Elise Hilton (Acton PowerBlog).
Richard Garnett, a professor of law and the Director of the Program on Church, State & Society at Notre Dame Law School, writes that
…the “separation of church and state,” correctly understood, denotes a structural arrangement involving institutions, a constitutional order in which the institutions of religion are distinct from, other than, and meaningfully independent of the institutions of government. So understood, “separation” is a principle of pluralism, of multiple and overlapping authorities, of competing loyalties and demands. It is a rule that limits the state and thereby clears out and protects a social space within which persons are formed and educated and without which the liberty of conscience is vulnerable.
He continues a little bit further in his essay by making what might seem to be a paradoxical point. A free and secular civil society requires the robust institutional freedom of religion.
… constitutionalism depends for its success on the existence and activities of non-state authorities. It should protect, but it also requires, self-governing religious communities that operate and evolve outside and independent of governments. It is a mistake to regard “religion” merely as a private practice, or even as a social phenomenon, to which constitutions respond or react. Instead, the ongoing enterprise of constitutionalism is one to which religious freedom contributes. Human rights depend for protection and flourishing not only on enforceable constraints on government but also on the structure of the social order. With respect to matters of polity, doctrine, leadership, and membership, the autonomy that religious institutions enjoy simultaneously contributes to and benefits from that structure.
Why is this? Because, “Just as freedom of speech depends on an infrastructure of free expression, freedom of religion depends on an infrastructure of religious freedom.” Some of this necessary infrastructure is generic in nature: “open and functioning courts, legal accommodations, and thriving communications networks.” Beyond these though there must also exist what he calls “a web of independent, thriving, and distinctive institutions that are self-governing in their appropriate spheres.” Unfortunately, as he observes, today “the infrastructure on which authentic freedom under law depends is neglected, under stress, and vulnerable.”
You can read the whole essay here.
… what about America? When has faith entered the public square in this country? Did you know that it was serious Christians who started the abolitionist movement in this country? Yes! Just watch Steven Spielberg’s movie Amistad.
Did you know that devout Christians led the Civil Rights movement in this country? Some would have you think it was secular liberals who led it, but it was a church-based faith-based movement from beginning to end. Did you know that Rosa Parks was a devout Christian? That she was chosen to kickoff the bus boycott because of her faith?
Did you know that Jackie Robinson was a serious Christian? And that Branch Rickey who picked him to be the one to break the color barrier in baseball did so because of Robinson’s faith, and that Rickey was himself a bible-thumping Christian who did what he did in part because he believe God wanted him to do it? There’s a movie coming out about Jackie Robinson this month and I’ll bet they don’t even mention that. I do mention it in my next book SEVEN MEN, because everyone should know that it was Jackie Robinson’s faith that was behind what he did.
If you push the voices of faith out of the mainstream and replace them with a secular orthodoxy, you take away the most important check the Founders put in place against unbridled statism.
Source: Mirror of Justice.
Over at CLR Forum, Pasquale Annicchino has an interesting reflection on current interest in Italy in the “American model” of religion in the public square. Here’s a bit:
Why are American cardinals receiving so much attention? One obvious, and superficial, reason is that they are much more skilled, as compared to other cardinals, in communicating and establishing relationships with the media. But there is another factor. The United States’ ability to preserve a vocal religious presence in the public sphere has always raised interest and curiosity in Rome, and especially now, in a time when the secularization of Europe is growing at an unprecedented level. It is not to reveal a secret to say that Benedict XVI himself, on many occasions, expressed appreciation for the “American model,” a model in which religious arguments in the public sphere are heard and debated much more than in Europe.
WASHINGTON—The Feb. 1 Notice of Proposed Rule making from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services related to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) shows some movement by the Administration but falls short of addressing U.S. bishops’ concerns.
“Throughout the past year, we have been assured by the Administration that we will not have to refer, pay for, or negotiate for the mandated coverage.We remain eager for the Administration to fulfill that pledge and to find acceptable solutions—we will affirm any genuine progress that is made, and we will redouble our efforts to overcome obstacles or setbacks,” said Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), in a February 7 statement. “Thus, we welcome and will take seriously the Administration’s invitation to submit our concerns through formal comments, and we will do so in the hope that an acceptable solution can be found that respects the consciences of all.At the same time, we will continue to stand united with brother bishops, religious institutions, and individual citizens who seek redress in the courts for as long as this is necessary.”
He listed three key areas of concern: the narrow understanding of a religious ministry; compelling church ministries to fund and facilitate services such as contraceptives, including abortion-inducing drugs, and sterilization that violate Catholic teaching; and disregard of the conscience rights of for-profit business owners. These are the same concerns articulated by the USCCB Administrative Committee in its March 2012 statement, United for Religious Freedom.
Cardinal Dolan said the new proposal seemed to address one part of the church’s concern over the definition of a church ministry but stressed that “the Administration’s proposal maintains its inaccurate distinction among religious ministries.
