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Rhode Island bishop rejects governor's stand on church-state separation

January 10, 2011

Bishop Thomas Tobin of Providence, Rhode Island has rebuked the state’s Governor Lincoln Chafee for claiming that an inaugural prayer service would violate the separation of Church and state.

In a column for the Rhode Island Catholic, the outspoken Bishop Tobin reminded readers that the phrase “separation of Church and state” is found nowhere in the US Constitution. He said that the invocation of that phrase should not “be used as a weapon to silence the faith community, or restrict its robust participation in the debate of important policy issues.”

The bishop said that he was “neither surprised by nor disappointed by” the new governor’s decision to forego the traditional prayer service for his inauguration. He explained that he was dismayed by the explanation for the decision. Bishop Tobin has clashed with Governor Chafee on several public-policy issues, most notably on legal acceptance of same-sex marriage.


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