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Barnhart Speaks on Sunday
Professor Joe Barnhart, University of North Texas, Department of Philosophy and Religion Studies, will be the speaker at our annual public meeting on Sunday, February 4th. His topic will be, "An Honest Look at Separation of Church and State in the U.S.: Its History, Consequences and Benefits."

Refreshments are available, beginning at 10:00 a.m. and Professor Barnhart's presentation begins at 10:30 a.m., at Pellissippi State Technical Community College in the Goins Administration Bldg. (cafeteria annex in the back).

A synopsis of Professor Barnhart's views on "Religion and the Proper Role of the State" appears below ...

Religion and the Proper Role of the State
Joe E. Barnhart, Professor of Philosophy and Religion Studies
University of North Texas

Without security of person and personal property, all other values become vulnerable. The individual—the focus and recipient of security—develops as a moral agent only if he or she can choose from alternatives. This entails protecting all individuals’ rights to choose as free moral agents. The state’s proper role is not to protect beliefs from criticism, but to guarantee each individual’s right to think and believe the ideas that fit his or her own conscience and to examine contrary ideas.

Respect for private property is a basic ingredient of human dignity. Freedom of speech develops best as an extension of private property. If Mahmud chooses to hear his neighbor’s views, he may invite his neighbor onto his property to present those ideas. By protecting private property, the police protect freedom of speech. If Mahmud wishes not to hear his neighbor’s ideas, his neighbor may not speak them while on Mahmud’s property. The state’s proper role is to protect person and private property from intruders, invaders, and thieves.

When the state attempts to do more than protect person and property, it increases the probabilities of doing more harm than good. The state’s role is not to promote righteousness, but to protect individuals’ freedom to pursue the good life that accords with their own conscience. Because individuals are finite and come from different backgrounds, they will likely embrace some beliefs different from their neighbors’. When an elected representative attempts to represent one group’s ideology by giving it favored treatment and/or state money, he or she misrepresents those who do not receive favored treatment or state money. The government is properly neutral toward religions and ideologies. Any group attempting to force its ideology or religion onto the citizens violates human dignity and basic rights.

Posted by pking
Feb. 02, 2007