What comes to mind when we see images such as these?
When we see the President of the Russian Federation visiting a Russian Orthodox monastery, crossing himself, kissing and venerating icons and schmoozing with the Patriarch, what should we think? Is this a breach in the separation between Church and State?
Often times, this separation has been taken, by many countries in the West, to mean that religion must not have a voice in the public square. And sometimes, not even a presence, and so it's symbols must be hidden and driven underground and it's spokesmen silenced as they tried with the Pope in La Sapienza. But is this a fair and correct interpretation and application of that principle?
Must people in public office totally shun religion of be seen as a little loony (per Tony Blair)?
For most of history, it is such a position that would be considered loony. And even so in many countries of the world today. In Malaysia, Muslim prayer is recited before public events and even in schools. But as long as such prayers are not mandatory for non-Muslims, I don't see the problem.
The State should not establish religion, but that should not be taken as license to regulate and dictate what people can and cannot believe and practice as their faith teaches. In doing that, it is the state which infringes on the rights of religion which is the danger now as opposed to the fear of the Church imposing it's view on the state which was the basis of this separation.
Photos from Russian President Vladimir Putin's visit to the Uspensky (Assumption) Cathedral in the famous 17th century Iversky Monastery at the Valdai Lake, about 380 km (236 miles) northwest of Moscow, Saturday, Jan. 12, 2008. At left is Russian Orthodox Patriarch Alexy II. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko, pool)
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