” he said. “That is the wrong way to look at this. This is not whether it’s a legal right to do it. People have legal rights to do a lot of things in this country.” The imam is “ignoring the will of the American public, as by the way, Barack Obama is by siding with him,” he said. [Emphasis supplied.]
If I am understanding Santorum correctly, he is in favor of restricting political speech, but not religious speech and, oh by the way, Islam is not really a religion anyway—a “false theology”, if you will.
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