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Secularism is as old as time

May 22, 2013

Dear Sir,

I hope you will allow me the opportunity to reply to ‘Genesius of Bermuda’, whose letter published on May 20 made reference to myself and my argument for a separation of Church and State.

Secularism is not a uniquely American phenomenon. Resistance against the union of Church and State (using ‘Church’ to represent any organised religion) has existed in probably every single civilisation and society.

Indeed, the letter write assumes the name of a Christian martyr executed for defying the union of the (Pagan) Church and State of the Roman Empire! In more recent history, the very word ‘secularism’ was first used in England in 1851, although appeals to secularism existed long before.

Bermuda’s own history is intimately tied to resistance against the union of Church and State. The Sea Venture survivors saw mutinies framed very much in this way, led by what where then known as Antinomians. And in 1647 those who opposed the union of Church and State were exiled to the Bahamas.

So appeals to secularism are very much within the British and Bermudian traditions!

‘Genesius’ is correct — I seek freedom ‘from’ religion, for this is the very foundation of freedom ‘to’ religion. The union of Church and State perverts both the Church and the State, while their separation is the precondition for a fuller democracy and an uncorrupted Church.

It is not my interest to silence the Churches, nor any other religious group. They are stakeholders in our society as much as the unions and other community organisations. They have a role to play in our social discourse.

My objection is to both the use of public monies (as per Premier Cannonier’s subsequent admission) and the participation of public officials (the Premier and the Opposition Leader) in their official capacities.

Had Premier Cannonier used his own personal wealth to fund this event, and attended in a purely private capacity, there would be no problem, and no union of Church and State.

JONATHAN STARLING

Pembroke

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Published May 23, 2013 at 9:00 am (Updated May 22, 2013 at 4:07 pm)

Secularism is as old as time

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