Posted by Warwick Alcock
By the mid-1600s, hundreds of thousands of Christians had slaughtered each other in religious wars all across Europe. The root cause? Kings wanted a loyal national Church that would permit no dissent. Disgusted, Puritans left Europe for America to establish a “city upon a hill” to model obedience to God’s laws.
One Puritan minister, Roger Williams, founded a Rhode Island settlement to “shelter…persons distressed for conscience” believing state-sponsored forced worship “stincks in God’s nostrils.” To him, the church was like a garden of Eden. “[W]hen they…opened a gap in the…wall of Separation between the Garden of the Church and the Wildernes of the world, God hathe…removed the Candlestick…and made his Garden a Wildernesse.” Separation was essential for “Soul Libertie.” It was a “command of God that, since the coming of…the Lord Jesus, a permission of the most Paganish, Jewish, Turkish, or Antichristian consciences and worships, bee granted to all men in all Nations.…” Thus was formulated a pillar of state theory that reverberates today.
Christians in the workplace now face new challenges. As Kent O’Grady, Board Chair of Village Schools of the Bible, has said, “recent conflicts regarding the separation of church and state did not come out of the U.S. Constitution, but rather out of interpretations by the U.S. Supreme Court. In its zeal to protect the rights of individuals to freely exercise their choice of faith, the Supreme Court has sought to remove any religion from the public space. The ultimate effect of these decisions is to have the government support the ‘religion of no religion’ or what we know as atheism — itself an organized religion.” The recent passing of conservative supreme court justice Atonin Scalia exacerbates the trend. Without Scalia’s influence, the Hobby Lobby decision might have turned out rather differently.
So how free are we to express our faith at school, government, or secular workplace? Church members are meant to be salt and light at work: what can we say and do (or not say and do) as we reach out to others with the gospel?
Kent O’Grady, Minnesota State Patrol (retired), guides us through church state separation and its workplace implications at the next Village Schools Faith at Work seminar, on 23 March at 7 pm.
Seating is limited. Register online at villageschoolsofthebible.org, or call Trish at (952) 540-9460.