Neither Catholic Nor Sharia Law

Neither Catholic Bishops nor any other religious leaders should have a right to dictate public policy for those outside their faith tradition.

Thank you, Bishop DiMarzio, for inadvertently reminding the apathetic public why separating religion from government is so critically important. In trying to become more politically relevant, I hope the latest pronouncement of the Catholic Church will make that church even less relevant. As far as I can tell, the Catholic Church is on the wrong side of all issues pertaining to sex.

Let’s see if I have this right. The Church wants heterosexual couples to remain celibate until marriage and then to have as many children as nature (excuse me, “God”) provides, whether they want or can afford them. The exception is for priests and nuns who must remain celibate their entire lives because …. (Fill in the blank, since the reasons have changed over centuries.) It’s bad for straight couples to cohabitate, but good if they commit to a monogamous marriage; it’s bad for gay couples to cohabitate, and even worse if they commit to a monogamous marriage. Don’t anyone even think of the sin of masturbation, which is safe sex for pleasure only. And I won’t get into why the church concluded that the sexual permissiveness of the 1960s led to pedophilia by church officials.

I want to keep my country secular and certainly wouldn’t want to live under any form of religious law. Surprisingly, some irrational Christians fear that unless we have actual laws opposing Sharia law we will be forced to live under it. This is far less likely than that we will be forced to live under some form of Christian law.

Recently, Republican candidates for president were asked about Sharia law. Here are some of their answers, where I take the liberty to substitute “Christian” for “Sharia.”

Herman Cain: There is this creeping attempt to gradually ease [Christian] law into our government. It does not belong in our government.”

Newt Gingrich: “We should have a federal law that says [Christian] law cannot be recognized by any court in the United States.”

Sarah Palin: “[Christian] law, if that were allowed to govern in our country, it will be the downfall of America.”

Tim Pawlenty: “The United States should be governed by the U.S. Constitution, not religious laws.”

Rick Santorum: “[Christian] law is incompatible with American jurisprudence and our Constitution.”

As long as we keep high the wall of separation between religion and government, neither Catholic Bishops nor any other religious leaders will have a right to dictate public policy for those outside their faith tradition.


Herb Silverman Herb Silverman is founder and President Emeritus of the Secular Coalition for America, author of “Candidate Without a Prayer: An Autobiography of a Jewish Atheist in the Bible Belt,” and Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Mathematics at the College of Charleston.

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