“It appears to offer second-class status to our first-class institutions in Catholic health care, Catholic education and Catholic charities. HHS offers what it calls an ‘accommodation’ rather than accepting the fact that these ministries are integral to our church and worthy of the same exemption as our Catholic churches.”
Cardinal Dolan highlighted problems with the proposed “accommodation.”
“It appears that the government would require all employees in our ‘accommodated’ ministries to have the illicit coverage—they may not opt out, nor even opt out for their children—under a separate policy,” he said.
He also noted that “because of gaps in the proposed regulations, it is still unclear how directly these separate policies would be funded by objecting ministries, and what precise role those ministries would have in arranging for these separate policies. Thus, there remains the possibility that ministries may yet be forced to fund and facilitate such morally illicit activities.”
Cardinal Dolan also said the proposal refuses to acknowledge conscience rights of business owners who operate their businesses according to their faith and moral values.
“In obedience to our Judeo-Christian heritage, we have consistently taught our people to live their lives during the week to reflect the same beliefs that they proclaim on the Sabbath,” Cardinal Dolan said. “We cannot now abandon them to be forced to violate their morally well-informed consciences.”
The statement is attached.
Keywords: Cardinal Timothy Dolan, Health and Human Services, Patient Protection and Affordable care Act, PPACA, Catholic, contraceptives, Ella, sterilization
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Statement of Cardinal Timothy Dolan Responding to Feb. 1 Proposal from HHS
For almost a century, the Catholic bishops of the United States have worked hard to support the right of every person to affordable, accessible, comprehensive, life-affirming healthcare. As we continue to do so, our changeless values remain the same. We promote the protection of the dignity of all human life and the innate rights that flow from it, including the right to life from conception to natural death; care for the poorest among us and the undocumented; the right of the Church to define itself, its ministries, and its ministers; and freedom of conscience.
Last Friday, the Administration issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) regarding the HHS mandate that requires coverage for sterilization and contraception, including drugs that may cause abortions.The Administration indicates that it has heard some previously expressed concerns and that it is open to dialogue.With release of the NPRM, the Administration seeks to offer a response to serious matters which have been raised throughout the past year.We look forward to engaging with the Administration, and all branches and levels of government, to continue to address serious issues that remain. Our efforts will require additional, careful study.Only in this way can we best assure that healthcare for every woman, man and child is achieved without harm to our first, most cherished freedom.
In evaluating Friday’s action regarding the HHS mandate, our reference remains the statement of our Administrative Committee made last March, United for Religious Freedom, and affirmed by the entire body of bishops in June 2012.
In that statement, we first expressed concern over the mandate’s “exceedingly narrow” four-part definition of “religious employer,” one that exempted our houses of worship, but left “our great ministries of service to our neighbors, namely, the poor, the homeless, the sick, the students in our schools and universities, and others in need” subject to the mandate.This created “a ‘second class’ of citizenship within our religious community,” “weakening [federal law’s] healthy tradition of generous respect for religious freedom and diversity.”And the exemption effectuated this distinction by requiring “among other things, [that employers] must hire and serve primarily those of their own faith.”
On Friday, the Administration proposed to drop the first three parts of the four-part test.This might address the last of the concerns above, but it seems not to address the rest.The Administration’s proposal maintains its inaccurate distinction among religious ministries. It appears to offer second-class status to our first-class institutions in Catholic health care, Catholic education, and Catholic charities. HHS offers what it calls an “accommodation,” rather than accepting the fact that these ministries are integral to our Church and worthy of the same exemption as our Catholic churches. And finally, it seems to take away something that we had previously—the ability of an exempt employer (such as a diocese) to extend its coverage to the employees of a ministry outside the exemption.
Second, United for Religious Freedom explained that the religious ministries not deemed “religious employers” would suffer the severe consequence of “be[ing] forced by government to violate their own teachings within their very own institutions.”After Friday, it appears that the government would require all employees in our “accommodated” ministries to have the illicit coverage—they may not opt out, nor even opt out for their children—under a separate policy.In part because of gaps in the proposed regulations, it is still unclear how directly these separate policies would be funded by objecting ministries, and what precise role those ministries would have in arranging for these separate policies.Thus, there remains the possibility that ministries may yet be forced to fund and facilitate such morally illicit activities. Here, too, we will continue to analyze the proposal and to advocate for changes to the final rule that reflect these concerns.
Third, the bishops explained that the “HHS mandate creates still a third class, those with no conscience protection at all:individuals who, in their daily lives, strive constantly to act in accordance with their faith and moral values.” This includes employers sponsoring and subsidizing the coverage, insurers writing it, and beneficiaries paying individual premiums for it. Friday’s action confirms that HHS has no intention to provide any exemption or accommodation at all to this “third class.” In obedience to our Judeo-Christian heritage, we have consistently taught our people to live their lives during the week to reflect the same beliefs that they proclaim on the Sabbath. We cannot now abandon them to be forced to violate their morally well-informed consciences.
