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Unhappy about separation of church and state? Blame King Henry VIII

November 24, 2003|by Mrs. L.A. Funkhouser

To the editor:

Since the old question of why we have seperation of the church and the state has once again reared it's ugly head, I feel that it is high time for a mini-history lesson to explain why our Founders felt as they did, and why they set up our nation under such strictures.

It all began in the late 1400s in Merry Old England. King Henry VII (House of Tudor) had four children: Arthur, Margaret, Henry and Mary. They were all Catholic, and so was England, for the most part. Arthur was to inherit England's kingship, and was married off to Katherine of Aragon, daughter of the king and queen of Spain.

But Arthur was sickly, and died leaving no children behind him, so Henry was next in line to inherit. He became that infamous Henry the VIII, the one with all the wives. Henry's father decided that he didn't want to lose the close tie formed with Spain from Arthur's marriage to Katherine, and had Henry VIII marry her instead.

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That was fine with Henry VIII, except that the marriage only produced one child, a daughter named Mary. Henry VIII desired a son to carry on the dynasty, for in those days a woman who inherited a throne was likely to have her husband become king. So Henry VIII asked the Catholic church for a divorce, considering that perhaps he had been cursed by God for marrying his brother's wife.

The Catholic church did not agree, and refused the divorce. Well, Henry had this really smart lawyer who pointed out that the head of the Catholic church, being called then The Holy Roman Emperor, was actually a foreign government usurping his prerogatives, and they concieved to kick the Catholic church out of English lands and create their own church, of which the King of England would be head.

Martin Luther was at this time making his protests against the Catholic church, so the new Church of England became, nominally, Protestant. This caused some trouble among the people, but Henry was then able to decree his own divorce from Katherine, and remarry - to one Anne Boylen.

This marriage also produced a daughter, Elizabeth, but again, no son. So upon her being accused of adultery, which when commited against a king was considered treason, she was beheaded, and the widowed Henry VIII married a third time, to Jane Seymore. She gave him the much desired son, Edward, but she died not long after childbirth. Henry had three more wives after this, one of which was beheaded, but no other offspring were born and Henry VIII died in 1547.

Edward inherited the throne as Edward VI. He was a Protestant extremist, and things got bloody for the Catholic folk. Edward VI was sickly, and died without an heir in 1553. Mary, Henry VIII's eldest child then took the throne, and she was a Catholic extremist, and things got bloody for the Protestant folks. (Do we see a pattern beginning here?) In 1558, Mary I died, also childless, and Elizabeth, daughter of Anne Boleyn, became Elizabeth the Great, and ruled England as best she could for 45 years.

She was nominally Protestant, but detested the bloody actions of her predecessors and said "I want no windows into men's souls. Let England have peace."

But she too died childless and the throne was passed to Henry VIII's grand nephew, James of Scotland, and the bloodiness began all over again. It was believed that a nation must worship as their ruler did in those days, and folks were killed for worshipping differently.

Well, this went on and on and on and on - you get the picture. So by the time the Pilgrims set off for the New World they were just sick and tired of it. And why not? They wanted to live in a land where no one, not a ruler or church head, could dictate how they worshipped.

This was the history our Founding Fathers grew up with. So much oppression - it is no wonder that they decided to write this sentiment into our governing laws to prevent all the bloody civil strife caused in England and other European nations, here in America.

And it was, and still is, a fine thing that they did. It is doubtful that Henry VIII had any inkling of the results of his wanting a divorce, but then there it is.

So let us have no more of this silly arguing over the separation of church and state. Instead let us revel in our freedom to worship and live free of the dictates of both the state and the churches. God Bless America, whom our founders intended to be The Land of the Free.

Mrs. L.A. Funkhouser
Hedgesville, W.Va.

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