Tuesday, May 15, 2012

A wall of separation

Excerpt from Mitt Romney’s speech at Liberty University last week:
The protection of religious freedom has also become a matter of debate. It strikes me as odd that the free exercise of religious faith is sometimes treated as a problem, something America is stuck with instead of blessed with. Perhaps religious conscience upsets the designs of those who feel that the highest wisdom and authority comes from government.

But from the beginning, this nation trusted in God, not man. Religious liberty is the first freedom in our Constitution. And whether the cause is justice for the persecuted, compassion for the needy and the sick, or mercy for the child waiting to be born, there is no greater force for good in the nation than Christian conscience in action.

Religious freedom opens a door for Americans that is closed to too many others around the world. But whether we walk through that door, and what we do with our lives after we do, is up to us.

I am struck by Romney’s words.  Has there been a plethora of court-ordered or government mandated church closings?  Has any religion been banned?  In fact the only attack on religion I see is so-called Christians blocking attempts by Muslims trying to build mosques and Islamic centers.

Romney’s lack of intellectual honesty is obvious when he claims that people think “highest wisdom and authority comes from government”.  Romney slams the laws of man, the law of the land, The Constitution, in one paragraph and seconds later speaks of the greatness of the same document.  Yes Mitt, the highest authority DOES come from the government in the form of our Federal, Legislative, and Judicial branches.  Certainly you took a civics class in junior high.  As for ‘highest wisdom’ coming from the government, I think eight years of a George W. Bush administration ruined any belief in that claim.

Like many religious leaders, Romney once again fails to see the true meaning of the establishment clause.  Over the last few weeks I have done a great deal of reading and writing on this subject, and I am dumbfounded that political Christians believe the sole purpose of the 1st Amendment is to prevent government from encroaching into religion.  The 1st Amendment allows all citizens to be free to practice or not to practice a religious faith.  It also forbids the establishment of a state religion at the expense of other faiths or freethinkers.   

As Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black wrote in the majority opinion of McCollum v. Board of Education “Separation means separation, not something less.  Jefferson’s metaphor in describing the relation between Church and State speaks of a ‘wall of separation,’ not a fine line easily overstepped….In no activity of the State is it more vital to keep out divisive forces than in its schools, to avoid confusing, not to say fusing, what the Constitution sought to keep strictly apart….it is the Court’s duty to enforce this principle in the full integrity.”

Romney’s final paragraph is actually quite accurate.  People enjoy a level of freedom here that is unmatched anywhere else in the world.  And yes, what you do with your live and your opportunities is up to you.

While many at Liberty University surely lapped up what Romney had to say, I will go with Robert Ingersoll:

“They knew that to put God in the Constitution was to put man out.  They knew that the recognition of a Deity would be seized upon by fanatics and zealots as a pretext for destroying the liberty of thought.  They knew the terrible history of the church too well to place in her keeping, or in the keeping of her God, the sacred rights of man.  They intended that all should have the right to worship, or not to worship; that our laws should make no distinction on account of creed.  They intended to found and frame a government for man, and for man alone.  They wished to preserve the individuality of all; to prevent the few from governing the many, and the many from persecuting and destroying the few.”

So the likes of Romney, Santorum, Gingrich, Buchanan, Robertson, Falwell, and other political Christians can preach about the mythological attack on ALL religions going on today and they can use the same vigor to establish their revisionist beliefs about the founding of the country.  In both cases they are equally wrong.

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