Church, State and Tea

Tea party activists across the country have been doing a lot of shouting about what they say is government getting involved in things it shouldn’t. But we’ve seen a number of tea party-backed candidates in this year’s elections, such as Senate candidates Christine O’Donnell of Delaware and Sharron Angle of Nevada, who don’t seem to have a problem with government getting involved in religious matters. In fact, they want to mix government and religion. Think Progress provides another example: Ken Buck, the Republican nominee for the Senate from Colorado. Here’s what Buck had to say at a candidate forum last year:

I disagree strongly with the concept of separation of church and state. It was not written into the Constitution. While we have a Constitution that is very strong in the sense that we are not gonna have a religion that’s sanctioned by the government, it doesn’t mean that we need to have a separation between government and religion. And so that, that concerns me a great deal. So I think there are cultural differences, I think there, we are as strong as we, our culture, our culture gives us our strength, I guess is the best way to put that. And, and I am worried about the fact that we seem to be walking away from culture. And, and one thing that President Obama has done that I would certainly speak about is calling the Christmas tree, which has historically been called a Christmas tree in Washington DC, a holiday tree. It’s just flat wrong in my mind. debunked the claim about President Obama supposedly preferring a “holiday tree” instead of a “Christmas tree.” In any case, Buck’s argument against separation of church and state exposes the far right’s fraudulent rhetoric about “small government” and “religious liberty.” Mixing government and religion would threaten religious freedom in America, which is why the First Amendment — which the Texas Freedom Network strongly defends — forbids government promotion or interference in religion.

14 thoughts on “Church, State and Tea

  1. Of course, there is nothing about “church and state” in the Constitution, and it is obviously unfortunate some people and organizations continue to distort what the Constitution commands by using those words. The word in the Constitution is “religion,” that is, it is a “religious test” which is prohibited for “any office or public trust under the United States,” and it is “religion,” which shall not be established by law or government at any level.

    It is also inaccurate to assert “the First Amendment … forbids government … interference in religion.” Please, “religion” is not above the law, except in matters of opinion. All actions are subject to the laws of the land, regardless of religion opinion. Read Reynolds v. U.S., for example, polygamy is unconstitutional regardless of religion belief. The Free Exercise commandment plainly says the exercise of religion shall not be prohibited, which means totally forbidden, that is, the exercise of religion can be abridged, just not totally forbidden. The word “abridging,” which means reducing, applies to speech, press, peaceable assembly, and petition, not to the exercise of religion. The exercise of religion can be abridged, just not totally forbidden.

    TFN needs to accurately state what the religion commandments in the Constitution say, because they say exactly what they mean. TFN also needs to read my book: The Religion Commandments in the Constitution: A Primer — , as well as hire a debate coach from Baylor in order to learn how to properly frame the constitutional argument, i.e., by using the Constitution’s actual words.

  2. Buck, Angle and O’Donnell are woefully uninformed. “Separation of church and state” is shorthand for what Madison and Jefferson engineered into the Bill of Rights, as the Supreme Court noted in 1879 in Reynolds v US and as the Court held in 1947 in Everson and subsequent rulings. Government, at whatever level, violates the separation principle when it directly or indirectly diverts public funds to sectarian private schools, or involves itself with the religious lives of students in public schools, or tries to impose sectarian medical codes on women. At least 38 of our state constitutions clearly contain the separation principle. Buck, Angle and O’Donnell should acquaint themselves with these provisions in the Colorado, Nevada, and Delaware constitutions. They might also note that in 1952 Congress reaffirmed that principle when it approved the constitution for the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, which reiterates the language of the First Amentment and adds “There shall be complete separation of church and state”. — Edd Doerr, President, Americans for Religious Liberty,

  3. Edd Doerr wrote above: Government, at whatever level, violates the separation principle when it directly or indirectly diverts public funds to sectarian private schools….” Yet, witness we have the Office of Faith-Based Partnerships. Neither self-declared constitutional “experts,” nor TFN, nor any TFN blogger participant EVER cites this constitutional discrepancy. Only me.

    By the way, thank you, Mr. Doerr, for adding that about the PR constitution in 1952. I didn’t know that.

