There is no such thing as the separation of church and state. It's an urban legend, an elusive concept-probably because it doesn't really exist-much like Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny.
No evidence exists to suggest that the framers of the U.S. Constitution-the cornerstone of our legal system-ever intended to curtail the government's right to regulate religious organizations.
The First Amendment states, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof..." This was their intent: that the government not dictate how, when, where, or in whom a person puts his or her faith-nothing more.
In the last decade, it has become increasingly apparent that they were right. Churches, synagogues, mosques-they should all be subject to the scrutiny of the secular law. It pains me to admit this.
However as a Christian weighing a life not only in law but also in ministry, I know full well that faith unfettered is an invitation for abuse.
Not every man who sits in a pew-or stand in a pulpit for that matter-has God's heart. And, not every child of God has the gift of discernment such that they can sift out the truth.
Most states now have statutes that put a greater burden of fiduciary duty on members of clergy. These statutes have a tendency to open them up to lawsuits for largely intangible harms like negligence.
I wasn't really certain how I felt about that until about two weeks ago.
Four civil complaints were filed in Atlanta, GA against Bishop Eddie Long of New Birth Ministries. Seeing as how I am not a member of New Birth (Charlotte or Atlanta), I really should be impartial. But, here's the thing: I'm not.
I love Bishop Eddie L. Long. I think that bears restatement: I love Bishop Eddie L. Long. He's a great man. He's fed me spiritually on many an occasion. His roots and mine are more or less in the same geographic area. And my first instinct was to yell, "Lies! Pure lies! Work of the Devil." There was no need to know the details of the claims.
But, in the words of TD Jakes, "You can't make great decisions with poor information." So, like any good law student, I downloaded the complaints and read them over and over.
What I concluded was that even if I entertain the salacious claims of same-sex encounters with the very married Long, I'm still not certain these young men would have or should have any valid legal cause of action. They say they were coerced but I'm not sure cash prizes equate to coercion or abuse of the fiduciary duty set forth in the Georgia statute (O.C.G.A 23-2-58). And, I found myself wondering, why did Attorney BJ Bernstein file this? Wouldn't she have done a greater service by approaching the church?
Even so, I would not want them barred from making the accusations.
Who knows? Maybe turning to the courts is warranted when there's a man leading an army of about 25,000 souls against an insurgency of four who still thinks he's the underdog.
Besides, every system-even a biblical one-needs a tangible system of checks and balances. After all that was the sole purpose of the Book of Leviticus: the establishment of a legal order.