8th January 2017
Separation of the state and church – what do we mean by it?
In DOF I’ve shown how it was Romans who worked out the need for the state to be separate from the church. Till Constantine went crazy and made Christianity the state religion, all religions were largely tolerated in Rome. I say “largely”, since different Roman rulers took slightly different approaches. This was not a well established principle.
It was John Locke, through “A letter Concerning Toleration” who first advocated a secular state and the separation of religious and governmental institutions.
He pointed to the “Necess(ity) above all to distinguish between the business of civil government and that of religion”
He noted that: “the whole power of civil government is concerned only with men’s civil goods”
and “Civil government is confined to the care of things in this world, and has nothing to do with the world to come”.
Therefore, according to him: “Civil power ought not to prescribe articles of faith…by Civil law”.
Now, it is clear that not all these views have percolated into the Western world.
However, Jefferson clearly referred to the separation of the state and church while recommending the First Amendment to the US Constitution which prohibits the making of any religious laws. “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof”.
Now, this did not carry through in intent and even in the USA there remains a bit of a mix up between the state and religion. However, it is far less than the mix up found in India. India has actual religious laws, e.g. Hindu Act, etc. – a blatant intervention of the state in matters of religion. These types of laws would be deemed unconstitutional in the USA.
I believe the Supreme Court has made a somewhat belated attempt to recognise this principle (see this blog post). I think it needs to do a lot more.
I recorded this on 11 January 2017 during my lunch walk.
Here is a preliminary note by Sarita Rani