  4. I just watched interviews on CNN with the CEOs of Coca-Cola, Alcoa Aluminum, Google, and a couple of other major companies. The subject was “What Can America Do to Become Competitive Again?” One of the things most important to the CEOs is for the federal government to invest heavily in BASIC SCIENTIFIC RESEARCH. According to the CEOs, we are not competitive with China in any level-field contest to see who can kick a ball the farthest. The United States is competitive only when we invent an entirely new game that the Chinese do not know how to play. We do that through groundbreaking new research that discovers new things and how to capitalize on them. The CEOs said that private firms do very little of the research necessary to do this. They have always depended on the federal government to do it—then they find a way to capitalize on the research discovery and turn it into jobs and money. The CEOs said that one reason we are in such sad shape economically is that the FEDERAL BUDGET CUTTERS over the past several decades have severely handicapped such government research by putting it on the chopping block. The CEOs said that the government research budget needs to be at least twice the size it is today if this country is to become economically competitive again.

    You see. Government research is done by the “elitest experts” who are going to really get their richly deserved spanking in the election next Tuesday. As some of you know, I have spent my career working in one capacity or another for private sector companies that help do such research for the federal government. I know the business environment and how to take its pulse. This bunch of Tea Party and far right yahoos that will be elected next Tuesday will do the exact same thing they did from 1994-1996, which I was there to see personally. The funding for government research was cut so deeply that it was very nearly in need of special life support systems in a hospital ICU. I have already written about it to my two Republican Senators and to my incoming Republican House Representative. The response I received was stone cold silence. These idiots are planning to ignore the advice of the CEOs of America’s top businesses and cut clean through the artery that feeds this country’s economic heart.

    Bottom Line: Best I could tell from what the CEOs were saying and what the Tea Party mentality has been saying, when considered together, the election next Tuesday is going to slit America’s throat from ear to ear economically.

  5. The declination of funding for basic research isn’t skewed politically, it is just skewed by unaccountable accountants in the quest to justify thier jobs by cutting costs they don’t understand. There is no quarterly bottom line measurable performance or fiscal benchmarks upon which to sit on.

    Few CEO’s know how their organizations get anyting done, if anything. Like the tailors of the Emperor’s New Clothes, they weave wondrous fabrications in lieu of fabric. The Divine Right isn’t any less gullible than the Progressive. It’s gotten worse in the last decade with dueling sound bites of no substance.

    The principal danger in the next two years is the realization by the major and minor powers in far off lands that America is too nutty to be relied upon to keep the peace. Particularly a nuclear armed America which others saw in the case of the Blue Dress that the US has to be treated with asbestos gloves.

  6. Cytocop is right. Bush’s faith-baseed initiative is also of questionable constitutionality, as also such things as the National Day of Prayer. Government has no authority to select which religious activity to promote or to tell citizens when they should engage in it. The Religious Right seems to think that religion should be dependent on government.

  7. Hello, my friend Edd Doerr, above, of Americans for Religious Liberty! If anyone has spent his life dedicated to the principle of separation, it is Edd Doerr. Edd and I served on the staff of Americans United for Separation of Church and State in the 1970s. Edd now has his own organization, Americans for Religious Liberty, and those of you interested in this blog line issue should make yourself aware of of his valuable contribution to the constitutional principle of separation, which, in contradiction of the remark from Cycocop above, obviously includes President Obama’s unconstitutional office of Faith-based Partnerships. President Obama should be ashamed of himself for allowing that office to continue.

    Nonetheless, Edd and I disagree about how to address the continuing debate over what the Constitution actually says and about how the debate should be framed in response to the “religious right.” For a fact, the words “church and state” are not in the Constitution. To me that is stating the fact. Therefore, when debating the Constitution, the most effective argument is to use its words. Words mean things, and what Beck, the witch from Delaware, and the general public, need to understand is what the Constitution actually says: “religion” shall not be established, which word “religion” includes the whole subject of “religion,” not just “church.” The constitutional word “religion” includes the entire meaning of “religion.” “Church” is a part of religion. No shorthand is needed. History proves using the “short hand” of “church and state” has not won the debate after 200 years. Further, if the writers of Art. 6. and the First Amendment had meant “church,” that is what they would have written. They did not write “church.” It is the continued use of a word which is not in the Constitution which Beck and the witch are using, and it is objection to use of the words “church and state” which should be made. The writers of the Constitution got the wording correct from the beginning and that wording is “religion,” not church.

