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Massachusetts Liberal

Observations on politics, the media and life in Massachusetts and beyond from the left side of the road.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Separation between church and state

The decision by Boston's Catholic Charities to stop arranging adoptions because Massachusetts law prohibits discrimination against gays is correct, if regrettable. No one is above the law and if you can't play by the rules, leave the table.

The talk by Republican presidential candidate and (former) Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney to change the law is predictable -- and just as regrettable. It reflects the continuing improper insertion of religious dogma into secular life -- one faith's dogma being placed ahead of all others.

Let's start with the obvious: an organization that condoned pedophilia and protected pedophiles for years has no moral standing to talk about violence against children. That fair-minded Catholics are willing to stand up against the hypocrisy should be celebrated.

All it takes is a quick look around the world to pick up a theme: Islamic fundamentalists wish to impose their version of 7th Century life; Jewish fundamentalists claim a biblical right to a piece of ground tote around weapons -- offensive and defensive -- against Muslim fundamentalists who strap weapons to their bodies and kill innocents to defend their claim to the same piece of ground. An elected leader of a religious state spouts anti-Semitic remarks at the same time he rushes to create a nuke. Muslims and Hindus feint nuclear war along a perpetually tense piece of land.

The Founding Fathers of the United States had the right idea when they laid out the Constitution: government should be neutral on the question of religion, allowing people to practice their faith -- or lack of it -- as they see fit.

Religious zealots have fought an extended battle in the United States to overturn that principle. They started with local school boards and today they have the perfect empty vessel: a president who was the epitome of a spoiled, drunken child of privilege until he had an epiphany.

More power to George Bush for straightening out his life. But his power (and that of Benedict XVI, Osama bin Laden, Ehud Olmert, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Adolph Hitler et al) to impose their vision on those who do not agree does not exist. THAT is what freedom is about and that is a freedom worth fighting for.

The Massachusetts Legislature is ridiculed -- often for good reason -- as being an ineffective bunch of fools. But they have an important role to play in this latest round of god wars. They must defend the separation of church and state.

It is, as I said, regrettable that the Catholic Church refuses to adopt the attitude of their Protestant and Jewish brethren and place social services over dogma. But they are free, under the law of the land, to practice their faith within their walls.

But so are the rest of the citizens of Massachusetts, United States and the world. We may or may not all be God's children. But we most assuredly are not all Catholics. Or Muslims. Or Protestants. Or Jews. Or agnostic. And the Constitution protects that diversity of opinion.


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