Beware of government repression of religion


To the Editor:
If same-sex marriage becomes codified in law, government lawyers and radical homosexual activists will likely use litigation against Christians of all denominations, attempting to punish those they term “religious bigots” — but Catholics will be the first to feel their wrath.
Even if this does not happen, the U.S government continues its effort to restrict religious liberty, and its pressure is likely to increase.
There is a historical precedent to our current situation. It is known as the “Kulturkampf” (cultural struggle). Between 1871 and 1891, the German government tried – unsuccessfully — to break the moral authority of the Catholic Church and to bring it under government control.
Those who know little about the inner workings of Catholicism view Catholics’ acceptance of Vatican authority with suspicion, believing that this loyalty makes Catholics a potential force of subversion — forgetting (or never having learned) the meaning of Christ’s words:
“Render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s, and unto God the things that are God’s.”
And so it was with the German government, as it attempted to bring the Catholic Church to heel: laws were passed in an attempt to restrict the Church’s authority in the day-to-day life of the country; hundreds of priests and bishops were exiled or jailed, along with large numbers of lay Catholics. The government’s repressive measures also caused thousands of Catholics to leave Germany and immigrate to America.
The government’s efforts to stifle the Catholic Church in Germany ultimately backfired because it spurred Catholics to close ranks in support of the Church and also to oppose the government through formation of a political party. German Catholics broke the power of the government’s assault on their religious liberty not with bullets, but with ballots.
We may yet face the same task.
Richard Couch
Iowa City

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