Government, religion and science should remain independent of one another
Government, religion and science are three distinct institutions which should be totally independent of one another.
However, here in the United States, which we like to think has the world’s most enlightened society, there seems to be a growing tendency in the opposite direction.
Government’s only function in relation to religion, as stated in the First Amendment to our Constitution, should be to guarantee freedom of religion from any form of governmental control and interference in its practice, and from any governmental action which could favor one religion over others.
An unfortunate trend in our government is its recent tendency to insert religion into the fields of education and social services through financial support for school vouchers and so-called “faith-based” social programs.
If you follow the money trail, these programs almost exclusively favor one religion over all others, thereby violating the intent of the First Amendment.
Government’s role in relation to science should be to encourage and support scientific advancement, but it should in no way interfere in the scientific process or attempt to control the results of scientific studies.
In this area also, our current government has imposed itself on scientific progress and integrity. It has blocked stem-cell research, which could be of enormous benefit to millions, by imposing a religious concept over medical progress.
The Bush administration has also altered or deleted scientific results which do not agree with its goals or ideology. Examples are: deleting any reference to global warming from the EPA’s latest annual state of the environment report; altering or reversing reports identifying adverse impacts of industrial activities on wildlife; rejecting reports showing the damaging ecological impact of “mountain-top removal” strip mining for coal and calling for more study, thereby permitting this destructive practice to continue unabated for several more years; and increasing permissible levels of air and water pollution, which had been set to protect public health.
The Bush administration has also punished government scientists for not following the party line by shunting them aside, demoting, or firing them.
The most serious threat among government, religion, and science is religion, since there are strong religious movements (again peculiar to the United States) that are aggressively aiming for nothing less than domination over both government and science, and using government as a tool for controlling science.
Just as government should not interfere with religion, the reverse should also be true. Religious influence over government will inevitably lead to the destruction of religious freedom, as it has so often done.
The example of the current Muslim world shows how powerful fundamentalist forces are trying to drag their countries back into a medieval culture.
The same type of fundamentalist forces are at work here in the United States, seeking to impose their religious beliefs on our society.
For example: the same-sex marriage amendment attempting to incorporate a religious tenet into our Constitution; Colorado Springs Bishop Sheridan trying to control the outcome of an election by dictating how those of his religion should vote (For this the IRS should revoke his church’s tax-exempt status. Furthermore, it again raises the fear of papal influence over Catholic presidential candidates.); and the battle over the teaching of creationism vs. evolution in the schools.
That so many people are in denial of all the scientific progress which has been made in the fields of paleontology and anthropology (while apparently accepting scientific advances in medicine, physical sciences, engineering and invention) merely because in biblical times people’s understanding of their origins was a mystery that had no explanation other than that offered by religion, hardly qualifies us as an “enlightened society.”
Unlike government and religion, only science seems to be free of any pretensions of domination over either of the other two.
Glenwood Springs resident Hal Sundin’s column runs every other Thursday in the Post Independent.
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