Statement shared in the Capital Building as a member of the Board of The Great Plains Chapter of Americans United for the Separation of Church and State.
Thank you for the honor to have been given this opportunity to speak at today’s luncheon. I was in high school when an ember of interest in politics was lit within me. It wasn’t until several years later that I realized what my senior government teacher had done to me. I have long enjoyed and/or been tormented by the state of politics and government in our nation and in our state. Reading, watching, keeping track in general of what was going on.
As an ordained clergy I have a passion for social justice and particularly of late have become more and more disheartened by not only our government and the use of political posturing to threaten social justice in our land but also with the “church,” I am speaking in general here, and what I see as an unholy and in particular from my tradition unchristian union between the two.
I sat in the committee chamber when HB 2453 was being debated and listened to the questions and testimony of those who had come to speak. That ember I spoke of at the beginning was being reignited and fanned in to flame so to speak. It became quickly evident that powerful forces of religious influence were being used to discriminate against others of religious and non-religious belief.
I agreed to serve on the Great Plains Chapter of Americans United for Separation of Church and State about three years ago because I see the value and necessity to keep that separation clear and absolute, for the protection of the church and religious belief but also for the citizens of our great nation. But it was never as clear to me as it was that cold January day here in Topeka in that chamber.
As a clergy it can feel like a fine line, that separation, to address social justice from a faith perspective and that is precisely why organizations such as AU and Brightline are so very necessary and crucial to the freedom of all of our citizens. I find resonance with the words of Martin Luther King Jr. in his book Strength to Love when he wrote, “The church must be reminded that it is not the master or the servant of the state, but rather the conscience of the state.” It is important for me as a leader in my community of faith and my state and nation to remind the church it does not make policy, but it is also my calling to remind the state and the church, when they have crossed the line and the state’s purpose is to serve all of the citizens whether religious or not.
Such a belief is grounded in Thomas Jefferson’s own words, “Religious institutions that use government power in support of themselves and force their views on persons of other faiths, or of no faith, undermine all our civil rights. Moreover, state support of an established religion tends to make the clergy unresponsive to their own people, and leads to corruption within religion itself. Erecting the ‘wall of separation between church and state,’ therefore, is absolutely essential in a free society.” To such is my calling and my work whether I am in the pulpit or in the State Capital. Thank you for the invitation, opportunity, and honor to share my thoughts and commitment to separation of church and state.