Archive for the ‘Separation of Church and State’ Category
The Institute for Public Accuracy kindly included my comments about Rick Warren’s recent presidential candidate forum in one of their daily press releases, which is posted over at Common Dreams. I said:
“The fiercely partisan religious right leader Rick Warren of four years ago is little different from the Rick Warren of today. In 2004, he issued a letter regarding the presidential candidates on the issues he considered to be ‘non-negotiable’ and that ‘are not even debatable because God’s word is clear on these issues.’
“At the Civic Forum, Warren featured the key litmus tests of the religious right — abortion and same sex marriage — while ignoring the so-called broader agenda of the supposedly newly moderate evangelicals such as climate change and domestic and world poverty. He said that we should not ‘demonize’ people with whom we disagree, and yet he described abortion as a ‘holocaust.’
“Warren opened the forum by saying he supports separation of church and state, while the event itself held in the sanctuary of a church epitomized the all-out war on separation being waged by the religious right and its current avuncular leader. [McCain and Obama] have contributed greatly to the role of Warren as a power broker, reflecting poorly on the judgment of both.”
Where do our candidates stand on basic matters of separation of church and state and the constellation of values and issues that intersect this foundational doctrine of our culture and our constitution? First Freedom First, a joint project of Americans United for Separation of Church and State and the Interfaith Alliance Foundation, has ten well-crafted questions to help us find out.
FFF suggests using them at
Town Hall meetings or other locations where candidates for office will be gathering. You can copy and paste them into an email message to the candidates. Or, use these as suggestions to help formulate your own questions to candidates, to find out their views on safeguarding separation of church and state and protecting religious liberty.
These are things that can sometimes make candidates squirm; and they are sometimes coached not to talk about them. But avoidance does not mean that people do now want to know the answers or that there are not important philosophical and public policy matters that directly relate. Our candidatees should not only be prepared to answer such questions, but they can be reasonably assured that we would like to hear good answers.
1) Leaders on the religious right often say that America is a “Christian Nation.” Do you agree with this statement?
2) Do you think Houses of Worship should be allowed to endorse political candidates and retain their tax exempt status?
3) Do you think public schools should sponsor school prayer or, as a parent, should this choice be left to me?
4) Would you support a law that mandates teaching creationism in my child’s public school science classes?
5) Do you think my pharmacist should be allowed to deny me doctor-prescribed medications based on his or her religious beliefs?
6) Will you respect the rights of those in our diverse communities of faith who deem same-gender marriage to be consistent with their religious creed?
7) Should “faith-based” charities that receive public funds be allowed to discriminate against employees or applicants based on religious beliefs?
Do you think one’s right to disbelieve in God is protected by the same laws that protect someone else’s right to believe?
9) Do you think everyone’s religious freedom needs to be protected by what Thomas Jefferson called “a wall of separation” between church and state?
10) What should guide our policies on public health and medical research: science or religion?
The religious right has succeeded in dominating public discourse on the intersection of science and religion for a long time now. Among many other things, seesaw battles have been waged in many states over the teaching of creationism or intelligent design; and faith based “abstinence” programs as against thoughtful, comprehensive sexuality education.
But beyond the courtroom and legislative theatrics, and conflict driven media coverage, mainstream science and religion have been getting organized. Those who posit that religion and science are inherently in conflict are two sides of the same counter productive framing of the argument. Most Americans understand, believe and accept that faith and science are not necessarily in conflict. Those who support religious pluralism and sound science and science education are natural allies against the religious supremacism, Christian nationalism and crackpot science of the religious right.
A few of these efforts include Evolution Sunday, (actually, Evolution Weekend, Feb. 8 – 10 2008) in which hundreds of churches have sermons discussing the compatibility of their faith and evolutionary science; the publication of a book by the National Academy of Sciences on the compatibility of faith and science; and the publication of a groundbreaking theological statement by the United Church of Christ that seeks to end the “feud” between science and religion. The UCC has backed it up with an ad campaign targeted to science blogs.
Yeah, I know. Everyone is writing about it. But here is my take.