Church, state need to stay separated

Tuesday, June 19, 2007 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 7:11 a.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 22, 2008
Rose M. Nolen

I don’t know what planet people live on who believe that the only people of faith are conservative Republicans. Maybe it’s because these people talk about religion more in public than most people. Younger people, of course, don’t realize that a generation or so ago it was considered impolite to discuss religion and politics in public. That has all changed. These people discuss religion more because part of their political platform is based on their religious beliefs.

With certain faith groups choosing to harbor illegal immigrants, the issue of separation of church and state has been pushed to the forefront. Because of this, I think the time has come for religious people to come forward and say where they stand on this issue.

For example, some of those giving sanctuary to illegals are bringing up the fact that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was acting on faith when he brought civil rights issues into the political arena. To me, this is comparing apples to dates. First of all, Dr. King, a Christian minister, was exercising his rights as a citizen to organize protest marches for the purpose of petitioning his government for the redress of the grievances of legal citizens. Was his position based in part on his religious beliefs? Yes, and when his acts were determined to be in civil disobedience, he surrendered himself to be arrested and jailed. Because that is appropriate when one chooses civil disobedience.

Every Bible reader can find texts that support both Dr. King and those harboring illegal immigrants. But most Christians I speak to believe in separation of church and state. As far as I’m concerned, people ought to be free to act on their religious beliefs so long as when they violate the laws of the state they are willing to suffer the consequences.

As the citizen of a country which endured a horribly bloody civil war in which many were lost in an attempt to right what many felt were wrongs, I really am not too sympathetic with people who leave their homelands and seek refuge in other countries rather than stay at home and try to fight to change the conditions that exist. Many of us, as African Americans, had to go into the streets and risk our lives to fight for equal justice under the law and for the civil rights which we all enjoy today.

As an American, I don’t have to look far to find areas in which to exercise the principles of Christian charity. There are families outside my door who need assistance in paying the rent and feeding their children. There are homeless people, some of whom are veterans, in virtually everybody’s neighborhood. There are sick people who need help in getting to the doctor and paying for their prescription drugs.

The time is coming soon when we are going to have to go to war against big corporations whose CEOs are making higher salaries than some cities’ budgets. We are going to have to petition our government to legislate and enforce new laws to govern the way these corporations are doing business. When President Ronald Reagan declared war on organized labor, he succeeded in taking away the only protection many workers had to get fair treatment from their employers. Now, unless you’re lucky and work for a corporation with principles, you can either accept whatever they dish out or leave. Most people are retiring and getting away from their jobs as early as possible.

As for people who do not want separation of church and state and who want the government to operate on the basis of their religious beliefs, well, they need to understand that there are a lot of beliefs out there and many of them are in disagreement with theirs. It’s possible that you may elect politicians next year who agree with you, but realistically, in how many elections will that happen?

Frankly, I think anyone who wants to live in a theocracy should live in one. In another country. Anyone want to move to Iran?

You can join the conversation with Rose M. Nolen by calling her at 882-5734 or e-mailing

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