Firstly, should the church and the state exist as two separate entities? Yes. Even the Bible teaches us this. In Exodus, when God established the nation of Israel, he appointed Moses to be the political/judicial leader and his brother Aaron to be religious leader. However, He never intended for the two to be antagonistic toward each other. Quite the opposite, the very first law He gave Moses was that we should "not have any other gods before [Him]." But by establishing two different, separate institutions - church and state - He allowed for them both to focus on their own responsibilities while complimenting but not competing with each other.
Flash forward a few millennia. The Danbury Baptist Association wrote to Thomas Jefferson, worried that this new government he and his peers were forming would become too much like the one they were leaving - that it would mandate religion and religious practices. He responded with a letter, the letter from which we get the infamous above phrase. Here is the text of the letter:
Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between man & his god, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, and not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, thus building a wall of separation between church and state.Read that carefully, for that is the original source, context and intent of the sentiment "Separation of (or between) church and state." The intent was not to keep religion out of the state or to keep religious beliefs from influencing the state (as are so often claimed in the current marriage and abortion debates), but to keep religion free from government interference, either by establishing a national religion (as England had done) or by prohibiting an individual's practice of their religion.
So, it is with that in mind we approach today's topic:
Apparently, last August, our President held a webcast with clergy across the country, asking them to sermonize in favor of his health care plan.
Now, in light of the true intention of Separation of Church and State, is this appropriate behavior for a sitting President?
Of course, the nameless White House officials quoted in the article say that wasn't really what the President asked, that he doesn't actually expect them to give political messages from the pulpit. Duh!
That doesn't jive at all with what the members of the webcast have reported. They felt the intent of his statements was just that, based on the conversation that went on.
I've already posted my opinion on Obama's faith. This seems to fall in line with the impression he gives that faith is a facade, a useful tool to pull out when he needs to influence voters, but not something essential in his own life.
George W. Bush was often criticized for being too openly evangelical, such as stating that his favorite philosopher was "Christ, because he changed my life." But you can't name one instance where Bush tried to influence what was being preached in the pulpits. This is, in American history, unprecedented.
First, Obama tried to interfere in local schools. Now, he's trying to interfere in our worship services.
Take heed, and keep an eye out. We've just started the second year.