A Bright Line
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      Fine lines exist between so many things. Some of these lines are dim, while others are bright as can be, depending on one's perspective. There are those fine lines between good and evil, involving the differing personal definitions of "good" and "evil." There's the line between whether a person is distributing child pornography or simply exercising freedom of speech rights, where the justice system usually enters into the cloudy nature of that picture. Most people recognize pornography. It's the judges that don't seem to get it. Add to these two situations the vague line between protecting the public's safety and guarantying their civil liberties and you have extremely difficult situations to resolve. Another area of dispute is determining exactly what the Constitution means by its wording that leads to the separation of church and state. Does this mean that the government has no say in the formation and practice of a religion by private groups, however you define religion? Or does it imply that religion has no right to interfere in how the government is run, depending on how you define "interfere?" Is it a two-way street? There doesn't seem to be any bright line separating these opposing ideas, allowing for easy distinctions of which ideas are meant, let alone right. What seems to stand out, perhaps, is that the government should not favor a particular religion as a national religion. The "real" truth is that the government, and anyone else for that matter, can interpret whatever they want in any way they want, so that a particular agenda is supported. The same sentence can be viewed by different people as having opposite meanings, and of course this makes for difficulty in compromising on very small or very large matters.

      In the City of Palm Desert, California, Sacred Heart Catholic Church boasts a 6000-plus membership that flocks each Sunday to hear the sermon of 65 year-old Rev. Howard Lincoln. People arrive sometimes 90 minutes early in hopes of getting a good seat. Very often the lines getting into the parking lot are so long they have to be supervised by the local Police Department. The church operates on a budget of 8.7 million dollars a year, and on one occasion two parishioners paid $40,000 each to share and enjoy a meal that Father Lincoln prepared for them. Celebrities who have attended mass at Sacred Heart include John F. Kennedy, George W. Bush, Rick Santorum, Gray Davis and Vin Scully. Needless to say, this church could pull a little weight in the community. As a matter of fact, Sacred Heart has raised millions of dollars in support of needy families, educational projects, and even construction of places of worship for low income communities.

      Father Lincoln was raised a Protestant and attended an Episcopalian school of ministry before he was married, divorced, and then converted to Catholicism and attended a Catholic Seminary where he was ordained.  One of Father Lincoln's aims is to establish Sacred Heart as a politically involved church. He feels that "The Catholic Church teaches that our participation in the political process is a moral obligation", while not supporting any particular ideology or candidate. However, as churchgoers leave on Sundays, they are encouraged to sign 2 ballot initiatives, located on a table in the foyer. One requires parents of a teenager to be notified if the child wants an abortion, and the other seeks to end the death penalty. Apparently Rev. Lincoln feels this action is approved within the boundaries of the First Amendment separation restriction on the government and religion. One churchgoer, unhappy over this subtle hint by the church, felt that "A lot of people come to church for comfort, not to be told who to vote for."

    So, is asking for support for a ballot initiative being told what to vote for? Or is it an example of not keeping church and state separate? Is announcing the church's aim of not supporting any particular ideology fulfilled by asking voters to ban the death penalty and require that parents be informed that their daughter wants an abortion?  Are attitudes on abortion and the death penalty not ideologies? Since the government can't support any one particular religious persuasion, should a church be allowed to support one particular political position? If participation in the political process is a moral obligation, can you  seriously define abortion and the death penalty as moral issues rather that political hot potatoes? Are these sorts of questions, separated by fine lines, just a matter of terminology, where you can define a word to suit your own needs? Are words like "politically involved", "ideology", and "moral" so hard to understand. Let's hope there is no church-pulpit pressure on how to vote that is disguised as gospel truth but in reality is only the agenda of charismatic speakers that mask the bright lines between what is seen as constitutional and what may not be.  

Enough is Enough