Sunday, January 22, 2012

We apparently still have the rule of law in our nation, and the Constitution stands. Okay, that was a fairly bold statement. In a country where governmental regulatory mandates increasingly compel faith-based social service, health care, and educational providers to offer services contrary to their religious convictions and moral conscience or else shutter their doors, the US Supreme Court recently affirmed that religious liberty remains intact in at least one narrow area of the law: the ministerial exception in federal employment discrimination legislation.

Chief Justice John Roberts wrote for the court. “The interest of society in the enforcement of employment discrimination statutes is undoubtedly important, but so too is the interest of religious groups in choosing who will preach their beliefs, teach their faith, and carry out their mission.” When those principles are in conflict, Roberts said, “the First Amendment has struck the balance for us.”

It has been said by keener minds than mine that the governmental attitude toward religious liberty in the United States is tending toward the notion that religious liberty means that anyone can attend a church of their own choosing if they wish, but must keep the practice of faith and its moral application inside the walls of that church. Contrast that with the Great Commission of Jesus to go into all the world, preach and teach, and baptize.

Neither the message of the Gospel nor its moral application in public life remained confined to the four walls of the Upper Room. Similiarly, religious conviction and its moral application were not kept distant from the development of public policy over the centuries -- in any part of the globe, and no matter the religious belief.

The First Amendment to the US Constitution does not provide for or mandate separation of Church and State. It protects the State from an establishment of religion, and it protects religion from restriction of the free exercise thereof by the State. It protects liberty for both Church and State.
Msgr. William J. King

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