Because the stakes are so high, we will not cease from our effort to assure that healthcare for all does not mean freedom for few.Throughout the past year, we have been assured by the Administration that we will not have to refer, pay for, or negotiate for the mandated coverage.We remain eager for the Administration to fulfill that pledge and to find acceptable solutions—we will affirm any genuine progress that is made, and we will redouble our efforts to overcome obstacles or setbacks.Thus, we welcome and will take seriously the Administration’s invitation to submit our concerns through formal comments, and we will do so in the hope that an acceptable solution can be found that respects the consciences of all.At the same time, we will continue to stand united with brother bishops, religious institutions, and individual citizens who seek redress in the courts for as long as this is necessary.
Dylan Pahman of the Acton Institute has a provocative post on St John Damascus. Pahman argues that we can look to the example and explicit teaching of St John as a defense on the limits of government relative to both communities (specifically to the Church but I think the point is more broadly applicable) and personal conscience.
For St. John of Damascus and all of the Orthodox with him, there was a clear limit to government power: it could not intrude uninvited into the realm of the Church and could not command its subjects to defy what their consciences knew to be the truth. Any power it had was given from above, and thus could not be absolute. In such circumstances, he found himself “[c]ompelled to speak by a fear that cannot be borne.” And his effort for the sake of truth and freedom proved invaluable. The theology of the Seventh Ecumenical Council in 787 (Nicaea II) is largely dependent upon his three treatises.
Even after the brief period of peace in which the council was called, the iconoclasts again regained power and the persecution continued, only ending in 843 on what is known in the Orthodox Church as the Triumph of Orthodoxy. St. John of Damascus reposed sometime before 750, having never seen the fruits of his labors in the flesh. Yet, his example is one of hope to many who have contended for freedom and faith from his own time to the present day. And for that I, at least, commemorate him today and commend the same to any others who treasure faith and freedom in our own time.
You can read the whole essay here.
Pravmir.com, a Russian site, has published an English translation of an interview given by Archpriest Nikolai Chernyshev, who is identified as “the spiritual father of the Solzhenitsyn family during the final years of the writer’s life.” The interview touches on Aleksandr Solzenitsyn’s upbringing in a deeply religious Russian Orthodox family, his encounter with militant atheism ( … he joined neither the Young Pioneers nor the Komsomol [All-Union Leninist Young Communist League]. The Pioneers would tear off his baptismal cross, but he would put it back on every time). Fr. Chernyshev describes the writer’s later “period of torturous doubt, of rejection of his childhood faith, and of pain.” The priest talks of Solzhenitzyn’s return to the faith after his experience in the Gulag and how “he suffered and fretted about the Church being in a repressed state. For him this was open, obvious, naked, and painful.” Excerpt from the interview:
Today many people remember the writer’s famous “Lenten Letter” to Patriarch Pimen (1972) and say that Solzhenitsyn expected, and even demanded, greater participation by the Church in society. What were his views in this regard at the end of his life?
Fr. Chernyshev: Solzhenitsyn was one of those people who could not remain silent; his voice was always heard. And, of course, he was convinced that the Savior’s words Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature should be fulfilled [Mark 16:15]. One of his convictions, his idea, was that the Church, on the one hand, should naturally be separate from the government, but by no means should be separate from society.
He felt that they are quite different, that they are completely opposite things. Its inseparability from society should become more and more manifest. And here he could not but see the encouraging changes of recent years. He joyfully and gratefully took in everything positive taking place in Russia and in the Church – but he was far from complacent, since all of society had become twisted and sick during the years of Soviet rule.
He understood that if the sick lead the sick, or if the lame lead the lame, then nothing good will come of it. The activity he was calling for, that inseparability from society, should by no means be expressed in violence, in the suppressive structure of thought and action customary of the Soviet era.
He felt that, on the one hand, the Church is called to lead society and to have a more active influence on the life of society – but today this should by no means find expression in those forms used by the ideological machine that broke and mangled people. The situation has changed in recent years – and he could not help but sense new dangers.
Once he was asked what he thought about the freedom for which he had fought and what he felt about what was going on. He replied with a single hammered-out phrase: “There’s plenty of freedom, but little truth.” He keenly perceived the danger of a false substitution – and, therefore, was far from calm.
When he returned to the Motherland and began to travel around Russia, he saw the country’s whole plight – not only the economic side, but also its spiritual condition.
Of course, he saw a fundamental difference between the thirties or fifties and the present state of things. He was not a dissident in a state of constant confrontation with everything. This wasn’t the case. There are people who try to make him into this, but this wasn’t who he was. Despite exposing these terrible societal wounds, there was always a powerful life-affirming force in what he wrote and did. He had a Christian’s positive, life-affirming, and luminous attitude.
Read “There’s Plenty of Freedom, But Little Truth”: Solzhenitsyn Remembered, an interview on Pravmir.com
Read PowerBlog posts related to the life and work of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn (1918-2008) here.
Read the Religion & Liberty interview with Solzhenitsyn scholar Edward E. Ericson Jr. here.