Separation of Church and State


Separation of Church and State!

Thoughts behind the effort to ban churches from participating in the national conversation

I’ve been listening to a lot of interesting theories on how this church or that church should lose its tax exempt status over its involvement in the moral issues of politics.  “Separation of church and state!” the religious opponents scream, but is the problem the churches running the government or the government running the churches?

The prevailing argument seems to say that there ought to be separation between church and state, so that means anyone who belongs to a church can’t speak or assemble, or have a public opinion on how government operates or the government will punish them by taking away their tax exempt status.

Even as we gather to celebrate the flight of pilgrims to America from the oppressive religious persecution of England, religious oppression is again raising it’s head in our recent political dialogue.  In the name of freedom, advocates of same sex marriage are threatening to oppress the religious community with monetary retribution as retaliation for expressing opinions the gay community does not agree with, and that’s not right.

As Glen Dean says in his recent post on religious freedom,

“The whole purpose of the first amendment establishment clause was to protect religion and religious people from government.”

Fundamentally the United States is a country that was built on freedoms, and freedom of speech and religion are among the foremost of these.   Pilgrims coming to the Americas wanted, above all, to be free to express their religious thoughts without being forced to conform to another set of values, political or otherwise.  England’s government required religious conformity because they had a state sanctioned church governing what could and couldn’t be said or done.  That is the origin of the thought that there ought to be “separation of church and state.”  No one ought to try to control religious freedoms by coercion or manipulation.

I look at the politically correct movement that uses tax dollars as a form of coercion to muffle dissent and control actions, and I see a situation mirror opposite to that of America’s forefathers, but with the same result—-censorship.

Today we have a situation where instead of having a church controlling the government, we have the government trying to control churches through tax law, and those who oppose churches are using the government as a tool to silence their opponents and to ultimately stifle dissent.

Whether it’s taxing churches and controlling them through tax code manipulation if they don’t conform, or whether churches are tax exempt and controlled by threatening to take the exemption away if they don’t conform, the result is the same.  It’s two ends of the same stick.  The only true freedom is the recognition that churches have freedom from government control that is inherent, not granted by the government.  If the freedom to speak is granted by the government, it can be taken away by the government.  Churches can and ought to say what they want as fellow voices in the national dialogue, and that speech should be free from recrimination or tax penalties for speaking on themes unpopular to others.

Those who think churches should be muzzled don’t have a constitutional leg to stand on.  Tax exemption has been the hidden boogey man that has kept church opinions in a box for years.  Oohoo, you’d better not say this!  You’d better not do that!  You might get the IRS after you!

From Wikipedia:

Freedom of assembly, sometimes used interchangeably with the freedom of association, is the individual right to come together with other individuals and collectively express, promote, pursue and defend common interests.  The right to freedom of association is recognised as human right, political freedom and a civil liberty.

In short, these freedoms are a human right, not a privilege benevolently bestowed by the government that can then be unilaterally whisked away.  So why does the Government think that it has any right to curtail the ability of people to assemble in churches to voice their opinions?  What about Freedom of Speech?

And to the voices clamoring for censorship of churches I ask the same question.  Why are you so eager to have censorship of ideas that conflict with your own?  If the facts are laid bare, truth will defeat falsehood in open competition.  It is up to each individual to uncover the truth; no one is wise enough to act as a censor for all individuals.
Noam Chomsky said: “If you believe in freedom of speech, you believe in freedom of speech for views you don’t like. Goebbels was in favour of freedom of speech for views he liked. So was Stalin. If you’re in favour of freedom of speech, that means you’re in favour of freedom of speech precisely for views you despise.”

The whole argument for trying to tax churches boils down to the false idea that this tax exemption is a subsidy of churches by the government.  They don’t pay taxes because churches are good for society, so the government subsidizes them and encourages them to flourish.  If church tax exemption is a subsidy given by the government, then it can be taken away by the government.

Unfortunately, that thought goes against the much ballyhooed “Separation of Church and State!” that everyone says they care so much about.  The truth is that to be truly separate, the government should get out of the church’s way and quit trying to threaten them with boogeyman threats for conformity, in this case silence in the moral/political realm, or we’ll be losing more than just “tax status”, we’ll be losing the very freedom our country was founded to achieve.

–Beetle Blogger


  1. November 26, 2008 at 10:25 pm

    […] Thanksgiving and Religious Freedom (thank you Beetle B) […]

  2. mommyspy said,

    November 27, 2008 at 4:43 am

    So, beetlebabee, one would think you would be too busy baking pies and stuffing turkeys to be blogging such large thoughts as these. This “hands off” approach that you propose … are we to trust the religious community to monitor themselves? Do you really believe in the benevolence of the churches of America or do you think that perhaps we would end up with a country full of polyester-suited shysters, in business just for the tax exempt status?

  3. beetlebabee said,

    November 27, 2008 at 12:44 pm

    I’m not sure the religious community needs monitoring. Does the government monitor other inherent freedoms?

    I like the idea of polyester suited shysters, especially parading in plaid, but I think we’ve already got some of that ilk. Look at the several crash and burn episodes of pastors who strayed from the gospel path and found themselves all over national headlines. Scandal and shysters are no stranger in any quarter, religion included. Certainly we allow voices of the Enquirer and daytime soap operas to have a voice, why should religion be less?

