Generally, when we talk about the issue of church and state, what we’re talking about is religion in the public square. Religious monuments on public land, for instance, or prayer on school grounds.
But the Obama administration’s decision, under the auspices of Obamacare, to force religious organizations to pay for health care treatments/procedures they object to exposes a different facet of that argument. While our government should not be in the habit of endorsing any particular religion over another, neither should our government be able to trample the religious beliefs of our nation’s citizens. Which means that Catholics, running schools and hospitals and universities as an expression of their faith, shouldn’t have to do so while embracing (even tacitly) things they have a moral objection to like abortion or contraception.
That, my friends, is separation of church and state. It cuts both ways. But don’t tell Al Sharpton that. “If we are going to have a separation of church and state, we’re going to have a separation of church and state,” he said on MSNBC’s Morning Joe. “Whether I would personally agree with the decision or not, the question is do I have a right to make that law?”
Clearly, the government does not have the authority to make laws limiting religious expression. That’s in the 1st amendment. The government can’t force Jehova’s Witnesses to take blood transfusions. They can’t force Christian Scientists to get standard medical treatment instead of relying on faith healing. Jews and Muslims can’t be forced to eat bacon, and Catholics can’t be forced to pay for abortion or contraception services.
This is how freedom works. The notion of religious freedom, and separation of church and state, prohibits the government from shoving any one particular flavor of religion down our throats. It prohibits the government from regulating a certain religious belief out of existence.