Divided We Fall: The Secular vs. the Sacred, by Marie Alena Castle (Bloomington: Archway Publishing, 2018, ISBN 978-1-4808-6132-9). 244 pp. Softcover, $17.99.
Marie Alena Castle, for decades a tough-as-nails activist in Minnesota for abortion rights and church-state separation, died on May 25, 2018—the very same day, coincidentally, that voters in Ireland approved an abortion-rights referendum by two to one. Castle was ninety-one and had recently completed writing this book.
Castle covers a wide range of church-state issues: abortion rights, overpopulation, sectarian influence on hospitals and health insurance, “faith healing” threats to children, the campaigns to divert public funds to church-run private schools, the controversies over creationism versus evolution and sexuality education in our public schools, sectarian influence in public schools, and such issues as tax benefits for religious and other organizations (secular organizations such as Planned Parenthood, the Red Cross, etc.). The last item is so extremely complicated and settled (sort of) by the Supreme Court’s 1970 Walz v. Tax Commission ruling that it must wait for another time.
The takeaway from this book is that every citizen is obligated to put in as much time, effort, and money as possible on the issues that affect everything important in life. And of course each citizen must prioritize. The hottest issues—for Castle, me, and most humanists—would be protecting our environment, defending abortion rights, combatting efforts to wreck and privatize our public schools, strengthening the constitutional wall of separation between church and state, and opposing the authoritarian and clericalist forces now riding high in this and other countries. This means voting, getting as active in politics as possible, donating time and effort, writing letters to editors, working the internet, and cooperating with people across the religious spectrum. The recent conservative movement’s takeover of the Supreme Court and its unfair advantages due to gerrymandering and voter suppression make every possible effort necessary.
If a nonagenarian such as Castle can do it, we all can.