Cromey Online

The writings of author, therapist, and priest Robert Warren Cromey.

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Location: San Francisco, California, United States

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Churches and Legislation

Dear Friend,

I enjoyed our sidewalk chat this afternoon. Here is my letter to the editor published in the SF Chronicle last Thursday.

To the Editor of the SF Chronicle published 11/13/08:

Letters to the editor published during the week following the passage of Proposition 8 quote “separation of church and state” as a reason why church groups should not meddle in politics. While I totally support same gender marriage, I also uphold the right of religious groups to participate in the democratic process. I champion the right of Episcopalians and Unitarians to oppose Proposition 8. I reluctantly support the right of Roman Catholics, Mormons and evangelical Christians to support it. We all should support the full rights of everyone, including religious people with whom we disagree. Separation of church and state does not mean the separation of religion and society.

Robert Warren Cromey
San Francisco, CA

Here is a response from a friend.

There is nothing in the U.S. form of government prohibiting or meant to prohibit religious groups from engaging in political discussion and/or action. It's the other way around: there is an express prohibition against the government establishing a state religion or of prohibiting the free exercise of religion. Unfortunately, the meaning of the First Amendment has been stretched in the minds of many to suggest its inverse, that organized religion is somehow prohibited from engaging in politics. As you say in your letter to the Chron, you kind a wish the Mormons and Catholics didn't have the inclination to support regressive initiatives such as Prop 8, but you affirm their right to do that.

It is always good to look at the US Constitution on the matter.

From Amendment One of the Constitution of the United States:

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…………….”

Supporting legislation and contributing to its passage is a right for religious groups. The government may not interfere with the free exercise of religion which includes supporting legislation.

Frankly, I do not want the government to tell me or my church who or what I can support. That is interference with religion - mine.

I do not think you would want religious groups NOT to have contributed time and money to support civil rights legislation for Black people in the 60’s as Catholics, Protestant and Jewish religious groups did, or Quakers for trying to pass legislation to outlaw war and work for peace, or church groups giving money toward legislation supporting the rights of women to have abortions which they have, or Episcopalians and Unitarians opposing Prop. 8, which we did.

It is when we don’t like the issues Catholics, Mormons and fundamentalists support – like anti-abortion, anti-birth control and anti-gay marriage that we suggest religious groups do not have the right to be in politics. Then we criticize religious groups for violating the widely misunderstood idea of separation of church and state.

I affirm that religious groups have the right to support social and political with money, words and resolutions even when I disagree with their positions. Separation of church and state does not mean separation of religion and society.

Let’s talk and write more. I always like a challenge.


Blogger History Matters said...

RE: "I always like a challenge."

I'm not here to challenge you. It is entirely correct that the First Amendment does not prohibit churches from speaking out on political issues. I think part of the reason that many people hold the opposite opinion is that our courts have so often ruled based on the metaphor "separation of church and state" rather than on the Founders actual words, their many written opinions, and their actions.

For example, this post shows how just using the metaphor is not at all consistent with Jefferson's opinion, but is is Jefferson who is usually being quoted when "separation of church and state" is used.

Thank you for your open and honest discussion!

1:44 PM  

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