Sunday, February 15, 2004

A Melange of Thoughts on Church and State

Sitting at a friend's house, discussing the various topics under the sun, we got into what is becoming a usual debate over philosophy. Today the topic got around to the discussion of the marriages underway in San Francisco. We agree that the Mayor is really trying to force the issue. By taking the action, the mayor is drawing out all sides so that everyone involved will have to show their true colors by reacting.

While we have differences in details, we both agree that there should a distinction in terminology and function applied. We don't mean between "Marriage" that heterosexuals can receive from the state and "Civil Union" that homosexuals can receive from the state.

What we think should happen is something that other of a libertarian bent on the web have already written about: The government should only be issuing Civil Unions while churches handle Marriages. The Civil Union, what is embodied in the Marriage License, defines the rights granted between the two (or more) people with regard to the state, while the Marriage defines the rights of the parties with respect to the church.

Truthfully, no new insight with respect to the blogosphere.

A realization Dave, the dear friend referenced in the post about basic economic theory, brought up was that there are already a number of religious sacraments that imply rights that the state does not recognize, instead granting those rights when it sees fit, without religious sanction. The recognition of adulthood is the greatest increase in rights and responsibilities a person receives. According to the state, this is divided between the age of 18 for voting rights, the right to enter into contracts, and sexual liberty, and 21 is the age for full ownership of one's body for the imbibing of alcohol.

Those ages make no allowance for the religious sacraments of Catholic Confirmation, Church of England/Episcopalian Confirmation, and Jewish Bar/Bat Mitzvah. All of these rites of adulthood traditionally took place at the age of 13. No one in this modern age would consider a 13-year-old as ready for legal adulthood. So we already have the precedent of separating legal and religious recognition of rights and that a religious ceremony needs the sanction of the state to be meaningful.

Religion in America is stronger for the separation of Church and State. I'm a cynical libertarian, I don't trust the Government not to corrupt anything that it touches. When the Roman Church was a temporal power, it was corrupted by those who used it for that desired temporal power. There were Borgia Popes for God's Sake. Religion loses meaning when it is tainted by Earthly power.

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