    The idea of clamping down on the religious community is a little like ensuring the mainstream media a monopoly of thought. This election has shown a tyrannical tendency to hold truth hostage. I don’t know that unleashing churches would necessarily make CNN fair and balanced, that would be a deathbed confession for sure, but it would give the people the idea that there is more than one set of ideas out there to consider.

    I trust people to choose who they will follow. Take the shackles off, let the voices speak freely and the voice of the people will choose the truth they think is right.

  4. November 28, 2008 at 3:14 am

    The whole separation of Church and State argument is often misunderstood by the gay community within the context of the First Amendment, and perhaps on purpose, who knows… The separation of church and state doctrine was to protect the people from the government infringing on their religious rights to worship as they please, not to keep people from using religious beliefs when participating in the political process. One’s religious beliefs are reflected in all aspects of one’s life, politics included. If gay rights activists think that people shouldn’t be able to vote based upon their moral and religious convictions, then they have another thing coming. What will they say next…..that only atheist people should vote….or only people who don’t go to church should vote, or only people who don’t have any morals should vote. I think we’ve seen recently what happens when people take leave of morality….

    Great post. I hope you and your family had a great Thanksgiving.


  5. Shoes said,

    November 28, 2008 at 1:06 pm

    Apparently, Gov. Schwarzenegger’s idea of separation of church and state was to remain silent while churches were targeted for vandalism after this last election.

    The political acumen of the Anti-Defamation League throws Schwarzenegger, who was sworn into office promising to support and defend the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the State of California, into a much lesser light by comparison.

    Did Gov. Schwarzenegger’s silence on the illegal wreckage and defacement of homes and meetinghouses played any part in the Castro Street mob mindset that assaulted and threatened the lives of a Christian prayer group earlier this month.

    In Schwarzenegger’s CNN appearance after this past election, he stated that the campaign against Proposition 8 did not have “as much money behind it” as one reason why it may have lost. Who is advising this man?

    It is interesting that Schwarzenegger vetoed AB 849, the 1st CA legislative bill for SSM because, “Five years ago the matter of same-sex marriage was placed before the people of California. The people voted and the issue is now before the courts. The Governor believes the matter should be determined not by legislative action – which would be unconstitutional – but by court decision or another vote of the people of our state. We cannot have a system where the people vote and the Legislature derails that vote. Out of respect for the will of the people, the Governor will veto AB 849.”

    We just had that “another vote of the people”. I guess I’m grateful he respected “the will of the people” in 2005, at least…

  6. debbie said,

    November 28, 2008 at 4:03 pm

    Great ideas. With all that on your plate, I hope you had a Happy Thanksgiving.
    The debate over separation of church and state will always be a surprise considering how much of an influence the idea of a Creator was in the minds of our Founding Fathers. All of them. A have been reading a great book, “Original Intent”, by David Barton, dealing mostly with the First Amendment. Teaching about God in schools was in every state constitution. How many students and their parents don’t know that?
    The other idea I have had is that as we become a country if fill-in-the-blank
    Americans, we are getting away from having a common background. A buy-in, if you will, into the history of our beginning. I wonder if the people that come to live here do not accept, understand, or care about the sacrifices made in our beginning, it becomes easier to rewrite or ignore some of our most basic rights and privleges.
    Hope everyone gets the idea. Just something I’ve been pondering lately.

  7. Taylor said,

    December 1, 2008 at 12:26 am

    It is interesting to me that in the pledge of allegiance that we are “one nation under God,” and that on our currency that we say “in god we trust”. But yet the people that are calling for a church’s tax exempt status aren’t saying anything about that. It is quite apparent that they only want to say that when it benefits them otherwise they leave it alone.

  8. beetlebabee said,

    December 1, 2008 at 11:56 pm

    I had a great thanksgiving! I hope all of you did too. There’s no replacing family.

  9. blacknright said,

    December 7, 2008 at 2:54 am

    Beetlebabee, terrific post and I agree with you 100%. I am not going to apologize because I bring God into the ballot box with me and vote the way I believe he would want me to vote on issues and candidates. I am not going to be silent because the opposition wants to shut me up because I don’t espouse the same ill-advised ideology they want me to. I am not going to back down because my religion has again become unpopular. I have never done anything that was popular. I am a Black conservative Republican and Mormon that listens to country music. Name one thing in that sentence that denotes I care about what’s popular. All the opposition can do is throw emotional appeals at you and call you a bigot in between those appeals because they know if you sit down and really think about homosexuality, what it is, what it entails, what it causes as far as sicknesses and death, you will not be apt to be so quick to defend those practicing it.

    I am what is clinically called morbidly obese and yet no one is out there saying that morbid obesity is a good thing and we need to teach our kids that is okay to be fat and encourage them to have poor eating habits and not exercise. No one is trying to sweep things like heart disease, stroke, diabetes and other diseases that come with obesity under the rug and not talk about it because you might hurt the fat people’s feelings. Instead the doctors encourage you to lose weight, have a better diet, exercise more. They surely don’t hand you a chocolate milkshake and tell you to go at it. Yet this is what we have done with homosexuality. Instead of at least encouraging those not to engage in same sex behavior, point them to their local chapter of Homosexuals Anonymous-yes it does exist-or other professional who might be able to help them, they simply give them some condoms and tell them to go at it. Such advice is irresponsible and dangerous. When all is said and done and the body count is added up, the Left will have caused more deaths than any bloody dictator in human history. What a tragic legacy to have.

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