    As Professor Lakoff says in his book Don’t Think of an Elephant, when you are debating subjects other than elephants–debate tactics 101. So, do not talk about or use words which are not in the Constitution to debate what the Constitution says. I spent enough time in law school to know that you do not present a constitutional principle in court based upon words which are not in the Constitution–best of luck with any judge by using that silly strategy. It is also a strategy which has failed in the public square. The constitutional word is “religion,” not “church,” regardless even of what any other court decision has said. No court can change the words of the Constitution. Only the people can change its words. The words in the First Amendment still read as written in 1789 and ratified in 1791.

    AS for Thomas Jefferson, he was in France, not the USA, from 1784 to 1789 and had absolutely nothing to with drafting the wording of the 1787 Constitution, which was drafted in a secret convention and ratified by the states in 1788. As for drafting the 1789 First Amendment, Jefferson was not in the First Congress and did not take his office as Secretary of State until March 1790.

    James Madison was a Founding Father, see Webster’s, because he was a member of the Constitutional Convention. Madison was also a member of the six member joint senate=house conference committee which drafted the wording of the First Amendment. It was Madison who personally helped write the wording of the 1787 Constitution and the 1789 First Amendment, not Jefferson. If you wish to quote someone, quote Madison: “Strongly guarded as is the separation between Religion and Government in the Constitution of the United States, the danger of encroachment by Ecclesiastical Bodies may be illustrated by precedents already furnished in their short history,” W&MQ 3:555.

    There is no debate about the words used in the Constitution. Is there debate about people on both sides who attempt to sell the idea that words which are not in the Constitution are really what the Constitution should say? Yes, and for 200 years “church and state” usage advocates have been distorting what the Constitution literally says. The word in Art. 6., Sec. 3, is “religious,” not church, and the word in the First Amendment is “religion,” not church. The Constitution separates Congress and all government from making laws which establish “religion” at any level. It is a distortion and poor debate strategy to assert the issue is about “church and state.” Beck and the witch clearly make my point. They are right about the words “church and state,” not being in the Constitution. Well, then, what relevant word is in the Constitution? Religion.

  8. One more day and counting until the fruitcakes takeover. What do I think is going to happen?

    Total gridlock. The Democrats are going to do the exact same thing the Republicans and sinners did for the past 2 years. They will reel for a moment, collect themselves, and refuse to cooperate on anything the Republicans want to do—and will blame it all on the DO NOTHING Republican Congress.The Republicans can count on an Obama veto and a “bad for America” speech on any and every initiative they might manage to pass. People will be pissed off and vote Democratic in 2012 because that is the only other choice a “trapped rat” citizen thinks he has when it comes time to vote.

    Did you know that a substantial portion of the American population actually believes that the so-called “Two Party System” was actually mandated by the U.S. Constitution? Idiots!!!!

  9. Gene Garman and I are having a discussion about semantics and Lakoff’s “framing”. But essentially we are on the same page. Let us all communicate the best we can under various circumstances.

  10. Regarding the separation of RELIGION and State:.. ahem:

    It’s looking pretty bad for the House right now. We’ll have to see how many of the religious whacks win seats there.
    I’m still holding out hope the Dems keep the House.
    The Senate looks better, O’Donnell is going down, Angle, Miller, maybe Buck.
    Hopefully some of these big megachurches and televangelists are going to be closing shop soon. That will help.
    I’m sick of them. But I won’t let up.

  11. Remember the bundle of sticks and the prophecy for tomorrow night. The right wing victory is a mere illusion of victory. The golf ball is merely being set up on the tee. You know what comes next, and the Lord will be the golfer.

    By the way, we were having family pictures made for the church directory today. I left work and arrived too early at the church, so I went in to read some in the church library. On the shelf, I saw about 10 thin training textbooks someone had apparently used for a seminar at sometime in the past. The books supposedly taught how Christians should view and work to bring about “true social justice.” They were written by the Heritage Foundation, a famous far right wingnut think tank in Washington, D.C.

    As a Christian, I have to say that these books were absolutely shameless in bending and distorting the time-space continuum with regard to helping the poor, sick, oppressed, etc. I could write you my usual book, but I will spare you this time. Here is what I learned in a nutshell:

    1) Poor people in the United States are not really poor people–it’s all an illusion.

