‘A Fundamental Principle’: HHS Secretary Sebelius Affirms Church-State Separation May 21, 2012 by Rob Boston in Wall of Separation It’s always good to hear a prominent official in government acknowledge the separation of church and state as a 'fundamental principle of our democracy.' Kathleen Sebelius, secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, spoke on Friday to graduates of Georgetown University’s Public Policy Institute – despite efforts to by ultra-conservatives to gag her. Members of the Catholic far right were outraged that Sebelius, a Catholic and and advocate of reproductive rights, would be invited to speak at a Catholic university. But school officials believed that a high-ranking member of the Obama administration’s cabinet might have something valuable to say to the graduates and refused to rescind the invitation. (Among those complaining was Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington, D.C., who called the invitation to Sebelius "shocking.") Sebelius had just started her speech when three protestors stood up and started yelling. This was pretty much inevitable, and the men were soon removed from the room. Sebelius continued with her remarks. Much of what she said was typical of commencement addresses, including an exhortation to graduates to pursue public service and work for the common good while not being afraid to take on some risks and challenges. Sebelius then shifted into a different area. “When I was in junior high, John Fitzgerald Kennedy was running for president,” Sebelius said. “I wasn’t old enough to vote, but it was the first national campaign I really remember. Some of then-Senator Kennedy’s opponents attacked him for his religion, suggesting that electing the first Catholic president would undermine the separation of church and state, a fundamental principle of our democracy. The furor grew so loud that Kennedy chose to deliver a speech about his beliefs just seven weeks before the election.” Sebelius continued, “In that talk to Protestant ministers, Kennedy talked about his vision of religion and the public square, and said he believed in an America, and I quote, ‘where no religious body seeks to impose its will directly or indirectly upon the general populace or the public acts of its officials – and where religious liberty is so indivisible that an act against one church is treated as an act against us all.’” She added, “Kennedy was elected president on November 8, 1960. And more than 50 years later, that conversation, about the intersection of our nation’s long tradition of religious freedom with policy decisions that affect the general public, continues. Contributing to these debates will require more than just the quantitative skills you have learned at Georgetown. It will also require the ethical skills you have honed – the ability to weigh different views, see issues from other points of view, and in the end, follow your own moral compass.” There are a couple of things to say about this. First, it’s always good to hear a prominent official in government acknowledge the separation of church and state as a “fundamental principle of our democracy.” Religious Right leaders have created an entire cottage industry to disparage the very idea of church-state separation as un-historical and un-American, and, sadly, some political leaders agree with them. It’s good to see Sebelius set them right. Second, Sebelius reminds us of the importance of JFK’s words that no church has the right to expect government to embrace, promote and impose its theology. I’d like to think that this portion of the speech was a subtle reminder to the Catholic bishops (and people like former presidential candidate Rick Santorum), who seem to think the federal government should be the enforcer of their dogma. Finally, Sebelius’ call to “follow your own moral compass” on these issues is crucial. Note that she didn’t say “religious compass.” For many, morals do spring from religion – but not for all. More importantly, those who do have a faith may find it necessary from time to time to dissent from denominational teachings – especially when you’re a political leader determining policy for 300 million people representing every imaginable perspective about religion. Sebelius invoked the words of John J. Kennedy, our nation’s only Catholic president, to make the point that government is not, and cannot be, the vehicle to enforce religious rules. The Catholic bishops may not like what she said, but I suspect millions of Americans do. I’m glad Sebelius wasn’t shouted down by extremists and theocrats who fear what she had to say. Source: lius-affirms-church-state]http://www.au.org/blogs/wall-of-separation/a-fundamental-principle-hhs-secretary-sebelius-affirms-church-state RESPONSE TO SEBELIUS AND ROB STONE,THE BLOGGER WHO HAS NO CLUE: The Blogger that wrote the article on Sebelius at Georgetown is Rob Boston and is associated with "Catholics" 4 Choice which means he is associated with the Obama Admin in some way. Count on it. Now for the response to Blogger Rob. 1 The separation of church/state is not even mentioned in our founding documents. To find the separation of church/state you have to go to the Constitution of the USSR. What they're talking about here is the establishment clause and it says "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof." So there's 2 things Congress can't do: make a law to establish a state church ie The Church of England and cannot prohibit ppl from the free exercise of their religion. It's really telling the gov't to butt out. Not the other way around. 2. The Catholic 'far right'? There is no Catholic far right,far left;for that matter there is no left or right Catholic. You're either Catholic or you're not. PERIOD. 3. Reproductive Rights? Who took away anyone's right to reproduce? The title is just asinine. 4. Then the blogger writes, " I’d like to think that this portion of the speech was a subtle reminder to the Catholic bishops (and people like former presidential candidate Rick Santorum), who seem to think the federal government should be the enforcer of their dogma." Nobody asked the government to enforce their dogma on anyone. However,if you are Catholic dear blogger then here is a subtle reminder for YOU that the first responsibility of THEIR Catholic bishop is to shepherd them and fulfill their moral obligation to guard the salvation of the immortal soul of those entrusted to their care. Those entrusted to their care are ppl who PROFESS to BE Catholic. The issue the Church has with the Obama administration and HHS in particular is that the government is now trying to deny the Catholic Church freedom of conscience/religion and that IS unconstitutional. 5 The blogger then writes, "Finally, Sebelius’ call to “follow your own moral compass” on these issues is crucial. Note that she didn’t say “religious compass.” For many, morals do spring from religion" This may come as a shock; we are to follow our own moral compass-in fact we have a moral obligation to do so- but that moral compass as a Catholic is to be guided by an INFORMED CONSCIENCE. Even if you're not a Catholic a moral compass ought be guided by an informed conscience. Of course gov't cannot compel anyone to do this. What we ought to do and what we do is ultimately our decision. 6. The blogger is using "the law shouldn’t impose religious beliefs." argument. The problem is nobody wants the law to impose religious beliefs but dear blogger the gov't imposes all kinds of laws from a-z governing darned near every aspect of our life including the new HHS mandate. The most basic law says i can't go up and shoot you(or vice versa)but it does not force either of us to adopt a religious belief about why we should not murder each other.The whole 'law shouldn't impose religious beliefs' argument is nonsense. 7. "The Catholic bishops may not like what she said," Blogger, you are absolutely clueless. There are a no of issues (on several levels) with her speaking at this CATHOLIC UNIVERSITY .For you(blogger)to say the bishops didn't like what she says sounds like a 2 yr old having a temper tantrum. You may want to dig a little deeper. 8. Blogger concludes article with name calling "I’m glad Sebelius wasn’t shouted down by extremists and theocrats who fear what she had to say." Now ppl who actually PRACTICE their Catholic faith are extremists and theocrats. It had nothing to do with them 'fearing' what she had to say. It had everything to do with standing up on principle at a school that identifies itself as Catholic.