In a letter published by the Kansan April 16, James Marples wrote in support of separation of church and state, a principle that is basic in American Protestantism and essential to democracy itself. Indeed, true freedom of religion is not possible without such separation.
As a Mennonite, I think it worth noting that religious nonconformists in 16th-century Europe — Anabaptists, the forerunners of Mennonites — were among the first proponents of separation of church and state and voluntarism in religion. This put them at odds with the dominant belief at the time, held by both Catholics and Protestants, that unity of church and state was the only model for successful government. Thus an idea rejected in Christendom 500 years ago became a fundamental American principle, as stated in the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution: “Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof ...”
Marples also stated the obvious: “To me, courthouses and their grounds belong to all of us as citizens.” He then pointed out, apparently with approval, that “a great many courthouses in Kansas have had their cornerstones laid by the Masonic Fraternity.”
There’s a logical contradiction here. Fraternal organizations do not represent the general public. Only duly elected officials — such as county commissioners, city commissioners and school boards — can rightfully represent all citizens in their jurisdictions. When there is a ground breaking, cornerstone laying or dedication for a new facility funded by taxpayers, the ceremony is properly conducted only by the respective governmental body.
— Robert M. Schrag, Newton