Religion and Politics: Recipe for Disaster?

As disestablishmentarianism takes over the Western world, is it wise and logical to keep putting the state and religion in the same basket?

From before people were allowed to voice their opinion about the Catholic Church in public, many have questioned whether it is logical to have a religion dictate the laws of a state. The separation of church and state, in fact, has been an on-going debate for centuries – maybe even millennia, although it was probably done in secret.

Now, as divorce is set to mark its second anniversary since its local legislation and same-sex couples are fighting for equality, this age-old argument is coming to a head in Malta. Opinions are torn and the debate is heated.

I have never been the most Catholic of Catholics. In fact, I’m agnostic. But I do appreciate tradition and everything that the Roman Catholic Church has given to and done for the world. I find it very silly to undermine the humanitarian, artistic, technological and scientific advancements the Church has pushed.

Over the centuries, the Church and the people at its helm have given us the clock, the study of astrology, Michelangelo’s greatest works, the combination of eggs and bacon for breakfast, the first and largest educative centres in Europe and a history that has dubbed us ‘the Old Continent’. Undoubtedly, however, when it comes to changing its ideology, the Church has never been a forerunner. And why should it?

As an institution, it cannot change its mind about its teachings. It would undermine its own authority and catapult it into an awkward position in which non-believers would push it to change further and further, until it would not be recognised for what it is.

Having said that, the State is a very different entity. The State’s only duty is to safeguard its citizens and the nation, and no religion or government or public entity should ever change that.

The State, spearheaded by the President (whose job it is to safeguard the constitution), is not there to judge or to impose its beliefs on the public, but to listen to the public and change the laws to fit the times. Of course, there are limits. No state should ever pass a law that undermines the majority of its people; no President should ever sign a bill that would rob his or her people of their dignity or their fundamental rights. But neither should a state ever deny its citizens the possibility and the right to live in a secular state – in which being of a different faith, or sexual orientation, or ethnicity is not only acceptable but also on par with the majority.

Minorities are always at a disadvantage. The African-American community in America was until the 80s, women were until the late 30s, those with a disability were for centuries and to an extent still are. And that is the State’s fault for not understanding its role in the past.

Of course, some of the examples mentioned above had nothing to do with the church, but rather with the mentality of the people of the time. In 2014, with world wars, genocides, an array of hate crimes, the Internet, and compulsory education under our belt, we should know when something is truly wrong (such as murder, fraud, sexual abuse) and when something is wrongly thought of (such as civil unions) – and that’s the State’s job.

Do you agree with James? Should the Church and the State be two completely separate entities? Let us know in the comments’ section below.

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