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Senator HATCH. Thank you both for being here. We appreciate it.
We will now ask Rev. Charles Bergstrom, who is executive director of the Office for Government Affairs of the Lutheran Council in the United States of America, to come to the witness table.
Reverend Bergstrom has provided helpful testimony to the Judiciary Committee in the past, and we are extremely happy to have him with us today.
Reverend Bergstrom, we respect you, and we look forward to taking your testimony, and you have indicated before this hearing that you hope we will hold some additional hearings, as well, and I do not know whether we will be able to, but we will certainly give every consideration to your request.
We are glad to take your testimony.
STATEMENTS OF REV. CHARLES V. BERGSTROM, EXECUTIVE DI.
RECTOR, OFFICE OF GOVERNMENTAL AFFAIRS, LUTHERAN
I should like to make an official request that four other brief pieces be added to the testimony. One would be a copy of “The Nature of the Church and its Relationship to Government,” which is referred to in my statement.
My testimony before OMB hearings in the House, and testimony of recent weeks before the Denton committee on S. 1405, which had to do with advocacy, and a letter which we sent to Mr. Chapoton of IRS, after some 7 years of effort to work with them, I think a copy of that might be helpful to see the long-term battle on that issue.
Senator HATCH. Without objection, we will put all of these matters into the record.
Reverend BERGSTROM. I feel like I may be the voice in the wilderness here this morning; on the other hand, I feel it is an important voice, to balance some of the things that have already been said.
Lutherans have a deep sense of understanding relationships of church and state, and we call that "institutional separation and functional interaction.” We say that because we believe that Government is also godly; it is not separated from religion or God; it is a part of God's great work. That understanding is based upon our scriptural interpretation.
So we cannot oversimplify these controversial cases. Each of them has to be looked at in its given situation. The church cannot use the Government to evangelize or to gain converts nor can Government do the things as indicated already that may be wrong in defining the church's ministry.
The mainline churches have had problems not only my particular denomination but others also, on an issue related to the term "integrated auxiliary.” This is an IRS issue, in which they have tried to define the ministry of the church by excluding some of our agencies and schools.
I do not believe the IRS is a terrorist organization as Mr. Godwin claimed, they sure are stubborn, and I would hope that this particular committee, and others, Senator, might be able to bring them to consultation, to sit down and take a good look at these definitions, to see if it could not be worked out on the basis of commonsense. These are not religious organizations taking advantage of the Government, but they do want to define their own ministry. The letter to IRS is included, as I have indicated.
The whole question of lobby disclosure and the right of churches to carry out advocacy programs, the terrible proposals in Circular A-122 in OMB last year, and S. 1405, which tried to narrow the definition of advocacy for religion are all indications of churchstate tension.
The picture of regulations which I have gained being in my office over 7 years is a picture of erratic Government activity rather than evil attacks. I do not see any great plot on the part of Government to overcome religion. I see some failures on the part of both church and Government leaders. I see people in Government who do not really understand the deep feeling that clergy and others have about their faith in God and what that means in its expression.
The private school desegregation issue is not quite as simple as it may look. If we are to define what our schools are to do, and want that to be a religious definition, that runs head on into the matter of equality of all of God's people. I would hope that religious people would be as deeply concerned about laws that would give freedom and equal rights to all people as well as the right of the religious organizations.
Certification of teachers in Nebraska is accepted as a good process by the Lutheran Churches there. But it seems to me a lot of things on both sides could have been done differently in this particular case you just heard about.
Some people call Social Security a great evil. Many of us feel it is a fine insurance program for people we long neglected, particularly the laity in our churches. We have some questions about some of these activities of the IRS, CIA, and FBI, but we feel that they could be handled by such discussion as you have initiated in these hearings. Congressman Dymally in the House has also asked for similar kinds of discussion. People for the American Way is an organization seeking to bring about discussion of our diversities. The American Civil Liberties Union, and other organizations, have a long history of defending first amendment rights in important cases that are not as eloquently described by the media as some of the cases you have here this morning.
