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The Fabric of Church and State

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The reading material for Week 2 of Constitution 101 includes the Virginia Declaration of Rights:

a document drafted in 1776 to proclaim the inherent rights of men, including the right to rebel against "inadequate" government. It influenced a number of later documents, including the United States Declaration of Independence (1776), the United States Bill of Rights (1789)

I have read this document before, but the course is delivering on its promise of giving familiar material its proper philosohical underpinnings.

Like the Bill of Rights, the less specific but more essential points are listed at the end. Here are the last two rights declared by Virginia:

XV That no free government, or the blessings of liberty, can be preserved to any people but by a firm adherence to justice, moderation, temperance, frugality, and virtue and by frequent recurrence to fundamental principles.

XVI That religion, or the duty which we owe to our Creator and the manner of discharging it, can be directed by reason and conviction, not by force or violence; and therefore, all men are equally entitled to the free exercise of religion, according to the dictates of conscience; and that it is the mutual duty of all to practice Christian forbearance, love, and charity towards each other.

Virtue and morality are prerequisites for liberty. Ethical and virtuous behavior cannot be the product of coercion. The Christian moral framework is to be the guide.

Virginia did not dictate Christian dogma. Free exercise means that each soul may follow his own path, but a society supporting liberty is best woven upon whatever threads are common to all Christians.

Mr Santorum’s recent successes have animated discussions about the relationship between church and state. They can never be separate. Each dwells in every person. If the people are the ultimate authority delegating power to government, that government will implicitly embody religious principles.

The lefties fear this. I overhear speculations that President Santorum would criminalize contraceptive pills. The Progressive factions would consider this theocratic tyranny.

Aside from the fact that Santorum rejects the claim, and his record supports him, there is a solution. It is one which the left fears more than losing easy access to the pill.

If the Federal Government abides by the Constitution, it has no power to control contraception. The Pope himself as U.S. President could exert no authority over “family planning”. Lefties cannot conceive of scaling back government power. They would rather risk theocracy (in their eyes) than relinquish the opportunity to dictate the smallest details of life.

The Founders preferred the church to be the primary hand over the smallest details of life. They were Christian men. Although a small handful of outspoken Deists get all the attention (Jefferson being one), 52 of 55 delegates to the Constitutional Convention were Christian of some stripe. At least one was an ordained minister. In Philadephia as in Virginia, God was present.

The United States was built to serve a Christian society. As the people become less Christian, the American republic loses its foundation.