Thursday, October 4, 2007

From Which Side of the State – Church Separation Wall

The Constitution has clearly marked the separation of state and church in the Establishment Clause found in the First Amendment. This intends to prohibit the federal government from declaring and financially supporting a national religion – an age-old practice done upon founding of a nation. While it is only fair that there is no “one sect” that receives larger favors and amounts of benefits, there is still a line between directly supporting a certain religious mission and supporting a general advocacy driven by some religious organizations.
When a religion is involved in a government sponsored campaign, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the government funds go directly to such religion. The goals and objectives of a government operation must be unambiguously declared so as not to stir confusion.
For instance, there have been important developments involving Law and Religion during the summer: a Supreme Court decision strengthening precedence and a settlement of more than just money from reported clergy abuse . There are conflicting viewpoints regarding the issues but the truth of the matter is, challenging government actions benefiting religion and involving taxpayer funds would be a setback to an opportunity for public education on crucial, hidden matters and a movement that has transcended from its historically religious roots to a more general subject.
The taxpayer undoubtedly has the legal standing to question executive spending where the funds were taken from general executive funds but the parameters around this Establishment Clause permits were definitely tightened. In Los Angeles, the Archdiocese was required to release documents to the public involving its knowledge of the predatory habits of its employees and clergy. This will reap precious public knowledge about truth in society and church. Through this Archdiocese settlement, the Child Victims Act was passed by the legislature to cover for the vast majority of claims barred by the statutes of limitation.
In California, victims abused within the Catholic system were given a window to file lawsuits by the suspension of the statute of limitation along with those who filed suits against Boy Scouts, the Explorers, the Seventh Day Adventists and others. This has very little to do with religion. A child victim may now put forth his / her legal rights through a Los Angeles Attorney under the abolished child sex abuse statute of limitation. In Delaware, the Child Victims Act can be invoked.
True, the Establishment Clause is placed on the Constitution’s First Amendment for a reason and this is not to be infringed. However, government actions – very beneficial and common-to-public ones that have but little to do with religion should not be thwarted by the wall of separation between church and state.