In 1979, the Lutheran Churches had a 9-day consultation on some of these issues to which I have already referred. In 1981, 90 percent of the religious bodies of this country gathered together in Chevy Chase to take a look at the incursions of Government into church affairs. That will be followed up by another interreligious consultation in September of this year. And just a couple of weeks ago I was with another diversified group at Harvard University taking a look at some of these issues.
So I think that there needs to be a matter of understanding and give and take in this kind of interchange. I have not practiced law in a long list of the States, and I am always interested in learning from the two learned attorneys that we had speak to us this morning; however, it is not only the Government that takes onto itself a mantle of judgment, sometimes the church tries to do that. There has to be a kind of balance in the understanding of that reality. To have Congress write new laws does not mean, Senator, that they necessarily will do any better than the Supreme Court in pleasing people.
There are parents who mistreat children, and we need good laws to make sure that child abuse does not happen. So we need to take a good look at all ramifications of the issues that are before us.
I would like to touch
Senator Hatch. There is one difference, however, when Congress writes the laws, they are doing it as elected representatives of the people, they could be thrown out. When the Supreme Court writes the laws they are doing it as the closest thing to Godhead on this Earth; and that is that nobody can question what they have to say.
Maybe that was an irreligious comment, I better be careful of what I am saying, but without question, there is a real difference between the two.
Reverend BERGSTROM. I was talking about the value and the goodness of the particular legislation, or judicial decisions.
I would like to point to something that is more realistic to some of us in Washington, and that is the fact that religious people are divided, and there needs to be a great deal more of conversation between their organizations. There are 40 offices like mine here in Washington, and some of us have had some deep concerns about President Reagan's endorsement of the fundamentalists when he was campaigning in August 1980. That concern has deepened because of the theology of some of those people.
Paul Weyrich talks about "Christianizing America." Jerry Falwell talks about the good days "when there will
be no more public schools, but they will all be Christian schools." There are all kinds of statements that come from that group of fundamentalists.
And in the meantime, Senator, the mainline church groups have had very little access to the administration. We would hope that that could improve and change. I have a series of letters sent as chairman of the interreligious coalition I mentioned trying unsuccessfully to initiate_that kind of interchange, not just for my church, but for 40 Protestant, Catholic, and Jewish groups who work together here in the Nation's Capital.
The issues of abortion, school prayer, and tuition tax credits are important and difficult moral issues. Every issue that you face, and every decision, of course, has that type of morality to it. School prayers is not an issue between the liberals and the nonbelievers; it is really from the depths of faith that many of us have opposed any kind of religious gathering in our public schools. We believe that the Supreme Court decisions were good; that polls are very difficult to answer and to respond to when it comes to prayer; that the prayers in Congress are not the same as a 6-year-old child singing hymns in the classroom; where he has to be; and that we should object also to prayers being so watered down, as Senator Leahy indicated, that they would have no meaning at all. That trivializes prayer.
But beyond all of that, I come back to my original point, that God is involved in all of this, sir. He is involved in public education. I do not feel that a Christian school, run by any one of us as a clergy person, is necessarily any holier than the public schools where I was educated in Illinois.
We need to make very clear that these distinctions are not helpful if those of us who claim we are religious, therefore claim to be apart from the Government. Every one of us is a part of the Government. So we cannot separate ourselves by blaming those who make decisions. Most of us are lazy citizens, and so often have held so tightly to our religious views that we fail to address broader societal questions.
I describe myself as a born again, Evangelical Lutheran Christian; there is no other way to get into the Christian church. But I am just as deeply concerned for justice, and I think God's will is that justice be done on the part of the Government, and that religious people work for justice, not to bring salvation into the Government arena or to bring ideas of judging people as to how they believe in God, on the basis of how they might vote.
As an example, I recently received a letter, which is headed "Christians to Reelect President Reagan." Let me read just one paragraph.
Ted Kennedy, Fritz Mondale, Alan Cranston are ultraliberals who put the values of secular humanism above the values of Christians like you.
This is signed by Gary Jarman. I think that kind of mail shows the need for some face-to-face discussion about how all of us may believe in God, and there might be some Christians that might vote for a Democrat in the coming election, and also, of course for some Republicans. That spirit needs to be pointed out in terms of all of our gathering together as people.
