Church and State: No; Government and Religion: Yes
I bet there is not a single person in the United States who advocates for a Church established by the State. We have never had a federal established Church though we had a few state-level established churches in the early days of the Republic. Thanks be to God we no longer have them. Thus, on the issue of separation of Church and State we have total national agreement and it is a resounding: No, Never.
However, on the integration of government and religion the answer has to be a resounding ‘yes’.
Because we are a democratic Republic we have government by the people, and because all people live out their lives somewhere along the spectrum of religious beliefs at the individual, family and community levels it is impossible to discuss how we govern ourselves and shape our ‘polis’ without discussing and accommodating ourselves to each other’s type, level and practice of religious beliefs. The radical opponents of religious belief and practice are afraid of such free discussion because, though they all claim to believe in science, they are afraid of a scientific debate on the benefits of religious practice to the formation of a good citizenry. At bottom they are afraid to debate and thus do all in their power to make sure the science does not get into the discussion. They close it by insisting on the shibboleth of “Separation of Church and State”, a shibboleth because there are no proponents for that cause.
Because religious practice is so beneficial to society it ought to be much more a part of our political discussions. For instance in the Congressional discussion that led to the big, intrusive and expensive initiative called “No Child Left Behind”, on which billions were spent, there was no discussion of the impact of religious attendance on education performance, even though it may be the single biggest variable to effect educational outcomes, and is accessible to all who want it, and is (for the state) an option that costs them nothing.
As readers of this column know, all federal surveys that measure the frequency of religious practice constantly point out that those who worship weekly are, on average, the best citizens in the nation on every measure of concern in public policy, on every measure that makes for a good ‘polis’. The same surveys also point out that those who worship little to none, on average, are the worst citizens in the United States on all the measures of greatest concern to good government. This is what science says. Thus, religious practice ought to be a key component of public policy discussions. Not only do we have too little discussion of the benefits of religious practice in political debate, we have virtually none.
It is time to begin to change this, and not leave the field to the opponents of religious practice.
Many who give up on faith in God say instead they believe in science. But they are unfaithful to their faith. Science points out that the practice of religion is, on average, massively beneficial for those who practice it. The academy, by and large, is the most anti-scientific community on this issue. How massively ironic this is. And how indicative of the level of the crisis in education that all are beginning to realize with the academy’s handling of freedom on university campuses.
It is time for citizens to simultaneously affirm the separation of Church and State with a resounding no, while affirming an integration of government and religion with a resounding yes. For the good of the nation, for the future of our polis, it is time to go on offense. And George Washington in both his Inaugural and his Farewell speeches makes the same point.