Regarding my TOS blog post Freedom Of Religion Demands Freedom From Religion, a correspondent posted the following query:
Please define an environment that is free of religion.
Be careful, this is not a frivolous request. Is an environment that is rife with global warming claims "free of religion"? How about a course on cosmology? Biology? Physics? How about a seminar on Objectivism as Ayn Rand might have run it?
Here is my answer:
Not free of religion, but free of government-imposed or promoted religion. The government does not interfere in the private practice, exercise, or advocacy of religion (or any other belief system), so long as the practitioner doesn’t violate rights (initiate physical force against others). The private practitioner is forbidden to use the legal machinery of government to impose, advance, or promote his beliefs. The “wall” keeps government force out of the private sector respecting religion.
The same principles should apply to science, education, etc. In other words, the government does not promote “global warming,” as it does now through tax funding of science. It does not promote the theory of evolution, as it does now through government schools. Nor does it disparage such ideas. The government is neutral on ideas—all ideas. It merely protects rights to hold and act upon one’s ideas.
The “wall of separation between church and state” is really about separation of ideas and state; all ideas, whether the field is religion, science, education, production and trade, etc. The core issue is intellectual freedom. Obviously, such an environment is possible only in a fully free society, where the separation of religion (more accurately conscience) and state is joined by separation of state from education, science, economics, etc.
Objectivist intellectual Onkar Ghate of the Ayn Rand Institute has an excellent presentation on the subject. I am indebted to Onkar Ghate for enabling me to get a better understanding of the link between religious and intellectual freedom. Here is the preamble to his lecture:
"Onkar Ghate delivered this lecture on July 5, 2009, in Boston. With religion on the rise in America, maintaining the separation of church and state is now a pressing issue. This talk examines some of the history behind, as well as the arguments for and against, the principle of separating religion from government. It considers contemporary ways in which the principle is being attacked and why even well-meaning Americans are increasingly unable to mount a defense. Finally, it defines what a proper, philosophical argument for the need to separate church from state looks like."
Why We Need Freedom From Religion
To Keep Government Out of Religion, Keep Religion Out of Government
The Separation of Church and State by Onkar Ghate of The Ayn Rand Institute