Monday, January 12, 2015

Why State and Church should be Separated

I apparently can't count my weeks or know the difference between a politics post and an ethics post because I just did two ethics post in consecutive weeks. Whoops-a daisy. So I guess this leaves me answering the question three weeks after I promised to answer it in two weeks. My apologies.

So why does the state need protection from the church while the church needs protection from the state?

We shall once again look to history to see why. Let us begin with why the church needs protected from the state.

The year is 1547 and the country is England. Thirteen years prior, the Act of Supremacy had been passed. This act gave authority over the church (papal authority) to the monarch.

In 1547, under the reign of the first largely radical protestant monarch, Edward VI, the Act is used to make supreme changes to the official Church of England to make it more protestant. At which point, of course, protestants consider England to be a safe haven and openly worship there.

But then Edward VI dies. He is succeeded by Queen Mary I. If there is one word to describe Mary's religious leanings, it would be simply -  Catholic. Mary uses her new-found power over the church to drastically undo all of Edward's reforms. But most dreadfully of all, she uses her power to persecute and even kill protestants who would argue with Catholic doctrines.

At which point, we can see clearly two pitfalls of a state-dominated church, or put another way, two reasons why the church needs protected from the state. First the political whims of the state can easily destabilize the church. Second, free exercise of religion is not protected because the coercive power of the state is used to persecute religious minorities.

I'm hoping that with my audience, I don't need to argue that persecution of religious minorities is a bad thing, but if I do: dehumanization, tyranny, oppression, suffering, freedom of expression, freedom of thought, etc.

But perhaps we don't see a reason why state must be protected from the church. After all, the state is under the authority of God, so why shouldn't they also be under the authority of the church?

To see the pitfalls, we need look no further than the Middle East. (Note: many oversimplifications will emerge in this post as Middle Eastern politics is just simply complex.)

In the Middle East, many countries are controlled either officially or unofficially by the church within that country. Ultimately, most of the tension politically both within and between nations comes as a result of tension between the two major Islamic denominations: Sunni and Shiite.

And of course, one need not look far to see the persecution that Middle Eastern countries tend to place upon religious minorities, whether within the religion of Islam or not.

Thus, we see the problems with a church-dominated state as well. First, the whims of the church can destabilize the state. Second, free exercise of religion is not protected because the coercive power of the state is used to persecute religious minorities.

So yes, we need to protect both entities from each other because without that, we see no true stability. More importantly, we see no true protection for the freedom of religion.

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