TEXAS FAITH 83: Is separation of church and state an idea to keep religious people out of the public arena?

Dallas Morning News,

Dallas Morning News,

Each week we will post a question to a panel of about two dozen clergy, laity and theologians, all of whom are based in Texas or are from Texas. They will chime in with their responses to the question of the week. And you, readers, will be able to respond to their answers through the comment box.

“In a conference call with Christian conservatives, Gov. Rick Perry dismissed the separation of church and state as an idea advanced to drive “people of faith from the public arena.” The governor went on to say Satan is using it to keep Christians from actively engaging in public policy. “The idea that we should be sent to the sidelines I would suggest to you is very driven by those who are not truthful, Satan runs across the world with his doubt and with his untruths and what have you, and one of the untruths out there is driven – is that people of faith should not be involved in the public arena.”

The governor’s take on theology and American history got mixed reviews – at best – from our Texas Faith panel of pastors, teachers, theologians, lay leaders and religious experts. The recent conference call was an effort to motivate conservative Christians to vote their values in November. Perry used language familiar to social conservatives – “spiritual warfare” and “Christian soldiers” and a growing tide of “secularism and atheism” – in warning of those making “efforts to remove any trace of religion from American life.”

The premise of the governor’s comments is that separation of church and state is sometimes invoked simply to discourage people (read it: people whose ideas you don’t like) from getting involved in politics and public policy. Is that true? And, perhaps more to the point, how do we make sure that doesn’t happen? In our political debate this election season, what’s the proper balance between warning against theocracy and encouraging faith in the public square? The Texas Faith panel had some ideas.”

NITYANANDA CHANDRA DAS, minister of ISKCON (International Society for Krishna Consciousness), Dallas 

I have a musical group and in the past we have been denied venues on the grounds of secularism.  You can sing about anything under the sun.  But you cannot sing about the one who is above the sun.

What is the balance? Religion without philosophy is simply sentiment and sometimes fanaticism, and philosophy and science without religion is simple mental speculation.  Therefore discussions involving religion should be philosophical rather than sensational.

To see all responses of the TEXAS Faith panel click here.