I quote a very good source in one portion of my report, Dr. Martin Luther. I would close by reading a brief statement by the Lutheran Bishops which was written in 1980:
It is a misuse of terms to describe government politics as Godless or profane. God rules both the civil and the spiritual dimensions of life. It is unnecessary and unbiblical for any church, group or individual to seek to Christianize the Government, or to label political views of Congress as Christian or religious. It is arrogant to assert that one's position on a political issue is Christian, and that all others are unchristian, immoral or sinful. There is no Christian position. There are Christians and other religious people who hold positions.
God employs reason and power in government for social justice, peace and freedom. Advocacy for social justice is part of the mission of the church, according to Lutheran theology.
Such advocacy may often bring disagreement on issues and votes as to how we strive for justice, but I think understanding and acceptance, and sharing more responsibility for Government as well as for our religions will be very helpful.
Thank you sir.
41-269 O - OF
PREPARED STATEMENT OF CHARLES V. BERGSTROM
My name is Charles V. Bergstrom. I serve as Executive Director of the Office for Governmental Affairs, the Lutheran Council in the U.S.A. On behalf of the Council, I would like to express appreciation to this subcommittee for holding hearings to explore in a rational way the areas where church and state are in tension. In giving this testimony, I am speaking on behalf of the three Lutheran church bodies which participate in the Office for Governmental Affairs:
The American Lutheran Church, headquartered in Minneapolis,
The Lutheran Church in America, headquartered in New York,
The Association of Evangelical Lutheran Churches, headquartered
THE PROPER RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN CHURCH AND GOVERNMENT : A LUTHERAN PERSPECTIVE. Many in this nation ground their understanding of the proper relationship between church and state on a somewhat simplistic interpretation of Thomas Jefferson's description of the "wall of separation" between the two institutions; they maintain that this "wall" creates a somewhat static situation in which church and state hygienically operate in their own spheres, never fundamentally affecting or "infecting" each other. But such an understanding of the "wall" does not do justice to the dynamic and continually changing relationship between the two institutions in this country. To echo Chief Justice Burger's 1971 observation, the "wall" 18, in practice, more like a "blurred, indistinct and variable barrier."
The Lutheran churches I represent have described their understanding of the proper relationship between church and government in terms of "institutional separation and functional interaction." Thus, the "wall" of institutional sep aration stands within a grey "zone" of interaction between the two institutions.
Institutional separation. We believe that both government and church have a God-given role in the world. The government is to establish justice, advance human rights, promote peace, and work for the welfare of all in society; the church's mission includes proclaiming the Gospel through preaching, teaching, administration of the sacraments, social service and advocacy on behalf of all members of the social order. Recognizing the distinctive role of each, we believe that they should be separate institutionally, and that one should not usurp the role of the other. Churches should not be in the business of using the coercive power of the state to enforce their versions of what is moral; similarly, the state should not assume the functions of the church in preaching or evangelizing, or determine for the church what is or is not part of its mission.
Even when each is fulfilling its legitimate role, there is a sometimes uneasy balance between the government's responsibility to regulate for the common good and the church's right to free exercise of religion. Generally, Lutheran churches maintain that the government, as one of God's agents, has the authority and power in the secular dimensions of life to ensure that individuals and groups--including religious communities and their agencies--adhere to the civil law. The churches and their agencies are often subject to the same legislative, Judicial and administrative provisions which affect other groups in society. But Lutheran churches will claim treatment or consideration by government different from that granted to voluntary, benevolent, eleemosynary and educational nonprofit organizations when necessary to assure free exercise of religion. The claim for special treatment must be well founded--and the government's responses to such claims must be evenhanded, so as not to favor one type of religion or worship over another. We would maintain that government exceeds its authority when it seeks to define, determine or otherwise influence the churches' decisions concerning their nature, mission and ministries, doctrines, worship and other responses to God--except in critical instances, which must be considered on a case by case basis and which may involve church infringements of basic human rights.
Functional Interaction. However, the Lutheran churches maintain that in pursuing a joint concern for the common good, church and government can interact