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The State and the Faithful

Christmas is a time of year when many people confront the issue of government endorsing a faith. Can city hall put up a crche? Should the school choir sing about baby Jesus? Why did my legislator send out Christmas cards?

This is all part of America's innovative and ever-changing experiment to keep the state from imposing upon an individual's spiritual beliefs.

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One spiritual leader, Marianne Williamson, tells in a piece on today's opinion page how Congress considered her in choosing its chaplain.

The tradition of a legislative chaplain was endorsed in 1983 by the Supreme Court, which said: "To invoke divine guidance on a public body entrusted with making the laws ... is simply a tolerable acknowledgment of beliefs widely held among the people of this country." Next year, the court will decide if students can lead prayers before public-school games.

Making such decisions - either by government or individually - requires a humble kindness in not intruding on another's basic beliefs. And that's the best kind of religion - in action.

(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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