Church vs. State: Catholics on the Supreme Court

• E-mail Lauren Green

On April 18, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the ban on "partial birth abortion." The procedure is sometimes called "late term abortion," although the two are not really the same.

"Partial birth" refers to a medical procedure, while "late term" describes any abortion after the first 20 weeks of a pregnancy (although for some people, "late term" means anything after 12 weeks.) The details and definitions of these procedures can be easily found online, but t's not my purpose to wage an abortion debate here.

What struck me about the Supreme Court's ruling is the reaction from the organization Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice. It's a group comprised of ordained Protestant ministers, a Jewish activist, physicians, and experts in the area of reproductive rights. They are for abortion rights. They held a rally last week attacking religion's influence on U.S. health care policy — specifically the recent "partial birth" case.

The group staunchly opposes the Catholic Church's stance against abortion. They make the point that the majority in the 5-4 ruling were all Catholic men — Chief Justice John Roberts, Justice Anthony Kennedy, Justice Samuel Alito, Justice Clarence Thomas, Justice Antonin Scalia — and were all appointed by Republican presidents who opposed abortion. The group warns that the ruling sets a dangerous precedent in the area of public policy — to have religion so intimately entwined with the people who make our laws.

For me, the bigger question is: Why is a religious group standing up against "religion" having a voice in public policy? Yes, we do have this thing called the separation of church and state; laws protect an individual's right to practice his or her religion without the federal government getting in the way. But what this fools us into believing is that our laws are somewhat purer and better when there isn’t any influence from religion.

Our religion, faith, or belief system is the basis by which we all live; this belief system provides a foundation and a reference point for what we as individuals bring to the marketplace of ideas. Every politician — from a school board member or council person, to the president of the United States — is influenced by a belief system. And that “system” determines what's good or bad and what's right or wrong. Even an atheist has a set of beliefs. In fact, even secularism is considered a religion. If you don't believe in God, it does not mean you don't have faith — it simply means your faith is in the belief that there is no God. And the Supreme Court ruled you have that right to that belief.

But what is a belief system? It simply answers the big four questions of life: origin, meaning, morality and destiny.

Origin: Where do we come from?
Meaning: What's the purpose of life?
Morality: How do we treat people and make choices?
Destiny: What happens after we die?

None of us can get out of bed in the morning and operate in the world without having answered these questions for ourselves, either tacitly or consciously. All religions have answers to these questions. Not all followers believe in them explicitly, but the core doctrine of their faiths has the answers.

Man is the only animal that can make moral choices. He knows the difference between good and bad. He can act only according to what he believes is the proper course of action at any one moment. To violate that means a crisis of conscience, and a belief system is the basis of that conscience. If we all had the same belief system and standard and then followed it, we probably wouldn't need laws, or police, or a justice system to enforce those laws. But, because we all have different beliefs, we're not going to always agree on what's the best course of action in any given situation.

You know a lion in the African wild makes no such moral choices. He is a lion. It's not a matter of morality to chase down an antelope and rip it to shreds for a meal. He's not violating any standard. He's simply following his nature.

Man has the burden of a moral code. Dr. Tim Keller from Redeemer Presbyterian church says wisdom is not so much in knowing the difference between good and evil, but knowing what to do when the moral rules don't apply. What this means is that the choices before us are not always going to be good versus bad. The choice could be between two good things. What then? How do you decide?

Our nature is formed by choices we've made throughout our lives combined with the reactions from those around us to those choices — the whole nature AND nurture idea. Those choices and beliefs are the building blocks of our character.

The word "character" is derived from the Greek word Kharakter or Kharassein, meaning "to engrave," or "carve in stone." We understand that what is carved in stone is hard to undo — it is a second nature, and it is permanent, unless something drastic happens to alter it.

I would argue that because of our individual characters, none of us can bring to the marketplace any idea void of beliefs. I would also argue that at some point all of us must ask ourselves what is the standard for my belief system? The battle throughout the ages has been over the question of whether man is the measure of all things, or if God is the measure of all things? If it's man, which man? And if God, whose God?

What I find hard to believe is that a religious group would not understand that. Perhaps they are trying to show somehow that their belief system is better for society than anyone else's.

• E-mail Lauren Green

Lauren Green serves as a religion correspondent for the FOX News Channel. Prior to this, Green served as a news anchor for “Fox and Friends,” where she provided daily news updates and covered arts for the network. You can read her complete bio here.

Lauren Green currently serves as Fox News Channel's (FNC) chief religion correspondent based in the New York bureau. She joined FNC in 1996. Her new book is "Lighthouse Faith: God as a Living Reality in a World Immersed in Fog."