    2) The poor people that do not really exist are poor because they simply failed to take personal responsibility for themselves and their families. It’s all their fault and their fault alone.

    3) Governments need to get out of the charity business and let self-motivated individuals and churches meet all the needs of the poor people who are not really poor—like that is ever going to happen.

    4) And the unwritten thread that ran so true through the whole book: “If we can get ordinary schnooks in churches to buy into our two-bit malarkey, the billionaires who support us will see their taxes that help the poor lowered to nearly nothing and their industries will make billions more dollars (maybe trillions more) in take home profits to buy that new 200 ft. yacht they have had their eyes on for a while.”

    Until Charles draws his last breath, I am standing with Jesus. We are going to see to it that the modern rich man Lazarus pays the uttermost farthing to support the poor, the sick, the hurting, the oppressed, the downtrodden who are getting their sores licked by dogs at his gates. Not just here in the United States—but around the world. As the Bible says, for those to whom much has been given (be they billionaires or governments) much is expected. They shall be held to their holy obligations—by the IRS and force if necessary.

  12. Charles:

    Thank you for stating the matter so very pointedly. I graduated from Baylor University, Waco, where I took my first public speaking class, along with a major in religion and a minor in history. I spent two years at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, where I had the honor of studying ethics from two outstanding professors, T.B. Maston, who used to say, “it is all right to be a fundy, just don’t be a fool,” and Bill Pinson, who used to say, “God gave us brains to us, not to sit on.” Then, I spent a year at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City from which I obtained a Master of Divinity. I totally agree with your understanding of the teachings of Jesus.

    Therefore, I am not impressed with the “religious right” and its devotion to the Republican Party, which fundamentally objects to organized labor, an advocate of negotiated decent wages and conditions for all workers. Further, I am definitely unimpressed with “right wing” hypocrisy which flies the flag and ridicules the poor and unemployed, while supporting the spending of billions of taxpayer and borrowed dollars to invade and kill innocent human beings in other parts of the world.

    I then spent a year at Washburn University School of Law where Glenn Archer taught and was Dean, prior to organizing Americans United for Separation of Church and State and on which staff Edd Doerr and I both served. AU has existed for over sixty years and continues to argue the constitutional principle of separation. Yet, after sixty years the public debate, of which TFN is involved, continues. Why? Is the Constitution not clearly worded?

    The point I make is simple. The Constitution is clearly worded. It is Americans United for Separation and TFN who continue to distort what the Constitution plainly says, and it is Glenn Beck and the witch from Delaware who simply rebut AU and TFN by simply saying the words “church and state” are not in the Constitution.

    So, when after all these years AU and TFN have failed to convince our opponents, why continue a failed debate strategy? No wonder Beck’s “Arguing with Idiots” is a best seller. Beck and the witch are correct, i.e., the words “church and state” are not in the Constitution. But, when I write a book which advocates changing the debate terms to conform to the actual words of the Constitution, which words cannot be refuted because they are definitely in the Constitution, I must conclude Beck and the Teaparty has more debate technique understanding than do the so-called leaders of the separation issue.

    Therefore, prior to the recent election I wrote my book The Religion Commandments in the Constitution: A Primer, which frames the separation debate using the actual words of the Constitution, rather than the words of Thomas Jefferson, who had absolutely nothing to do with composing the actual writing of either the Constitution or the First Amendment, because he was in France and not a member of either the Constitutional Convention or the First Congress.

    It is James Madison, “Father of the Constitution,” who was a member of the Constitutional Convention and the First Congress, who personally helped draft both Art. 6., Sec. 3., and the First Amendment. It was James Madison who wrote “strongly guarded as is the separation between Religion and Government in the Constitution of the United States, the danger of encroachment by Ecclesiastical Bodies may be illustrated by precedents already furnished in their short history,” W&MQ 3:555. He is person who should get quoted.

    The word in the Constitution is “religion,” not “church.” About that fact there is no debate, and our opponents do not have a debate point. It is way past time for AU, ARL, FFRF, and TFN to change its debate terms and simply win the national argument. In my various lectures and debates, I have never lost this constitutional and simple approach, which I also learned from Zig Ziglar: KISS.