“Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…” unless religion goes off a cliff. When that happens, secular law trumps religious law.
History is full of examples: think of Mormon founder Joseph Smith with his 41 wives, pedophilia in the Catholic Church where bishops shuffled wrongdoers to new parishes, Sharia law where fathers murder daughters, Mormon leaders like Warren Jeffs marrying 12 year-old girls, the list goes on and on. Think of the reformation, the selling of indulgences to raise money to build the Vatican, the alliance between Rome and the Nazis during World War II. Think of disgraced televangelists like Jim Baker, Jimmy Swaggart, Ted Haggard, and a host of others who milked their followers for all they were worth. Think of fur-lined dog houses, fleets of limousines, palatial mansions, bank accounts so large the sides of the banks bulged out. Think of the money collected on Sunday mornings that goes to compensate victims of sexual abuse, pay for lawyers and insurance policies.
When churches lose their way, it’s the job of the people to bring them back. In a democracy, we rely on civil law to criminalize polygamy, jail child rapists like Warren Jeffs, require Catholic bishops to report pedophiles to local authorities, send con-men wrapped in biblical clothes to jail. We rely on government to protect us from religion gone astray.
The community is the final arbiter, and that’s as it should be. Were it otherwise, we’d be living in a theocracy, not a democracy.