To the editor:
Scott Burkhart writes (Journal-World, Jan. 4) that if we're really consistent about keeping religion and government separate, we'll have to get rid of our laws based on the Judeo-Christian heritage. I would maintain that I can think of no instance in which a purely religious basis is, by itself, sufficient for any law. Finally, I would suggest that Mr. Burkhart ought to be thankful that this is the case.
Religious people clearly get conflicting messages from a multitude of supernatural sources. Some societies simply recycle religious beliefs into laws. On the other hand, our legal culture assumes that laws are based on reason and on our ability to identify concepts contributing to our vision of the common good. We have agreed, without having to resort to the teachings of any particular religion, for example, that allowing murder or child abuse is a lousy way to run a society.
At the other end of the spectrum are precepts which are clearly derived from a supernatural source: Dietary restrictions and dictates regarding special clothing are examples. Most of us agree that such precepts should not be imposed on all of society.
Our separation of church and state ought to give Mr. Burkhart some comfort: Unless he is breaking the law, no one may legally challenge his right to believe what he wishes or to gather with like-minded believers. He also should be assured that his religious freedom will not be limited by laws originating purely from a religion different from his.