Islam, Judaism Rooted in Separation From Politics

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Rabbi Shlomo Pill speaks at a Leadership and Multifaith Program lecture at Emory on March 26. (Photo by Kevin Madigan)

A talk by Rabbi Shlomo Pill at Emory University raised questions about the separation of church and state in Judaism and Islam and the historic differences and commonalities in the two religions.

“We assume there should be some correlation between law and society and the religious faith traditions to which that society adheres,” Rabbi Pill said during his lunchtime lecture Monday, March 26, titled “Religion and State: Islamic and Jewish Perspectives From Antiquity to the Modern World.”

“In many ways, certainly until the Reformation and the 16th century, this is pretty normal. Societal norms and laws reflected religious values, and force was often used to punish misbehavior from a religious perspective.”

Rabbi Pill, a visiting assistant professor of Islamic, Jewish and American religion and law at the university’s Candler School of Theology, said the two traditions, both closely associated with law and normative systems for individuals, “have largely, historically, rejected the idea that politics should influence religion and vice versa.”

“Islam always held that there needs to be a separation between religious authority and politics, allowing each to function as separate…

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