Tuesday, July 1, 2014

The Church of the State

In 1534, King Henry VIII--angry that he was not being allowed by the Catholic Church to exercise his "basic human right" to marry the person that he wanted (Anne Boleyn)--issued a royal decree that the Church of England was no longer associated with the Vatican.  He appointed himself the head of the Church--made up new rules for the Church--and persecuted those who practiced religions other than the one that he had just established. 

Less than 100-years later, a small group of English Catholics--unwilling to accept the requirements of the State Church left first for Holland and later for the new colony of America on a small ship called The Mayflower to practice their religion the way they saw fit.  Those people today are known as "The Pilgrims".  And it was their descendents--and the descendents of thousands of others who followed them to the "New World" to enjoy the same religious freedoms--that would would eventually take up arms against England. And those Founding Fathers established a government guided by a constitution that lists in its very first amendment:   

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof"

On Monday, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled by one vote that America is still more like the vision of the Pilgrims and the Founding Fathers--and less like the vision of King Henry VIII.  But those who are "celebrating" the so-called "Hobby Lobby Decision" may want to temper their joy--because there will not always be a 5-4 majority on the High Court seeing the First Amendment the same way.  Just the fact that this was not a 9-0 decision should cause chills to run down the backs of all Constitutionalists. 

We are not that far away from a "Church of America".  It will still have all of its different names--and perhaps different views on the meanings of sacred texts.  But it will be a religion that will have State-sanctioned beliefs on marriage, the role of women, abortion and birth control, euthanasia and charitable giving.  And as someone of no faith at all--that scares me more than the churches that exist today.

1 comment: