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Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Texas Faith: Is separation of church and state an idea to keep religious people out of the public arena?



The separation of church and state has been a catalyst in guaranteeing freedom to every religious group. This can be better understood through stark contrasts between pluralistic nations and the nations where one religion dominates the others. We enjoy religious freedom, precisely because of our diversity; an antidote to extremism. You practice your faith and I will do mine.- Mike Ghouse

Twelve Texas Faith Panelists share their thoughts on separation of church and state

TEXAS FAITH: Is separation of church and state an idea to keep religious people out of the public arena?

By Wayne Slater/Reporter
11:18 am on September 25, 2012 | Permalink

In a conference call with Christian conservatives, Gov. Rick Perry dismissed the separation of church and state as an idea advanced to drive “people of faith from the public arena.” The governor went on to say Satan is using it to keep Christians from actively engaging in public policy. “The idea that we should be sent to the sidelines I would suggest to you is very driven by those who are not truthful, Satan runs across the world with his doubt and with his untruths and what have you, and one of the untruths out there is driven – is that people of faith should not be involved in the public arena.”

The governor’s take on theology and American history got mixed reviews – at best – from our Texas Faith panel of pastors, teachers, theologians, lay leaders and religious experts. The recent conference call was an effort to motivate conservative Christians to vote their values in November. Perry used language familiar to social conservatives – “spiritual warfare” and “Christian soldiers” and a growing tide of “secularism and atheism” – in warning of those making “efforts to remove any trace of religion from American life.”

The premise of the governor’s comments is that separation of church and state is sometimes invoked simply to discourage people (read it: people whose ideas you don’t like) from getting involved in politics and public policy. Is that true? And, perhaps more to the point, how do we make sure that doesn’t happen? In our political debate this election season, what’s the proper balance between warning against theocracy and encouraging faith in the public square? The Texas Faith panel had some ideas.

MIKE GHOUSE, President, Foundation for Pluralism, Dallas

The separation of church and state has been a catalyst in guaranteeing freedom to every religious group. Indeed, it is an incentive to participate in the political process to ensure that one’s rights are protected, and prevent domination by any group from dictating its terms to others.

If an attempt is made to infringe on the rights of others, we all need to stand up for them, just as we did with the Catholic Church about contraceptives. Most certainly, protection of our rights depend on protecting the rights of others; a hallmark of enduring civilizations.

This can be better understood through stark contrasts between pluralistic nations and the nations where one religion dominates the others.

In Saudi Arabia, Iran, Egypt, Pakistan and other countries, the majority through their deafening silence, continues to deny the basic religious rights to its minorities. The merciless upper hand of one religion over the other(s) has undeniably screwed up justice; the source of anguish, unrest and consequent instability and pain for all.

Compare that to the United States, where the religious rights of all are protected (relatively). On any given street in Dallas, you will find places of worship of multiple denominations functioning together, that was not the case in the United States generations ago, and we have come a long way, thanks to the separation.

We enjoy religious freedom, precisely because of our diversity; an antidote to extremism. You practice your faith and I will do mine.

Governor Perry is perhaps using phrases like “spiritual warfare” and “Christian soldiers” to whip up support for his declining political power, and probably may not succeed in his motives, as the Evangelicals know that the freedom to practice their faith is not trampled. Religion has been used, abused and misused by politicians throughout the history of mankind for political gains, Perry is no exception.

We are a land of the free and need to keep it that way. The separation of church and state is a catalyst that has assured safer and securer communities in the United States, and we don’t want to regress from that.

Texas faith is a weekly column, where panelists from different traditions respond to the issues of the day - for all the responses, please visit Dallas Morning News at  http://religionblog.dallasnews.com/2012/09/texas-faith-is-separation-of-church-and-state-an-effort-to-keep-religious-people-out-of-the-public-arena.html/

Mike Ghouse is committed to building a Cohesive America and offers pluralistic solutions on issues of the day. He is a professional speaker, thinker and a writer on pluralism, politics, civic affairsIslamIndiaIsrael, peace and justice. Mike is a frequent guest onSean Hannity show on Fox TV, and a commentator on national radio networks, he contributes weekly to the Texas Faith Column at Dallas Morning News and regularly atHuffington post, and several other periodicals across the world. The blogwww.TheGhousediary.com is updated daily

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