To kick off our new series, we explore the blend of religion and state here in North America. It’s a kind of compromise, a balancing act that we’re still figuring out.
Balancing Religion and State in North America
There are a few dozen words in the U.S. Constitution about religion – and they’re kind of cryptic. How does our country of 300 million people figure out its entire religion-state arrangement with this handful of phrases? Canada’s official balance of religion and government is just as murky; and perhaps that’s a blessing. For both the United States and Canada, the set up is always in flux – a work in progress.
Thomas Jefferson first wrote the phrase “wall of separation between church and state” – which, by the way, is not in the U.S. Constitution.
Jacques Berlinerblau, associate professor of Jewish Civilization at Georgetown University
Marc DeGirolami, associate director at the Center for Law and Religion at St. John’s University
Lori Beaman, professor in the Department of Classics and Religious Studies at the University of Ottawa
Can Britain Still Afford Hospital Chaplains?
Britain employs more than a thousand hospital chaplains – who do everything from pray at patients’ bedsides to console grieving family members. Like other staff in Britain’s free health care system, the National Health Service, their salaries are funded by taxpayers. But with more and more Britons claiming no religion and health care costs rising, the job of the venerable hospital chaplain may be in jeopardy.
What an Established Church Means for Britain
The people of Great Britain have freedom of religion. Yet England also has an established church: the Anglican Church. Its head is a layperson – the reigning monarch, Queen Elizabeth II – but several of its bishops hold seats in the Parliament’s House of Lords. And like the U.S. and much of Western Europe, the country is becoming more secular, making the future of the “established” church unclear.
Linda Woodhead, professor in the department of politics, philosophy and religion at Lancaster University
Matthew Engelke, professor in the Department of Anthropology at the London School of Economics