Rising in Beauty

Rising in Beauty
Sky over North Park

Just Learning

Just Learning
Kitchen Studio

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Separation of Church and State

Outrage has erupted about the Catholic Diocese of Washington, DC informing the municipal government that if the city legalizes same-sex marriage, the diocese will stop administering city-funded programs such as homeless shelters.

I took part in training for the Faith Based Initiative around 1994. This particular training involved mostly small, urban, protestant and nondenominational churches. Religious organizations were recognized as experienced and dedicated providers of help, such as feeding programs, and homeless shelters. The idea was that federal funds would be put to use more effectively by such existing organizations than by starting up new organizations.

Compassion as expressed by the Golden Rule, Do unto others as you would have them do unto you, is the basic teaching of religion. When taxes are used for social benefit, that seems congruent with compassion in action.

HOWEVER, doctrine, tradition and mores within any given congregation or religion often conflict with mores expressed legislatively in evolving understanding of civil rights.

When a religious group pays social worker salaries with government money, the group MUST follow government, civil law guidelines on employment policies.

In the name of compassion and common sense, church and state try to negotiate with each other's rules in order to focus on the common cause, such as providing shelter for individuals and families who need it.

This time, for whatever reason, the diocese says it can't negotiate. They probably do hope to influence the legislation.

Our Constitution grants religious freedom. There will be no state church supported by taxes. The Constitution protects religion from the government, and protects the government from religion. Interpretation and application of these principles is difficult, marked by contention and high emotion.

We need to keep grounding ourselves in the goal of compassion.

No comments: