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Every once in a while I wander from the beaten path of liberal discourse to trudge in the wasteland of the far right mind. I stumbled across this over at the Renew America website. X number of palms-to-foreheads later.....

Here we have a gentleman of the religious far right attempting to make the argument that, "What the liberals want to do is redefine the phrase "separation of church and state" to exclude Judeo-Christian religious expression in America." Very early in his missive, Mr. Swank rightly invokes the First Amendment of the Constitution as a shield for Judeo-Christian  religious expression, but then goes on to beat his chest and cry to the heavens that, "They (meaning liberals) want not only "separation of church and state" defined on their terms but the exclusion of the Judeo-Christian religion and anything coming close to that particular religious expression — period."  Lets us take a couple of minutes and review the First Amendment as it applies to Mr. Swanks concern. In full the Amendment reads;

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."

I am not a constitutional lawyer but this seems pretty straight forward to me. The parts of the Amendment that most apply to his argument are the first three, no state sponsored religion, you can practice any religion you want, and you can talk about your religion all you want. Yet according to Mr. Swank, it appears that he, and his fellow travelers are headed for martyrdom on the floor of the coliseum. (Never mind that the Romans were very democratic about whom they fed to the lions, and if you asked the lions, Christians were probably no tastier than, say, an Egyptian or Persian, or Spaniard or someone from Gaul.)

The first part of the Amendment that states that there will not be a state sponsored religion goes down the tubes with this not so thinly veiled declaration from Mr. Swank, ".....America has a religious heritage. It's not Muslim. It's not Hindu. It's not Shinto. It's not animism. It's not New Age. It's not Paganism. It's not Voodoo. It's Judeo-Christian."  While this might be considered in your face explicit, what Mr. Swank is saying here is that because most, if not all of the immigrant Americans around at the time of the founding of the country were Christian, then ipso facto we are a "Christian Nation" and that those dirty "Liberals, in other words, will do whatever it takes to obliterate America of its rightful Judeo-Christian heritage.", followed by this, "Therefore, if tolerating another religion such as Islam helps wipe out Judeo-Christianity, then so be it."  I wonder if Mr. Swank thinks this is the 13th century and he is a Cathar?  Now in Mr. Swanks somewhat history limited mind we should ignore for the sake of simplicity the entire Native-American population, and their beliefs. This is because to any like minded 13th century individual they will either be (A)converted or (B)killed. If (A) then it supports his account and if (B) they don’t count. See, problem solved.   So now it is safe to move on to the second part of the Amendment.

It would seem from Mr. Swank’s article that the "free exercise thereof" really means the free exercise of ONLY his religion. A little further on in his rant Mr. Swank lets the cat out of the bag with this, "They (meaning liberals again) will even tolerate other religions, as they are presently doing with the Muslim infiltration...."    Crusade anyone? It is a well documented historical fact that, in the preceding few centuries Christianity as a whole had been actively trying to wipe out every other religion in the world. So if radical Christian assurances of brotherly love are ok by you, please feel free to relax as they attempt to install a theocracy here in America.  Mr. Swanks religious intolerance is only accented by his vivid display of intolerance on other issues as well when he says, "Once again, liberals have taken language to serve their own twisted purposes. They took "homosexual" and made it "gay." They took "pro-choice" and made it "protecting females." They take "separation of church and state" and make it wiping out America's Judeo-Christian heritage." Again with the martyrdom. Nothing more to see here. Let’s move on to the last part of the Amendment that has a bearing on Mr. Swanks words.

Freedom of speech is very easy to understand. Basically you can say whatever you want, as long as it is not libelous.  Therefore Mr. Swank can spew forth on a blog. As can I, or you. Simple. Mr. Swanks’ speech, religious or other wise is not infringed on in anyway that I can see.

The point here is that according to the Constitution, its’ Amendments, the Bill of Rights and numerous decisions by the Supreme Court, the government of these here United States is NOT in the business of religion. Period. It does not promote one religion over another, it does not grant any special favors to one religion over another, and it does not restrict one religion over another. The separation of church and state is a political and legal doctrine that government and religious institutions are to be kept separate and independent from each other. Simple, easy to understand. Supposedly the concept  originally comes from the English political philosopher John Locke, and as far as we Americans are concerned it can be  traced to the letter written by Thomas Jefferson in 1802  in which he says  the First Amendment to the United States Constitution establishes a  "wall of separation" between the church and the state. The phrase was first quoted by the United States Supreme Court in 1878.  The founding fathers understood the horrors of theocratic rule and sought to avoid it at all costs through the First Amendment. They also understood the horrors of religious persecution, and well understood that many of the people coming to these new shores were doing so to escape the kind religious singularity that Mr. Swank most assuredly advocates. Hence, the First Amendment. This Amendment was written to thwart people like Mr. Swank. But it is up to us to make sure it continues to do its job.

