Monday, October 5, 2009

What Is "Government"?

An interesting article on the website discusses the issue of people in government office who happen to be religious figures as well. As you might expect, the metaphor "separation of church and state" came up. Here is a snippet from the article:

"Separation of church and state is one of the central tenets of America government, supported by a long legal history going all the way back to the origins of the Constitution.

"Generally speaking, the government cannot establish a state religion, provide aid to religious institutions or infringe upon the rights of citizens to practice their own personal faith. Several Supreme Court rulings also have stated the government cannot, even tacitly, endorse religious activity."

Even in the short summary of judicial and Constitutional opinion, the "may not's" are applied appropriately to "government." If one looks at the First Amendment, the same is crystal clear: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;" The limitation is clearly directed to Congress, the government body as a whole, doing what Congress does - make laws. I honestly don't know how one can read the First Amendment and assume that it would limit a religious person from serving in virtually any public office. Look in this blog at the quotes from our first President, or from some of our early Justices, who were outspokenly religious. Were they being unconstitutional?

I fear that bringing up "separation of church and state" in this article fuels the belief by some that religious people should be kept from important offices and from speaking out on political issues. The article does not go there at all (it is not trying to raise a ruckus as far as I can tell), but given the actual words of the Constitution and the actual direction of decisions of the courts, why raise that point at all?

The article mentions possible conflict of interest that may arise if a judge, for example, has a member of his congregation before him in court. But surely this is a possibility for any judge. Unless the judge is a hermit, some acquaintance/associate/congregant/lodge-member/etc. may in fact show up in court. Recusal exists for such cases and is used regularly, so no need is present to limit who serves in those positions based on their faith.

Read the whole article here:
Officials seek balance in religion, work

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

While serving in elected office as one conservative on a nine member School Board in Alaska,the liberal majority enacted a board policy prohibiting representatives/school board members from speaking freely about school board issues which they may be opposed to. Only the School Board President would be allowed to report to the public about matters which had been approved. This is likely happening among school districts in many of our states, counties or boroughs. How can this be happening in our local communities without objection! I made good effort to expose this but few seem to be recognizing the significance. alaskadb