Thursday, January 5, 2012

QUOTATION: Church and State in America

American society was built for the most part by groups that had fled from the system of state churches that reigned in Europe, and they found their religious bearings in free faith communities outside of the state church.  The foundations of American society were thus laid by the free churches, which by the tenets of their creed and their very structure are not a state church but rather a  free assembly of individuals.  In this sense you could say that American society is built on a separation of church and state that is determined and indeed demanded by religion (a separation whose motivation and configuration could not be more different from the conflictual separation of church and state imposed by the French Revolution and the systems that followed it).  In America the state is little more than a free space for different communities to congregate; it is in its nature to recognize and permit these communities to exist in their particularity and their non-membership in the state.  This is a separation that is conceived positively, since it is meant to allow religion to be itself, a religion that respects and protects its own living space distinctly from the state and its ordinances.

--Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, (Pope Benedict XVI), Without Roots: The West, Relativism, Chistianity, Islam, 2004