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“Separation of Church and State”? Why?

Tue, October 20, 2020   |   Author: Ron Gray   |   Volume 27    Issue 42 | Share: Gab | Facebook | Twitter   

I want to point out that the phrase separation of church and state, and its accompanying idea—institutionalized Secularism—has no place in Canadian history; and it shouldn’t be a part of Canada’s future, either.

Let’s start with history.

Our legacy of parliamentary democracy stems from Magna Carta in 1215. Its core idea—that there is a higher law, which even the Crown must obey—is a fundamental foundation to democracy as we know it. And the higher law to which Magna Carta defers is implicitly the Decalogue, found in the Bible.

The God to which the Preamble of Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms refers is also clearly the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob—the God of the Bible.

Since 1544, our monarchs have sworn to defend the Christian faith upon ascending to the throne. That’s why, since the time of Henry VIII, they have all borne the honorary title Fidi Defensor (“Defender of the Faith”).

At the conclusion of Canada’s Confederation conferences, all 33 Fathers of Confederation unanimously named this country “The Dominion of Canada”, referring to Psalm 72, verse 8, which says that “He [the God of the Bible] shall have dominion also from sea to sea…”. The official name of Canada is still “The Dominion of Canada.” Our Parliament buildings abound with inscriptions of quotations from the Bible: Over the East Portal of the Peace Tower: “He shall have dominion also from sea to sea” (Psalm 72:8). Over the South Portal: “Give the King Thy judgments, O God, and Thy righteousness unto the King’s son” (Psalm 72:1). Over the West window: “Where there is no vision, the people perish” (Proverbs 29:18).

A sample of the biblical passages found within the Parliament buildings is Ephesians 6:13—“Take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.”; and Psalm 139:8-10—“If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there! If I lay down in hell, thou art there! If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right shall hold me.”

In the memorial chamber of Parliament, we find references to Jeremiah 23:5, which reads “…execute judgment and justice in the earth”; and Nahum 1:7, “The LORD is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble.

This concept of sovereign rule attributed to God, not man, is at the very core of our celebrations each July 1, originally called Dominion Day to recognize God’s sovereignty over this nation. This was overturned in 1983 by the passing of a private members’ bill to change the name to “Canada Day”—with only twelve Members of Parliament present. With that Secularist amendment, we began to fall afoul of Santayana’s warning that “Those who forget history are doomed to repeat it”.

To fail to respond to evil is morally wrong in itself; we are morally bound by Holy Scripture to respond to evil, as the western world responded to the wickedness of Nazi Germany in WW II. And it’s the role of the State to execute justice according to the perfect law of God. As the Bible says, “His laws are not burdensome.”

This includes defending against the threat of Secularism, the man-centred worldview that so often perverts justice and righteousness. Just as this obligation to justice applies to people individually, it also applies to the spiritual and moral integrity of a nation as a whole. Without it, we have lost protection of the most helpless and innocent among us: the 100,000 pre-born children whose lives are snuffed out each year for the “crime” of being inconvenient—something that they didn’t cause.

The concept of “separation of church (or mosque, or synagogue) and state” is not Canadian, it is American; and even there, it doesn’t mean the exclusion of people of faith from participation in the public square: in Thomas Jefferson’s famous letter (PDF) to the Baptist Church at Danbury, he refers to protection of the church (or mosque, or synagogue) from interference by the State.

What the phrase the “separation of church and state” should mean is the protection of the citizens’ right of freedom of conscience: that the authority of government must never be used to compel belief in any religion or sect. And with that, almost every Canadian would surely agree. And a solid majority would also agree with the freedoms of conscience, belief and expression, and a free press, enshrined in Section 2 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Yet there has to be a reasonable limit to those freedoms, too: for example, no imam should be allowed to pray for the killing of all Jews—as some have been able to do in Canada, without hindrance. That’s incitement to a crime, and that’s wrong. In the first paragraph, I capitalized Secularism—for Secularism is a religion—a world view—and the schools and universities have become its pulpits, and teachers and professors its clergy. That’s wrong, too.

When Ted Koppel, a prominent Jewish public intellectual who at the time was news anchor for ABC Television, spoke at the 1987 graduation ceremonies of Duke University, he said: “What Moses brought down from Mount Sinai were not the Ten Suggestions. They are commandments. Are, not were”.

Koppel was right. Apart from any specific religion, every society requires a transcendent standard of right and wrong; otherwise, right and wrong are only transient opinions. In the Ten Commandments, freedom of conscience is preserved; they can be observed in concert with almost all other religions, although not comfortably with Satanism or radical extremist Islam, which both condone acts of violence against non-believers.

The protection of citizens from any enforced religion—including Secularism—is an important value; but it needs to be more clearly defined than “separation of church and state”—a phrase that has been abused and misused to try to force people of faith out of the public square.

Norman Rockwell, in his famous painting The Four Freedoms, depicted the first freedom as “Freedom of Religion”; and within the painting the inscription reads: “EACH ACCORDING TO THE DICTATES OF HIS OWN CONSCIENCE.”

Maybe that’s a better standard than the vague “separation of church (or mosque, or synagogue) and state”.

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