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Toward A Godless Society

January 19, 2009
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If the Soviet concept of a “separation of church and state” found below sounds familiar, it is because FDR-appointee Justice Hugo Black enshrined this metaphor in our lives with his 1948 assertion. Since then it has displaced the actual amendment that states that “CONGRESS shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion,” of course saying nothing about the individual States and their freedom to establish any religion, cult or sect they see fit.

It was no surprise that after the communist infiltration of FDR’s administration had become legendary by 1944, his that Court-appointees would imitate the Bolsheviks and the Soviet Constitution of 1936. Now with a proud and fully-socialist regime about to take power in Washington City, we may expect further restrictions on obedience to anything other than the state, also known as the “Homeland.”

Bernhard Thuersam, Executive Director
Cape Fear Historical Institute
Post Office Box 328
Wilmington, NC 28402

Toward a Godless Society: The Leninist Concept of Church-State Relations

“Relations between religious groups and the Soviet state were also shaped by the regime’s tendency to extend its control and direction into every type of social relations, (and to) absorb…all social institutions and destroy those of them that could not be transformed into transmission belts of the Party will.

(The) notions of “freedom of conscience” and the “separation of church and state” became constitutional fictions designed to conceal the actual state of affairs. (The) immediate problem, as Lenin saw it, was to destroy the power of the clergy (and) deprive the church of its means of subsistence and communication, disrupt its centralized organization, and establish and effective policing of ecclesiastical activities.

The Decree of the Council of People’s Commissars “On the Separation of the Church from the State and the School from the Church,” as promulgated on February 5, 1918…banned any state or public subsidies to religious groups…religion was eliminated from public life and education.

(All) religious associations were made subject to the ordinary legislation governing private societies and were allowed “free performance of religious rites so long as they do not disturb public order, or interfere with the rights of citizens. Such (religious) associations could hire “servants of the cult,” who were later also made subject to registration by the authorities. It was forbidden to offer any organized instruction in religion to persons under 18 years of age…Conferences of (religious) representatives…could be held only with the approval of the authorities. Though the (Soviet) constitution permitted “Religious propaganda,” “servants of the cult” could now be imprisoned for disseminating the creed among minors, for “propaganda aimed at inciting national and religious enmity,” or for carrying out “fraudulent activities (designed) to awaken superstitions in the masses of the people…” (The) government encouraged local authorities to undertake a “painless but thorough liquidation of the monasteries…” (The government would) surround the activities of religious groups with an ever-tightening network of administrative and police controls, and to involve the state agencies increasingly in the internal affairs of churches and sects. (Several state agencies) were entrusted with such…tasks as the implementation of the separation of church and state…the manipulation of religious groups, the conduct of anti-religious propaganda, and combating of “counter-revolutionary activity” by the churches.

Accordingly, any propaganda or agitation by the adherents of the church and religion (particularly of a “missionary” kind) cannot be viewed as a lawful activity; on the contrary, it shall be regarded as exceeding the limits of freedom of conscience…and as violating the criminal codes. Under the new legislation…all local, regional or national meetings of religious associations had to have their agenda approved in advance; government and police representatives were now empowered to attend “any meeting of believers to look after order and security,” and to close such a gathering whenever it departed from the approved agenda, or whenever appeals for violation of the law were made. Minutes, reports, resolutions, and lists of officers elected at such meetings had to be submitted to the NKVD agencies, which could remove any officer “who had discredited himself in the eyes of the state authorities.”

These developments (by the Party) served to widen still the gap between actual practice and the constitutional notion of church-state relations, embodied in the new (Soviet) Federal Constitution of 1936 (Article 124) in the familiar terms of “separation of church and state,” and “freedom of religious worship.”

“Both the state and the church consist of the same citizens (excluding non-believers). To allow the church to differ from the state means to permit a state within a state which, obviously, cannot be tolerated by any regime, least of all a Soviet one…Any religion, and any church, if it does not wish to condemn itself to non-existence, should follow the spirit of the times…Naturally, the progressive clergy has the right to count on support from the Soviet state and it will find such support if it follows the path charted by the Soviet regime.”

(Religion and the Soviet State: A Dilemma of Power, Hayward & Fletcher, editors, Praeger Publishers, 1969, pp. 72-83)
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