Why Separating the Sacred and the Secular is a Bad Thing
by Lenny Esposito
The Secular Coalition of America (SCA) is asking people to knit a brick “to help rebuild the wall of separation between church and state.”1 In a recent press release, the organization derided the Supreme Court Hobby Lobby decision and is hoping to visually protest it by creating a knitted wall. This is not a surprise as the release also identifies their purpose “to protect and strengthen the secular character of our government as the best guarantee of freedom for all.”2
Is it the best guarantee of freedom for all, though? The SCA seems to maintain that government should remain wholly secular and uninfluenced by those who are motivated by their faith commitments to rebel against laws which they deem in violation of their religiously-informed moral choices. Certainly the Hobby Lobby family’s argument was such.
But does a position of purely secular governance conflict with “the best guarantee of freedom for all?” For example, a Christian bishop had been petitioning the President of the United States to change his policy on a certain matter because it violated his Christian principles. He explained the motive for his demands were rooted in God:
It is not a pleasant task to make an appeal, where excited public feeling may arouse unkind suspicions and unjust accusations. Few men love more than myself the approval of their fellow citizens, and none desire more the affection of those among whom they labor. I dare not be silent; I fear less the reproaches of the people than the anger of GOD.3
While such a statement would surely inflame the folks of the SCA, this man’s religiously motivated quest was actually successful. The man in question was Bishop Henry B. Whipple and the policy he sought to change was the treatment of the Dakota and Sioux Native Americans by the federal government. According to a Los Angeles Times article by Gustav Niebuhr, Whipple had petitioned President James Buchanan but never received a response. After Lincoln was elected president, he continued his letter writing campaign which eventually resulted in a meeting with the president…
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