Thursday, August 28, 2014

Separation of Church and State

Separation of  Church and State is understood in Korea, but many have problems with the meaning. Not only in society but within the Church, we have a serious difference of opinion. No need to agree with what Catholics  say or do but to deny religion a place in the public square is not the correct response.

A series of  articles in Bible & Life treats the issue with  11 questions and answers on the place of the Church in our present society. A seminary professor has examined the objections he has found in the press and has given answer. The next blogs will treat the other questions.

The first question: Since by law we have separation of Church and State is there not a need to separate the Church and the World? If this is true is it not wrong to get involved in political issues?  Separation of Church and State does not mean they have nothing to do with one another but that there is not to be collusion. If we look at the opposite of the statement, we have some clarity. Unity of Church and State is obviously what the separation wants to avoid.

In the Korean Constitution, all citizens enjoy the freedom of religion, and no state religion may be recognized. Church and State are to be separated. Some feel  there should be no relationship between the two. The original understanding was to have a healthy tension between the two. Example: If one religion by their convictions were to inflict injury on another religion or damage their buildings, the State has to stop this. On the other hand, if the State was doing something against the peace and happiness of the citizens and not working for the common good, it would not be proper for religions to be silent or give consent to the actions.


During the Japanese occupation of Korea some of the leaders in the Korean Catholic Church, embarrassingly, understood the meaning of separation of Church and State to be against  resistance to Japanese rule and didn't join actively in the March First Independence Movement. In the vortex of the times, Ahn Jung-geun (Thomas) with a Gospel understanding was a part of the independence movement. Shooting Horibundo Ito was  for patriot Ahn a religious act.

Either, one understands the actions of Ahn the way  the Japanese Government would see it or the way Patriot Ahn saw it. Which side would you choose?

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