Originally posted to BrainDrain on Wed Nov 18, 2009 at 09:50 AM PST.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Language isn't always simple (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Bindle

    I know that a sentence or two in the amendment looks clear, and as an abstraction it certainly seems so. But there are numerous difficulties in practice. While it seems obvious on some levels, there is a reason there is such a high level of debate on this subject. We can say government isn't in religion, but, in reality it deals with religion constantly. That isn't to say it advances or inhibits religion specifically, but it does deal with it and through it constantly. That is why the answer isn't as simple as it is made out to seem in this referenced blog, or here.

    I see where you are going with this, in your disagreement with that blog, but I thought I'd point this out. If it is that simple, we wasted a lot of time in law school.

    •  always a possibility (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      G2geek, googie, stokecityfan12

      we wasted a lot of time in law school.

      But I agree, there's a lot to argue over in all of this.  Our freedoms are protected not just by the constitution and bill of rights, but by the painstaking process of interpreting and fighting over those rights, and the meaning of the somewhat vague placeholders that are thrown down to mark them.  It's messy.  It's weird.  It's haphazard. The results are often wrong for long periods of time.

    •  umm no. (0+ / 0-)

      IMHO, Lawyers made it complex when they succeeded in getting it applied to corporations and other non human entities. That is where 90% of the litigation concerning the 1st is currently.

      The biggest threat to America is not communism, it's moving America toward a fascist theocracy... -- Frank Zappa

      by NCrefugee on Wed Nov 18, 2009 at 10:20:12 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Ignoring the past years of litigation (0+ / 0-)

        Your statement ignores that vast number of years settling litigation on the First Amendment in many other arenas. That it might or might not apply to corporations did not make this issue complex. I completely disagree with your argument.

        Where litigation is now has very little bearing in the practical realities and difficulties in interpreting it. Your view is just a snapshot, and we need to look at more. Besides, litigation is not the end-all of disputes and issues inherent in something, it just represents what events have occurred, and what people have deemed important in bringing to the courts.

  •  relevant link (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    googie

    The biggest threat to America is not communism, it's moving America toward a fascist theocracy... -- Frank Zappa

    by NCrefugee on Wed Nov 18, 2009 at 10:16:30 AM PST

  •  These people will not be happy (5+ / 0-)

    until Christianity is the state religion and heretics are executed. They don't care what the plain language of the Constitution says, and they will never be convinced that they are wrong in their interpretation, such as it is.

    They are right, and all others are wrong, and headed for eternal damnation as a result.

    "Well, you've got to understand, they're Republicans. They're just doing what comes natural." -John Dingell

    by happy camper on Wed Nov 18, 2009 at 10:23:58 AM PST

    •  You left out a few words (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      JDsg, CrustyPolemicist

      They won't be happy until their particular version of Christianity is the state religion. The history of Christianity is anything but one of doctrinal unity. The founders were well aware of this, having lived through a time of bloody wars triggered by minor differences in doctrine between powerful parties. They realized that any commingling between government and religion would result in government eventually becoming nothing but a weapon in fights between religious factions.

      There is nothing so practical as a good theory—Kurt Lewin

      by ebohlman on Wed Nov 18, 2009 at 12:04:49 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  They have a persecution complex. (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    JDsg, Calamity Jean, googie

    They talk about how 'persecuted' they are in their churches. (I used to hear it all the time.)

    They think that persecution = not being the dominant(if not the only) religion allowed in the country. They have a very...peculiar...view of persecution.

    Preventing them from preaching to the unwilling is considered "persecution."

    Not having "most favored religion" status is considered persecution.

    Asking them to tolerate other viewpoints is considerd "persecution."

    "Ridicule may lawfully be employed where reason has no hope of success."

    by QuestionAuthority on Wed Nov 18, 2009 at 10:31:38 AM PST

    •  I agree to an extent (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      QuestionAuthority

      I agree that many seem to confuse traditional persecution with mere disagreement or disapproval. However, one could make the argument that preventing of evangelism and missionary work towards those outside the faith is not merely drawn at a line of "the unwilling." Rather, one could legitimately perceive that there are many individuals in society that wish to prevent religious adherents from spreading their message, in the hopes of preventing "unwanted evangelism."

