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An Ecumenical Defense of the Separation of Church and State

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I'm very much in concert with the Catholic Church's eager concern over the separation of Church and State. This was amply demonstrated Thursday at the House of Representatives hearing regarding the Obama administration's rule that requires insurers to pay for birth control for women when the religious organizations that employ them won't. I'm sure that, like their Republican Party counterparts, few of the men who testified before the committee would object to the notion that Church and State must be firmly separated from each other.

The First Amendment protects religions from interference by the government. The ministers who testified the other day, being reasonable men, no doubt realize that the "wall of separation," described in 1802 by Thomas Jefferson himself, applies to religious interference with government as well. When a religious bureaucracy like the Catholic Church attempts to interfere in the workings of a government that is elected to represent the interests of all the people, I'm also certain that the Republican Party stands as one and objects to such willful chicanery. Especially when it is coming from the entrenched bureaucracy of a minority splinter group, a bureaucracy that has never been elected democratically by the group's members.

I had thought when this hearing began that these ministers were a group of political hacks wearing clerical collars. But I realize now, after their spirited defense of the wall of separation, that our government can rest easy and go about the peoples' business. It no longer need worry about outside interference from organizations that do not understand that the separation of Church and State is a two-way street.

In fact, it was heartening to see so many clerics who belong to churches that have so often been at war with each other -- literally -- come together to so vigorously uphold the sacred tenets of The First Amendment.

Incidentally, the women on the testifying panel were unavailable for comment.

Terence Clarke's most recent novel is 'A Kiss For Señor Guevara.' His story collection, 'Little Bridget and The Flames of Hell,' will be published next month.

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