Fundamentals of church-state relations
Posted by akosistella on March 8, 2010
By Fr. Joaquin G. Bernas, S.J.
When people see bishops or priests venturing into public or political life, the instinctive question that is often asked is: Is this a violation of the separation of church and state? The question is understandable because of the frequent use of the phrase “separation of church and state,” and people often equate church with bishops or priests. But the negative command of the Constitution is addressed not to bishops or priests but to the state and those who exercise state authority. As to bishops and priests, the pertinent part of the constitutional command is the guarantee of the free exercise of religion.
So insistent, in fact, is the Constitution on this freedom of religion that it goes on to add: “The free exercise and enjoyment of religious profession and worship, without discrimination or preference, shall forever be allowed. No religious test shall be required for the exercise of civil or political rights.” The beneficiaries of this freedom include bishops and priests and clerics and ministers of religion of every kind. More than that, they are also protected by the freedom of speech and assembly of the Constitution.
Click Fr. Joaquin Bernas.