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Separation Between Church And State

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Religion
Wordcount: 1797 words Published: 4th May 2017

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The concept of separation between the church and state refers to the strained relationship distance between organized religion and the nation state. The relationship between the Church and feudal state in the medieval era went through a series of developments, round about the end of Roman Empire down to the birth of Reformation. The Western world is shaped due to the struggle for power between the kings and Popes. With the idea of divine right monarchs ruled for centuries. Monarch began to use this to support the notion that king to rule not only his kingdom but also the churches within the kingdom’s boundaries such notion can be known as caesaropapism. On the other hand, the catholic doctrine stating the Pope being the Vicar of Christ in earth is to have absolute power over the Church and also secondary over the state. Furthermore, “the relationship between Church and State can be related as the institutional form of the relation between religion and politics”(Answers). Due to this complication, Church and State has been a remarkable concern of the Western and Christian. This is not only because Western secularization has desired a limit of powers that is to belong to the religious authorities, though its origins sprung form an earlier period, during the advancement of separate Church and State institutions in Christendom which were natural rivals to a level which was incomprehensible in the sphere of other well-known religions. Thus the conflict between Emperor and Pope was an important feature to Europe in the middle Ages of politics also during the twelfth, thirteenth, and fourteenth century the rivalry between the Guelphs and the Ghibellines was one of the greatest contest in Italian politics. Western society therefore has a great past of conflict between Church and State, which has helped advance the movement in anticlerical and secular spheres. Countless modern states and parties embrace the separation of Church and State, but a suspicion has often been attached to predominantly Protestant countries Catholic politicians, “such as John F. Kennedy, that they are, whatever they may say, religiously committed to extending the influence of their Church over the State.”(Cambridge University)

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In ancient civilizations the segregation of political and religious orders was not given meaning. With the occurrence of Christianity, the concept of two separate orders emerged, on the bases of Jesus’s command to “Render unto Caesar what belongs to Caesar’s, and to God what belongs to God” (Mark 12:17). The intense union of religion and politics, nevertheless, proceeded even after the victory of Christianity as emperors such as Constantine who exercised authority amongst both church and state. During the premature Middle Ages secular rulers claimed to rule by Gods grace, and later in the Middle Ages popes and emperors fought for global supremacy. During the Investiture Controversy the church clearly established distinct and separate secular and religious orders, which lead to the so-called papal monarchy foundation. The Reformation greatly weakened papal authority, and the pendulum swung toward the state, in addition many monarchs demanding to rule both the church and state by divine right. Enlightenment thinkers, as evinced in the U.S and post-revolutionary France, influenced the concept of secular government. In Western Europe today all states protect and maintain freedom of worship along with the distinction between religious and civil authorities.

However, during the Middle ages the Pope claimed the right to overthrow the Catholic Kings of Western Europe and often exercise these rights, because the kings where taking control over the churches in their border which turned out successfully sometimes and sometimes not, such cases were with Henry VIII of England and Henry III of Navarre. In the West, the matter of separation of church and state during the medieval period focused on monarchs who ruled in the secular sphere but violated the church’s rule of the spiritual sphere. For example, in 1530s Henry VIII, angered by the Catholic Church’s refusal to annual his marriage with his wife Catherine of Aragon, resolved to break with the Church thereby setting himself as the ruler of the new church of England; the Anglican Church, thereby ending the separation that had existed between Church and State in England.

Of the many remarkable structural and ideological changes that have taken place in the European history, the French revolution renders an essential social shift in the relations between the people and the church as prosperous partner with the state. By discussing how the French Revolution produced a dramatic and structural restrain in the relation of the Church to the state, I do not intend to propose that the revolution ended in a complete separation of the church and state. It does, nevertheless, the contribution to the diminishing role of the Church in state and in public affairs are indicated by important factors such as the role of the nation-state has diminished. In early modern Europe, the church’s power over people was reduced by the birth of the sovereign state.

