There is constantly a huge discussion about the Separation of Church and State here in the US. This discussion resolves around many issues ranging from major items like the removal of state sanctioned prayer by students in public schools, Roe v. Wade and the teaching of evolution in public schools to stupid issues like removal of the Ten Commandments in public buildings, removal of the cross on Mount Soledad and restricting Christmas decorations on public property.
The more devout among us seem to regard the idea of Separation of Church and State as an affront to our Creator. They consider a godless government as a sure-fire path to destruction. While that stance may have some validity, an article on the front page of yesterday’s Wall Street Journal really struck a chord – reminding me why the Freedom of Religion is a good thing.
Russian President Vladmir Putin, by all accounts, is a downright scary man. Some would consider him borderline evil. He has brought stability to a Russia that has been in chaos since the end of the cold war – but at what price. Putin has little regard for civil liberties, been accused of orchestrating assasinations on foriegn soil and is oddly remeniscent of his bolshevik predecessors.
One thing Putin knows, that escaped the Communists, was the power of the Church. Putin has embraced the Russian Orthodox Church with open arms, even receiving a public blessing for his heir-appearant First Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev. Using one’s personal religious beliefs to bolster public support (a tactic President Bush has been accused of using), while suspect, is fairly common and accepted. Using the head of a country’s largest religous institution, in this case Patriarch Alexy II f the Russian Orthodox Church, to receive an endorsement from God himself is a step beyond.
Separation of Church and State may not be a perfect policy when it comes to the public morality, but it is much preferred to the alternative. Any time the heads of the Church and the heads of Government begin to collude and abuse their power over the public we are reminded of how great the American Constitution is. We may constantly fight over these issues… but at least we are free to fight.