In Part One of this series I said that marriage is a religious institution. There are many who believe marriage is a civil institution but that perception was formed on the pillars of the meddling of civil laws in the marriage institution.
One wouldn’t have to look too far to confirm that marriage was already a religious institution back in the days of Moses, long before anybody doubted its origins and long before any civil magistrate had the authority to allow or disallow marriage, prescribe benefits and regulate contracts based on a couple’s marital status.
The common perception of “the wall of separation between church and state” is that it is used to prevent religion from encroaching onto secular society. The opposite is rather the case. More often than not, civil initiatives meddle in the affairs of the religious trying to subvert it, as I shall show.
James Madison referred to the separation between church and state as the Doctrine of the Two Kingdoms. In the same spirit I’ll refer to the two sides of the argument as the Religious Kingdom and the Civil Kingdom.
Americans United for Separation of Church and State (AU) is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit educational organization founded in 1947. They claim to have Christians, Jews, Buddhists, and people with no religious affiliation as members, including Democrats, Republicans and independents. Let’s assume their claim of members from a broad spectrum of beliefs is true.
Reading through AU’s historical record one finds that they were initially mostly correct in their defense of the First Amendment, especially efforts to introduce theology into public schools. Losing these cases earned religious groups the unfortunate, non descriptive pejorative of “Religious Right,” a term that Jerry Falwell himself used to describe his Moral Majority at its dissolution in 1989 in Las Vegas. He didn’t realize, foolishly I might add, that the term Religious Right was already firmly ensconced in the minds of the people as a kook-fringed fanatical organization. It was brought about entirely because of Messrs. Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson and others’ poor judgment and failure to recognize the futile legal position they were advocating. “Religious Right” became a label under which religious groups unfairly suffer today not having a rational response – aimlessly trying to defend or explain it, without success.
What did Jerry Falwell do wrong in the 1970’s and 80’s? What did Pat Robertson do wrong in the 1990’s?
For starters, they wanted to introduce doctrines belonging to the Religious Kingdom into establishments belonging to the Civil Kingdom, a blatant violation of the First Amendment. The courts couldn’t have sided with any of these initiatives and be faithful to the law regardless of the judges' personal beliefs. Pursuing these initiatives without due regard to the legal principles governing reality not only made a mockery of honest Christian initiatives but allowed religion’s enemies to define and demonize it.
Had these gentlemen sat down and realistically analyzed their position, the course to pursue to succeed, the outcomes may have been very different. Many families destroyed and generations lost could have been saved making wasted talents available for liberty and prosperity. It appears, judging from the advantage of distance in time, as if their morally acceptable goals were doomed to fail from the outset because of rather silly and perhaps self-serving strategies.
If the Civil Kingdom’s intruders had not scaled the “wall” and invaded one of the Religious Kingdom’s domains – the education of its children – and had the Religious Kingdom’s gatekeepers not fallen for the bribe of “free” public education, the problem Messrs. Falwell and Robertson tried to rectify would never have occurred in the first place. “Free” education wasn’t free at all. The cost of the ignorance and misery which that invasion brought about is incalculable.
In my next post I will look a bit more at the Americans United for Separation of Church and State.