Wall of Separation

Monday, September 24, 2012

The relationship between government and religious freedom is one that has been in the news a lot lately.

In the United States, we hold our religious freedom -- and the right to express our opinion on it -- as one of our basic foundations for a free society.

This is not embraced throughout the world, even in nations that have "liberated" themselves from tyranny. In the United States, our government's framework protects those who do not agree with the majority. So, with very rare exceptions by those who choose to break the law, we agree to disagree and don't impose our own beliefs over others with bullets and riots.

It's a precious freedom to be able to express our faiths without fear of retribution. But like all things, there are a lot of gray areas.

In our country, our debates on religious freedoms are more likely to revolve about how much government should or shouldn't intervene. A government that represents all people and protects the religious rights of all must be careful on how it toes the line when it makes and interprets laws. The issue of a government mandate on insurance and birth control is one example, as is abortion and public-school curriculum dealing with the religious context of science and history. Next week, a nationally known church-state expert will give a lecture at Southeast Missouri State University.

Daniel L. Dreisbach, a professor in the School of Public Affairs at American University in Washington, D.C., has written books on the topic and is an expert on Thomas Jefferson. Dreisbach's "The Wall of Separation" lecture will delve into the nuance and context of Jefferson's "wall of separation" metaphor.

The lecture, according to a university news release, will discuss many of the more misunderstood and misused applications of Jefferson's point about the church-state separation.

The lecture is at 7 p.m. Tuesday at Rose Theatrein the Grauel Building at 408 N. Pacific St. It is free to the public. If you're interested in religious expression and the role government should or shouldn't play in it, this is a good opportunity to become more informed.

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