In the role of religion in regards to a state, there’s no doubt in mind that civil liberties for all citizens and the full protection of human rights can be endangered by religion. For instance, the rights of non-believers and supporters of other religions the right of homosexuals along with the rights of women, at the most basic level, this is mostly an issue of tolerance, we should not impose their moral values, beliefs, and practices on others if such people don’t inflict harm, even if we think people act immorally from their religious point of view and neither should we draw a distinction among people when they think speak or act in ways that are conflicting with our own beliefs. But the problem goes beyond the level of relations between citizens. The question about the proper role and place of religion in a state isn’t restricted to the dilemma of how we act toward each other in our daily lives. In a democratic state, the people interpret their beliefs in government policy and legislation. Hence, I wonder to what extend people can use their religious beliefs as basis or reason for legislation. Religion appears in liberal theory first and foremost as an occasion for neutrality and tolerance. The initiation is supplemented by both the categorization of religion as essentially as a private issue and the belief that religion is in some sense “survival” from an earlier era – not a field of vital growth within modernity. “We should see religious internationalism both under the problematic structure of colonial and postcolonial missionary work and in the engagements shaped by Vatican II, peace movement and liberation theology.”(Burleigh) To summarize all, the proper role of religion in a state is based on individuals and their distinctive religious beliefs and faith.

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It has become a stock phrase that the spread of modernity throughout the industrial west and much of the world beyond has developed a system of secular nation-states that actively promote science but refrain the advancement of religion. This idea is much in line with contemporary controversy over globalization, postmodernism, human rights and church-state relations. Yet the growing recognition that science is a cultural and social product would seem to weaken the asymmetry between religion and science upon which this modern notion of the state rests . Observers of politics in the early modern era took it for granted that a state conscious of its own interest would or at least out to guide the religious behavior of its subject. Until recently, similar hypothesis about the importance of state policy in religious activities have informed historical writing about Europe’s protestant and catholic reformation. But scholars of the last four decades or so has made it vivid that one cannot imagine the religious life of the people as simply decided for by their rulers. The modern state advanced toward a concept of secularism, whereby a state or country purports to be officially neutral in matter of religion, supporting neither religion nor irreligion. Most modern states claim to treat all its citizens equally regardless of religion, and claims to avoid preferential treatment for a citizen from a particular religion or non-religion over other religions or non-religion. Secular states become secular either upon establishment of the state or upon secularization of state, for example France’s religious monopoly was politically challenged by secular institutions, which lead to the comprehensive victory of secularism. Historically, the process of secularizing a state typically involves granting religious freedom, disestablishing state religions, stopping pubic funds to be used for religion, freeing the legal system from religious control, freeing up the education system, tolerating citizens who change religion or abstain form religion, and allowing political leadership to come to power regardless of religious beliefs. Many states of nowadays are secular in practice may have legal mark of an earlier established religion. Secularism also has various forms that may coincide with some magnitude of official religiosity. Thus, in the Commonwealth Realms, the head of state is required to take a Coronation Oath swearing to sustain the Protestant faith. The United Kingdom also retains positions in its upper house for 26 senior clergymen of the prominent Church of England known as the Lords Spiritual. While Scotland is part of the United Kingdom the Scottish Parliament proclaimed Scotland a secular state but conserves the religious monarch. The reverse sequence can also occurs, a state can go from being secular to a religious state as in the case of Iran where the secularized state of the Pahlavi dynasts was replaced by the Islamic Republic. Over the last few decades, there has been a trend towards secularism.

In the modern period, the separation of the church and state and the exercise of secularization have brought about a movement away form folk pattern of ordered religion. Migration of ethnic groups as an end result of colonial expansion, the rise of modern capitalism and individualism have also brought about a much greater recognition of the multi-cultural nature of society and a significance upon personal choice with respect to the issue of religious affiliation. One consequence of thee western world has been the tendency to convince religion as importantly a private rather than a pubic matter.


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