In keeping with my policy of (mostly) alerting peole of when I blog about them I got a nice note back from Carmen Lawrence on my comments about Church and State. In brief she notes that an op-ed piece is necessarily truncated, and hence did not traverse some of the ground on the doctrine. She also noted that she did not think there was no place for moral philosophy, and that one of her biggest concerns had been the selective use by MPs of their religious beliefs - bringing them out on "so-called" conscience votes (as, for example, on abortion or euthenasia) but ignoring them on other acts like refugees, war and torture.
To add to the discussion, Michael Duffy wrote on the topic in the weekend SMH.
He refers to a new book called God is Back which apparently argues that religion is making a return in many places, including states that had tried to outlaw it. He notes;
Outside the West, religion has come back as a matter of sheer numbers, because the many efforts to suppress it during the 20th century have collapsed. The most important of these was communism but many non-communist leaders, in nations such as Turkey and Iran, also believed the path to prosperity lay in a modernisation that could be achieved only by reducing the role of religion.
This is a significant statement. Theses leaders have first realised that there needs to be a separation of church and state, but that this does not need to entail a campaign against religion.
Duffy goes on to hypothesise that the evangelical churches arose in the US because the doctrine of separation meant the churches had to rely upon conviction rather than coersion earlier than other countries. I have two difficulties with this view. The first is that I find the evangelical churches are closer to conmen than christians. The second is that the doctrine has been as real, while not being as written, in the UK as the USA.