Kerry maintains separation of church, state |

Kerry maintains separation of church, state

Dear Editor:(Re: David D. Kirkpatrick, “Conservative Catholics attack Kerry on abortion,” and Patrick Hasburgh, “A fed-up Catholic,” letter to the editor.)The Oct. 13 edition of The Aspen Times contained two items that were of particular concern to Catholics. The first was a report on Denver Archbishop Charles J. Chaput’s frontal assault on John Kerry’s candidacy, and the second was Hasburgh’s letter to the editor, which made public his official exit from the Catholic Church. The two items are not unrelated.What the archbishop really cannot abide is that Kerry is a Catholic who will not let his political opinions on cultural issues be dictated by the hierarchy. But the prelate should never forget that our nation has fared well on keeping a strict line of separation between church and state. One of the ways a politician like Kerry is reminded to stay vigilant about preserving this line of demarcation is by having to maintain, in himself, a creative tension between the “groupthink” of his church and the “groupthink” of his political party.As we know from the 9/11 commission, it was precisely the unbalanced “groupthink” in our intelligence agencies that posed the biggest obstacle to preventing 9/11. If the tenets of one’s religious and political affiliations have folded into one big merger, which is what the archbishop seems to prefer, then people will lose the creative tension that forces them to think for themselves, and the Republic will be that much the lesser for it.Dynamic faith does not require a person to march in lockstep to the drumbeat of a church or political party. For a democracy, sacrificing individual conscience to the dictates of a collective – whether right or left, whether secular or religious – always spells disaster. That’s why John Kerry has got it right: To preserve his own independence of mind, as well as the separation of church and state embedded in our Constitution, he must let his opinions be informed, but not dictated, by his faith.Joel BrenceAspen