If one wants to be consistent in arguing the "Separation of Church and State," reason requires that we point out the fact that one cannot keep the Church out of the State without keeping the State out of the Church as well. The problem is this is increasingly ignored by the Federal Government.
Christianity, in following Christ's command to “Repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God” (Mark 12:17) recognizes that the State has certain areas of authority granted to it for the common good and the protection of the people and that the people are required to give obedience to the authority in these matters. However, Christians are also required to give obedience to God in matters which concern Him and the State has no authority to oppose or interfere with these commands.
Thus the state can pass laws which provide for the protection and benefit of the population. For example, it can collect taxes (though not excessively) to make it possible to carry out its duties. It can set traffic laws for the protection of the people. There is nothing sacred about driving on the right or the left side of the road, but the government mandates one to avoid the danger of head-on collisions. The government can set laws concerning military service for the defense of the nation. There is nothing unreasonable about this as a general principle, though one can certainly judge how the state carries this out (such as a fair conscription in times of national emergency vs. an arbitrary "press gang").
However, the state does not have the authority to mandate what is to be morally acceptable. nor to force religions to participate in things that they find morally repugnant. The state cannot justly compel Jews and Muslims to eat Pork, nor to force them to provide it for others for example.
The State Cannot Pass Laws outside its Competence or Area of Authority
In Robert Bolt's play A Man for All Seasons, we have an exchange between Thomas Cromwell and St. Thomas More concerning King Henry VII and his Act of Supremacy declaring him the head of the Church in England. Thomas Cromwell attempts to reason that since More does not know the state of the souls who did sign and he does know he has a duty of obedience to the King, he should therefore sign his assent to the Act. However, St. Thomas More points out:
Some men think the Earth is round and others think it is flat. But if it is flat, will the King's command make it round? And if it is round, will the King's command flatten it? No, I will not sign. (Page 133).
St. Thomas More's point is a good one. There are some things the state does not have the authority to declare. Regardless of what the State declares, if it is contrary to what is reality, such a law is meaningless and is nothing more than the state trying to tell people what to think or to do… tyranny.
The State has No Authority to Compel Compliance with an Unjust Law
Let's take another angle. In the (admittedly mediocre) movie CSA: Confederate States of America, one of the premises is that the victorious South, in attempting to bring the conquered North into its way of life, creates a quandary. A reconstruction tax is to be imposed on the conquered Northerners. However, this tax can be avoided by the purchase of a slave. It leaves the northerners with three choices:
- To purchase a slave.
- To pay the ruinous taxes.
- To leave the country.
The movie shows that the intent of the law is for people to choose option #1 to remove a cultural barrier between the North and the South. Most Northerners do choose option #1, with a minority choosing option #3. The viewer is supposed to recognize that all three of the choices are unjust. Slavery is wrong, and the person who recognizes it as being wrong should not be forced into ruinous taxes or exile.
Both Violations Exist in America in 2012
It is interesting that people can see the problem in the movie, but not see that a very real version is happening right now in America. With the HHS mandate for example, employers with religious beliefs that tell them that contraception and abortifacients are morally wrong are put in the same quandary. Failing to provide contraception/abortifacient coverage in their health care plans results in a fine which can equal $100 per employee per day. It is estimated that the Evangelical owned "Hobby Lobby" could potentially have to pay up to $1.3 million dollars a day for refusing to comply with the HHS mandate.
In other words, the company has these options:
- To comply with what they believe to be immoral.
- To pay ruinous fines.
- To stop doing business in America.
Christians are not Imposing their Beliefs on Others when they Defend their own Rights
Now the examples of A Man for All Seasons and CSA bring out two important facts. First, that a government which seeks to mandate what is morally acceptable has no authority to do so, and second, when it seeks to coerce acceptance of such a mandate, it is behaving tyrannically and exceeds its authority.
Remembering this is important where supporters of the government's policies are labeling Christians as being intolerant and imposing views on others. The First Amendment points out:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
So the employer with religious beliefs which tells him or her that providing insurance coverage for contraception or abortifacients is wrong has the right to petition the government for a redress of grievances in regards to the interference with the free exercise of religion. The government does not have the right to restrict these freedoms. Religious believers have the right to object to and challenge the HHS mandate and do not impose their views on others in doing so.
Nor do we impose our views on others when we seek to instruct voters as to why certain government policies are unjust and seek to encourage the passage of laws that overturn the injustices. Our nation was founded on this principle, as stated in the Declaration of Independence:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.—That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, —That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.
The irony is, it is the religious believers seeking to defend their rights declared in the Declaration and the Constitution are unjustly accused of violating these rights, while those who do or favor the actual violations are treated as the victims.
Our objection to the unjust Laws, Mandates and Court Rulings is not out of opposition to the democratic process, but is out of opposition to the imposition of something the government has no right to impose in the first place and has no right to coerce our compliance with unjust sanctions.