For the publisher:
I wish the guest commentator to “What happened to the separation of Church and State? (October 27, 2021) had explicitly stated its standard or rule of thumb for determining when a law, policy or program “Violates the principle of government neutrality towards religion”. I can only deduce from his editorial that:
n School vouchers to educate a student in a church-run school are constitutionally prohibited, even though the voucher only pays for non-religious education. What about government insurance payments and program grants to church-run hospitals, health centers, and homeless shelters? In what situations are “Taxpayers’ money for sectarian purposes” prohibited and when are they authorized?
n Religious beliefs cannot be the sole reason to support government action, but must be based on rationale or individual rights. “Life begins at conception” and “Is a gift from the Almighty” are unacceptable reasons to oppose abortion and physician-assisted suicide because they are not provable. However, the “wider religious community” who does not share these views are not required to prove that life does not begin at conception or is not a gift from the Almighty. By the way, the argument that some religious groups support certain laws and others do not is irrelevant in a discussion of religious freedoms.
n Religious belief cannot justify government action. But asymmetrically, religious belief cannot be the only reason to protect the free exercise of religion. A church cannot discriminate against LGBT people on the basis of belief alone “guilty” behviour.
The guest commentator states that “Religious freedom is threatened” but offers no objective means of assessing whether government action supports or diminishes the separation of church and state. Why is her opinion “better” or fairer than the people he believes to have a “Narrow set of religiously conservative views?” “
Peter K. Butler