Did you know this about the IW Knights of Columbus?

Father Jerzy Popiełuszko, one of the leaders of the Solidarity movement, stands by a map of Poland in 1982. Two years later, he was kidnapped and murdered by officers of the communist secret police. Photo by East News/Getty Images

Born in 1949, Ryszard Legutko spent the first four decades of his life in communist-controlled Poland.  Like many, he came to idealize the freedom and political structure of liberal democratic societies, particularly the United States.  Following the collapse of communism in 1989 and Poland’s democratic transition, he experienced disillusionment as political problems persisted.

Today, Legutko is a professor of philosophy at the Jagiellonian University in Kraków, and he has been a member of the European Parliament since 2014.  He is the author of several books, including The Demon in Democracy: Totalitarian Temptations in Free Societies(Encounter, 2016).

Columbia editor Alton J. Pelowski recently had the opportunity to talk to Legutko about his book and about the role of faith in the public square today.

COLUMBIA: Thomas Jefferson spoke of “a wall of separation between church and state”.  Many people in the United States have taken this to mean that a person’s personal faith does not belong in the public square.  What is your opinion about the proper role that religion should play in the political sphere?

PROF. RYSZARD LEGUTKO: The effect of the Reformation in Europe was that religion was under the control of the throne, whereas in the United States there is this separation. Until recently, this was widely believed to mean only that there is no established religion. The idea that religion has no access to the public square is a recent phenomenon.

From the beginning, it was assumed that the United States was founded on Christian principles and that people who are elected to the public functions are religious people, sometimes with very strong religious views, and that these views affect their political opinion.  It’s not that religious truth is to be translated literally into policy, but it has a role to play.  If you are a Christian, you cannot totally abstract your religious views from your public life.  That’s why the Bible is considered to be a sacred document in courts, such as for swearing oaths.  Only recently has this been seriously contested, with calls for the removal of crosses and of the Ten Commandments, for example.

My opinion is a simple one: You cannot just distill or separate politics from your religious or philosophical views, in an effort to create a “pure” politics, deprived of metaphysical content.  It’s simply impossible; such human beings do not exist.

The preceding piece is the introduction to a longer article posted in the KofC on-line magazine the Columbia.  You can find the link to this article and other information about us at www.IWKnights.com (Click on Bulletin Inserts) or at facebook.com/IWknights9981.

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