Jake asked:

What can we as Catholics say to counter the strict separation of church and state which is recited in the Sharia Law?

Jimmy Akin replied:

"...First of all this phrase gets used so much that people think it's in the Constitution of the United States. It isn't. It actually comes from a letter by Thomas Jefferson...the Constitution does deal with religious matters. It deals with them principally in two clauses which are known as the Free Exercise Clause and the Establishment Clause.

The Free Exercise Clause says that congress...can not infringe on the free exercise of religion, and one of the consequences of that is you can...encourage other people to vote their faith and they can vote their faith. It would be a prohibition of the free exercise of religion for congress to tell anybody, oh you can't vote in accordance with the principles of your faith...now someone might say well I don't think you should and they're free to advocate that position...but the idea that you are somehow doing something that is wrong according to U.S. law if you're voting your faith is simply false. Becasue the U.S. Constitution protects the free exercise of your religion including the free exercise of your religion when you're voting.

The other clause, and this is the one that they tend to appeal to because they want to typically gloss over the Free Exercise Clause rather fast, and instead what they'll go to is what's known as the Establishment Clause...the Establishment Clause says that congress can not establish a religion. What that means, in its original context, is that there is not going to be a church of the United States the way there was a church of England. That's what they were responding to. Previously in England, even though there were dissenting churches such as the Baptists and the Quakers and Catholics and so forth, there was an established church. The church of England. It was the church officially endorsed by the government in England. And since we were breaking away from England at the American Revolution, the founders wanted to avoid having an established church here in America, and so that's the purpose of the Establishment Clause...

...But that's completely different than saying churches can have no role in social and political life...of course they can. That's part of the purpose of the Free Exercise Clause as well as the free speech protections that are found in the First Amendment and the freedom of the press protections that are found there."


Catholic Answers, "Open Forum" (San Diego: Catholic Answers, 2016)

Editor's note: This is an excerpt of the answer provided. For the complete response download the podcast.

Click icon for archived podcast answering this question in its entirety.

Show air date: April 28, 2016

Name of show: Open Forum

Guest comments by: Jimmy Akin

Question appeared in show: 14:01

Social: Share:

This site is dedicated to the Immaculate Conception.

"...and upon this rock I will build My Church..." Matthew 16:18