I grew up with Catholics, Lutherans, Baptists and Independent Baptists. They were my neighbors, my classmates and friends. We ate at each other’s homes, played in each other’s yards, participated in the same activities at school and yet none of us felt compelled to impose our religious tenants on the other. Only once did I witness any attempt by one of the religions in town try to impose their tenants on the community at large and sad to say, it was Pastor Dan of the United Methodist Church, my church, who did so.
Like a lot of student governments at that time, our junior class officers wanted to have an after-prom party. An event where everyone could relax and hopefully not rent a hotel room for the purpose of having sex. So, they settled on having a casino night, where everyone could come and “gamble” in our school’s gym. They worked hard to get businesses to donate items that we could redeem our “winnings” for and we were all looking forward to it. That is, all except for Pastor Dan.
Pastor Dan was a lot more conservative than my previous minister. Then again, most ministers would have been more conservatives than Pastor Rick. Anyway. Pastor Dan considered gambling a sin, even fake gambling. He didn’t just let the congregation know that he abhorred gambling in sermons, he went to the school board and the let the board know as well. Problem is, he didn’t go to the school board as private citizen, he went as the pastor of my church.
Pastor Dan crossed the line. As a pastor he went before a public body and tried to impose the church’s will as defined by him. That act by Pastor Dan went against everything I had been taught in school and even in church. Pastor Dan violated the separation between church and state.
Not much has changed in 25 years. Ministers and pastors are still violating the separation of church and state. They have publicly proclaimed that Democratic presidential candidates were going to be denied communion because of the candidates’ support of a woman’s right to have an abortion. They have funded a campaign in California to strip marriage equality from gays and lesbians.
Yet, have you noticed, they pick and choose when they wish to violate the separation of church and state? Have you ever heard them call out a politician for voting to make cuts to the social safety net? Have you ever heard them call out a politician for voting against worker’s rights? Have you ever heard them call out a politician for supporting the death penalty?
For me, religious organizations lost the moral high ground 25 years ago when Pastor Dan violated the separation of church and state regarding the prom after party. For others, it has been longer. No matter the time frame, the Founding Fathers would be appalled.