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Jefferson and Madison in Warsaw:What Would They Do [3]
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And what can be the benefit of the sectarian, Catholic indoctrination in public schools other than to serve the religious, financial, and political interests of the Catholic clergy and the Vatican? And what are the benefits to Polish democracy of countless other privileges enjoyed by this powerful supranational ecclesiastical organization? According to Madison, there will be only superstition, bigotry, and persecution.

The only remedy against the tyranny of the Polish Catholic faction — any faction - is, according to Madison, to construct a government that would have the power to defuse the destructive effects of majority — based factionalism. (A minority - based factionalism is never sufficiently strong to pose a lasting threat to the civic rights of the citizens.) Such a government must be both secular and neutral. As Madison said in a letter to Jefferson:

The great desideratum in Government is, so to modify the sovereignty as that it may be sufficiently neutral between different parts of the Society to controul [sic] one part from invading the right of another, and at the same time sufficiently controuled itself, from setting up an interest adverse to that of the entire Society. (Letter to Jefferson, Padover 43)

It is very regrettable to realize that the present government of Poland is not such a government: it is neither neutral nor secular enough because both its neutrality and secularity have been seriously compromised by the Concordat and the traditional privileged position of the Catholic Church.

Perhaps the bondage that now exists between the Polish government and the Polish Catholic Church precludes calling Poland a democracy. Rather, Poland's current political system is a Catholic neo-theocracy with some democratic underpinnings, like popular elections and a multi-party system in which all parties, however, pay political homage to the Catholic Church in one way or another. Such a combination of democracy and theocracy is a denial of genuine freedom of religion and from religion; it is a return to endless entanglements of politics and religion and to religious disputes and possibly wars.

Poland's Third Republic is not, then, a modern secular democracy, in which church and state are separated because in order to be democratic, a government must first be secular.

It is not a democracy in which the wall of separation between the government and the Catholic Church would ensure both freedom of religion and freedom from religion for all Poles.

So Poland is not a free democratic country. Not yet. It is a Catholic republic in which both Catholics and non-Catholics pay taxes to support the Catholic Church and in which non-Catholics — particularly agnostics and atheists — often have to compromise their intellectual and professional integrity not to offend powerful Catholic politicians and Catholic priests and bishops.

Such is the sad consequence of what happens when we don't remember the legacy of the past — when we don't remember the obvious historical truth stated by Madison in „Remonstrance":

In no instance have [ecclesiastical establishments] been seen the guardians of the liberties of the people.

As we know, those who don't remember the mistakes of the past are bound to make them again.

P.S. As I began my presentation, arguing for the necessity of separating state and church in a modern democracy, a Polish professor (who used to be one of my teachers at the time I was a student at Jagiellonian University) left in ostentatious disapproval. Another one argued, rather hysterically, that „this is Poland, not the U.S." and that I got all my „facts wrong." To that Polish professor — and to other such Catholic Poles — even facts can apparently be wrong. What seems right, though, is the comforting myth of a free, democratic, secular Poland.

Selected papers (mine included) from the Conference were supposed to have been published by Jagiellonian University after the conference. So far, my paper has not been published.

WORKS CITED:
Boston, Robert. Why the Religious Right Is Wrong. Buffalo: Prometheus, 1993.  
Deschner, Karlheinz. Polityka papieska w XX wieku. (Papal Policy in the 20th Century). Gdynia: URAEUS, 1997. (The translation is mine.)  
Free Mind: membership newsletter of the American Humanist Association
, vol. XLV, No. 1, January/February, 2002 (special article on „Jefferson's Wall")
Jefferson, Thomas. Notes on Virginia, Query 17. In Thomas Jefferson: Writings. New York: the Viking Press, 1984.  
Larue, Gerald A. Freethought Across the Centuries: Toward a New Age of Enlightenment. Amherst: Humanist Press, 1996.  
Madison, James. "The Tenth Federalist." Federalist Papers. Introduced by Clinton Rossiter. New York: New American Library, 1961.  
Padover, Saul K., ed. The Complete Madison: His Basic Writings. New York: Harper & Brothers Publishers, 1953.  
The Annals of America
, vol. 3 (1784-1796), pp. 16-20. Published by Encyclopaedia Britannica, Inc., 1976.  
Voice of Reason: The Newsletter of Americans for Religious Liberty
, 2001,No. 4 (77). Edd Doerr „Jefferson's Wall of Separation at 200."  
Wacyk, Antoni. Mit polski: Zadruga. (The Polish Myth: Zadruga). Wroc³aw: Toporze³, 1991.  
Weicker, Lowell P. Jr. „The Bible or the Constitution?" Robert Basil, Mary Beth  
Gehrman, Tim Madigan, eds. On the Barricades. Buffalo: Prometheus, 1989.


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Kaz Dziamka
A college professor, editor of The American Rationalist (since 1996) and English section of Racjonalista (since May 2003) and writer from New Mexico. More...

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