Separation of Church and State has ‘vanished’



For more than 100 years the Supreme Court of the United States has been deciding cases concerning the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and the relationship, often of a financial nature, between church and state.

The plain fact is that the absolute separation between church and state envisioned by our historical leaders, such as Thomas Jefferson, Roger Williams, John F. Kennedy and others—who might today be considered “separatists”—has vanished. In its place is a host of major Supreme Court cases that permit a closer interrelationship between government and faith-based entities, resulting in significant financial benefits to these entities funded by taxpayers.

Religious freedom under the First Amendment of the Constitution is a double-edged sword. It involves both the freedom of religion and religious belief, and the freedom from religion and religious belief. When religious institutions, such as the Roman Catholic Church, function in a publicly supported secular capacity and demand that their employees and the beneficiaries of their services be denied health related benefits based purely on their employer's religious tenets, the institution ceases to be a non-sectarian faith-based organization and becomes a religious institution ineligible for public financing. In other words, the freedom being abridged is not the freedom of religion, but rather the freedom from religious belief and practice for Catholics and non-Catholics alike. One can only imagine the potential extensions of the imposition of religious belief by faith-based sectarian oriented institutions that accept public financing, and the impact of an expanded utilization of pulpits to pressure political bodies to enforce such religious teachings.

For many decades the Roman Catholic Church has managed to avert health care conflicts concerning sterilization of both men and women by redirecting patients for these procedures to non-sectarian institutions.

There is no rational reason why the church can't reach accommodation of the matter of contraception, unless the church's motives lie elsewhere.

William D. Le Moult