Upstream. A Mohawk Valley Blogzine.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Black Robes Don't Make Judges Clergymen.

Almost everyone agrees that there is some kind of wall of separation between church and state. (Actually those words are not in the Constitution but were in a letter Thomas Jefferson wrote to a group of Baptists who were fighting for religious freedom in Connecticut where the Congregational Church was the established church). Not everyone agrees as to how thick or high this wall should be. I prefer the metaphor of a chain link fence, through which the state and church can at least pass notes to one another.

Almost everyone thinks that there should be some separation of church and state in order to keep the church from controlling the state. But the wall works both ways. It is meant to keep the state out of the church as well as the church out of the state.

A panel of the Appellate Division of the New York State Supreme Court ruled this week in a 3-2 decision that Catholic Charities must provide contraception coverage to its employees, even though contraception is against the teachings of the Catholic Church. The majority was able to justify this decision by stating that Catholic Charities is not primarily religious in nature.

I am not a Catholic (as I demonstrated by my ignorance in a previous post), I do believe in contraception; however, it seems to me that the Appellate Division has climbed over the wall into the church courtyard on this one. It could be that their black robes have caused some identity confusion and they think they belong there. The less than unanimous decision gives some hope that in the future these judges will be hauled back over the wall, into the belly of the state where they belong.

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