Sunday, August 4, 2013

Sunday Sermon: Government Co-opting Religion

One of the reasons that I am such an advocate of limited government is that as government grows it inevitably crowds out activities that were once the province of religion and disenfranchises the role of religion in public life.  We have seen this with the gay marriage debate.  From a logical perspective, if gay intimate relations are not subject to government regulation any more than heterosexual relations, on what basis can gays be denied equal access to due process?  However, government has not always been the arbiter of marriage, that was the role of the church, synagogue or mosque in times past.  In England, I predict that the Anglican Church will soon be legally forced to perform gay marriages.  I would have preferred that marriage remain the sole province of religion, then the free market, not law would have determined what we deem to be marriage.  

More significantly, in terms of impact, the U. S. federal government has been quietly co-opting religious charities by outsourcing the delivery of social services to them.  George Bush gets much of the blame for this. Where is the liberal outrage over lack of separation between church and state in this area?  James Piereson reports in the WSJ that Catholic Charities in the U.S. gets over half of its funding from the feds.  This entanglement leads to a number of negative outcomes for the country and the church.
  • Whenever the church is co-opted by government it gradually declines and loses its effectiveness.  This is because it becomes identified with the establishment, especially a failing statist establishment.  This is one reason why the European church is dying.
  • The church organizations becomes a lobbying organization for big government, as do all of the other co-opted private organizations.  In the past, the church has served as an effective check on government.  This removes another roadblock against the Road to Serfdom that Obama wants us to travel.  (For those unfamiliar, Hayek shows how the socialist impulse leads to totalitarianism and we end up no better than the serfs of feudal society, both in liberty and wealth.)
  • Men feel unneeded by the church and leave, seriously weakening the institution.  Men generally need to have real work to do in order to feel useful.  The modern church gives them little to do, but the good works of charities has heretofore been such a venue.  Now that the work is done by staff paid from federal funds, there is nothing left for men who want to volunteer. Only so many can go to Haiti or Mexico, where there is real need.  A church that loses its men declines, as there is ample research to prove
  • It undermines the impulse to charitable giving and indeed it undermines the rationale for granting such organizations tax deductible status.  If they are just another government contractor why should we give and why should their donations be tax exempt?  Piereson points this out as well.
Is it too much to ask for some separation of church and state? 


  1. >>Where is the liberal outrage over lack of separation between church and state in this area?
    It's not too surprising considering the leftward drift of churches, especially Catholics. In the wake of the child molestation scandals, the L.A. diocese suddenly became very pro-illegal-immigration. Rumor has it that the church is clawing for every penny and parishioner it can get, so it's throwing the immigration bone to the Latinos. Jesus never struck me as a guy who would get into this debate.

    Have you also noticed this strain in Republican lawmakers? Both Rick Perry and Paul Ryan have expressed the idea that giving away citizenship is the "right" thing to do. If this is how they feel, Perry and Ryan should quit politics, go work for charitable organizations, and raise cash from donors for educating Mexican kids. Amazing that Ryan, whose mind is otherwise rigorous on Constitutional matters, can suddenly feel that legislation is the proper way to practice charity.

    I have a very religious acquaintance who is constantly being guilt-tripped by her minister on the homeless, the uninsured, etc. The lesson is always that someone else is too rich and that wealth isn't being distributed properly. This acquaintance always leaves a church service with an affirmation of her Democrat voting habits.

    I don't know when Christian institutions got so soft. When I was a kid in Catholic school, the doctrine was a lot more rigorous. It was respectful of work, study, and a life of accomplishment.

    1. Author,
      Thanks for your comments and insight. I am not Catholic, so I lack your first hand experience. With regards to citizenship, that is a complex matter for another day. I will just say that we need some kind of normalization short of citizenship, with secure borders as the necessary down payment.

  2. Author, as an outsider, I think the leftward tilt of the Catholic Church started much before this current immigration debate and was initiated by the Church's embrace of the concept of "social justice" decades ago (Vatican II?). When you start equating the sanctity of life with feeding the poor, the slide to the left has commenced.

    This is my observation and in no way intended as a slam on my many Catholic friends. I would love to hear what KT has to say, a person perhaps best suited to chime in on this matter.