      Whether that is "persecution" in its true sense, or something else entirely, is a good question. Most likely not, but it doesn't necessarily mean that there are not forces working against them. It may just be that the parameters of the perception are misplaced.

      •  ummm (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        QuestionAuthority

        Christian history is replete with missonary work. Mostly at the point of a sword or gun. They are the only religon in history that i am aware of that is responsible for the destruction of entire civilizations. Christians are most noted for spreading "unwanted evangelism" to "the unwilling" who usually wind up dead.

        Sic Semper Tyrannis

        by BrainDrain on Wed Nov 18, 2009 at 10:55:21 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  I think this is a point not really relevant here (0+ / 0-)

          Obligatory concession: yes, there have been numerous instances of missionary work that only ended in violence or in destruction in history. No one disputes that here.

          But that doesn't address the point I was making. What that response does accomplish, is to drag this discussion back to times where people were destroyed because governments, settlers, and explorers, who also happened to be Christian, committed such horrible acts. I do not think that such activity happens to any degree now, comparable to back then. So I question whether your missionary conclusions apply really to this day and age.

          To that end, there are Christians who truly are persecuted in this world, with lives ending just as they did back then. My point, however, dealt more with societal perspective. Rules and cultural avoidances towards preaching and missionary work, or evangelizing, may not be persecution, but they may be something else that needs addressing. That is where my discussion was headed.

          •  Yes they do (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            QuestionAuthority

            In the hands and minds of the radical religous right the difference between yesterday and today does not exsit. History has shown over and over again that once a radical theocracy exists persecution, repression and death are soon to follow.
            NOT allowing some one to evangelize, in lets say, the Air Force Academy, is the proper thing to do while trying to stop someone from evangelizing in Pago Pago is not. That would be up to the people who live in Pago Pago.
            Missionary/evangelizing work is an affront to the society (outside the US) that it is being done in. It assumes a hubris that is unwarrented and demening to the society it is being attempted in. They may not be putting people to the sword but they are still trying to convert/save the heathens. No difference from the 1300's.
            As far as the truly persecuted christians, that is a strawman argument. Why are they being persecuted? If it is true religous persecution then your point is taken, if it is because they are trying to "missionary" work where it is not wanted, then you have a horse of a different color.

            Sic Semper Tyrannis

            by BrainDrain on Wed Nov 18, 2009 at 11:25:06 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  It is not always an affront. (0+ / 0-)

              There are significant efforts in evangelism and missionary work today that seek to uphold the culture in which they work in, while still preaching the gospel. Yes, I agree that missionary work can assume the character of hubris when it says that day to day life must be accomplished in a western manner. However, this work seeks to keep the culture intact, with the theology unique to that area, while still preaching a consistent message. I think your definition of "affront" may reach to far, and it appears to confuse radical theocracies and evangelism.

              Those killed for their faith likely include those doing missionary work, as well as for mere practice or belief. However, I think both can be persecution. Whatever color you wish to portray it in, I would hope you are not trying to justify it for their attempts to spread their message. How do you define it? Merriam-Webster defines it as "causing to suffer for belief." If your belief is to spread this message of salvation, and you are killed or caused to suffer for doing so, is that not persecution?

              As a matter of personal evangelism, I don't think it is wrong anywhere, but perhaps on an institutionalized level (i.e. air force) you may have a point. But I don't think that should stop individuals from spreading their message.

  •  That site is awful (0+ / 0-)

    I clicked to the main page.  I scanned down the story titles.  There is not a single headline that has anything to do with what I thought christianity was about.

    In fact there is not a single headline that has anything to with what I thought AMERICA was supposed to be about.

    Un-freakin-beleivable.

  •  Poor old Swank. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    CrustyPolemicist

    This is old as the hills, but I'll say it one more time:  He is free to put up his cross or creche or crozier ANYWHERE IN TOWN, except on public property. So you figure he's got 95% of the town space on which to celebrate his faith.  He's miffed because until recently he was able to do it on public sites as well. Personally, I wouldn't mind if he was let back onto the town square, but I understand the symbolic reason why he is excluded.  It's the same reasoning that Jefferson used when he on one hand barred prayer from the Whitehouse, while on the other giving liberally to several churches.

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