Did You Know that Government is Eager to Work with the Church?Rich Stigall
True or False: The phrase “separation of church and state” is written in the United States Constitution.
Indeed, its principle is rooted in the First Amendment to the Constitution, but the actual statement “the separation of church and state” is nowhere to be found.
Despite the absence of the phrase, it’s ingrained into the American political psyche. Many will assert that any shared space of the two institutions represents an endorsement. It’s a matter that has been taken before the Supreme Court time and time again. It’s a topic that certainly will continue to be discussed.
Yet, to assume absolute separation is to ignore the very foundation for which the principle was first established. Many of our government workers are also members of congregations, and to deny the right of belief is to violate the First Amendment.
In contrast to this ingrained principle of separation and in recognition of people of faith working in government agencies, many state governments have established faith-based initiatives to engage communities of faith in addressing larger social challenges. This may come as a surprise to some! The Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) is an example of a government agency that actively searches for opportunities to interact with bodies of faith, even employing faith-based specialists to engage local churches. Other states similarly seek out means to engage local churches.
In a recent newsletter, one faith-based specialist at DFPS noted that “these are exciting times in our region and throughout Texas. Communities and churches are mobilizing in several ways to help.” He also stated, “[CarePortal] is an online engagement tool that connects the CPS caseworkers to the church to meet the needs of hurting children and families. The point is, and it’s a big one, the old adage it takes a village to raise the child, or in more modern terminology community…What a wonderful development and I am excited about the future.”
This Texan faith-based specialist realizes that, for many communities, the local church is a fundamental member of the community’s identity. The church is a giant resource, hungry for opportunities to serve. And the government, another giant institution, is hungry for resources to provide. Collaboration doesn’t sound unconstitutional: it sounds like common sense.
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