Jewish World Review May 14, 2004 / 23 Iyar, 5764
Secularist double standards
http://www.NewsAndOpinion.com | There has been no cessation of hostility in the secularists' war against Christianity. The enemies of religious freedom are still operating at full force, and we must keep our eyes on them.
Just a few months ago, a California court flagrantly interposed itself in the private, internal affairs of a Lutheran Church in Fresno. The conflict began when certain members of the Free Evangelical Lutheran Cross Church there stopped attending church services because they didn't appreciate what the pastor was preaching.
The church elders decided they would revoke the memberships of the absent congregants but would first give them an opportunity to be heard at a formal meeting. Instead of appearing at the hearing, the members filed suit against the church, contesting its right to terminate their memberships.
The court, appallingly, ruled in favor of the members and against the church, basically saying that the church doesn't have the right to enforce its own rules of discipline.
If the secularist warriors in our culture held themselves to a consistent standard, we could expect their outrage over this decision. After all, their rallying cry is "separation of church and state."
Forget that the Constitution says nothing about separating church and state and that activist judges judicially "wrote" the provision into the Constitution. The point is that the secularists swear by the principle of church-state separation and insist that our freedoms, including our religious freedoms, are dependent on it.
They contend that unless we adhere to this principle, we will forfeit our religious liberties and our pluralistic society will fall prey to religious totalitarians. But the California court's decision betrays both religious freedom and the separation of church and state. Yet we hear not a peep from the secularists about this decision.
The secularists tell us with no small degree of passion that the reason we must keep church and state separate is that if the state, with its enormous power, endorses a particular religion, it will, in effect, be chilling the religious freedom of those of other religions. The state, in other words, must keep its nose out of religion.
But let's look at how they apply the principle in practice. In public schools, for example, they tell students they can't pray even on their own time and in a nondisruptive manner, such as when a kindergarten teacher prohibited two kindergarten students from praying at the snack table. Similarly, school officials have enjoined more than one high school senior from discussing his or her Christ-centered life in a valedictory speech to the student body.
In these examples, and countless others, the school administration tells students that they can't freely exercise or express their religion because to do so would be tantamount to the school endorsing the religion. But if that's true, then it's also true that the federal and state governments are endorsing the content of this column by "permitting" me the freedom to express myself in writing.
You can see how absurd that is and how an overzealous commitment to "separating church and state" often defeats the very ideal of religious freedom it purports to uphold. The students, in these cases, were denied their freedom of religion in the name of promoting religious freedom.
But while the secularists demand a strict separation in certain cases where to do so, as we see, harms the freedom it is designed to protect, in other cases they fail to invoke the principle at all.
If separating church and state were truly their goal, they would surely object more strongly to a court's direct interference in the private business of a specific church -- on a matter no less important than its membership -- than to the state's tenuous, indirect endorsement of a religion as in the school examples.
When the California court forced the Lutheran church to reinstate its members, it violated the hallowed separation principle in the worst way and eviscerated the free exercise rights of the church. When push came to shove -- in the face of a direct assault on a church by an intermeddling court -- the fair-weather secularists turned their backs on the separation principle.
They are not driven by an allegiance to the goal of separating government and religion, but a manifest hostility toward Christian religion, the Christian church and the free exercise rights of Christians, especially in the public square.
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