A wise separation

Published: Wednesday, January 25, 2006 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 25, 2006 at 12:44 a.m.
The week of Jan. 22 to 28 is "Separation of Church and State Week" in Gainesville, as proclaimed by Mayor Hanrahan. While it is a reminder that the private sphere of religion and the public sphere of government work best when separated, it is a chance for people of diverse beliefs to join together to celebrate an invaluable constitutional principle.
It is a time to remember that the United States of America is the most religiously diverse country on Earth and an example to all nations of how all those diverse beliefs weave together a uniquely strong tapestry.
The separation of church and state is not an attack on religious beliefs. It is not an attempt to remove religion from the public square. To the contrary, it guarantees that all Americans have an equal right to follow their conscience and believe (or not) as they see fit. Far from a hostile force toward religion, it is in fact its protector as it shields religion from the intrusive and corrosive influence of government.
It is not a one-way wall, however. As it shields religion from government, so too does it shield government from religion. History is replete with sad tales of religion's usurpation of government and the misery inflicted upon those who did not share the majority's spiritual inclinations. America is different; America is better!
Whether you're Christian or atheist, Jewish or Wiccan, Muslim or Zoroastrian (or any other religion), remember James Madison's words, "The purpose of separation of church and state is to keep forever from these shores the ceaseless strife that has soaked the soil of Europe in blood for centuries."
That is something we should all support and defend.
Mark V. Mayfield, Gainesville

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