Thank goodness for Rick Santorum. Now, I do not make that statement unadvisedly. I despise Rick Santorum. But once in awhile, even one's worst enemy can crystallize an issue and force the country to make a choice.
In his front page post today, Armando wrote about Rick Santorum's answer to a question by George Stephanopoulos about separation of church and state:
I don't believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute. The idea that the church can have no influence or no involvement in the operation of the state is absolutely antithetical to the objectives and vision of our country.To note that Santorum is wrong is obvious to any Kog or Kossack. But I love that the true Republican agenda has been revealed and that Americans are being forced to make a plain choice. Enough with the dog whistles: Let's put it to a vote.
There's more below the double gnocchi, but first a word from our sponsor:
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Ever since Ronald Reagan's presidency, it has been clear to me and many liberals and progressives that the right does not like the form of government our Founding Fathers chose. Reagan was fond of the rather unpatriotic notion that the government of the United States was "the problem and not a solution." And yet he ran to be the head of that very government he didn't believe in. A weird guy. Of course, as shown in Iran-Contra, he tried his best to break those pesky Constitutional checks and balances.
Since then, many right wingers have tried to reinvent history and claim that the U.S. was founded as a "Christian" nation. The fact is that Jefferson, Madison, et al. clearly rejected such an idea, and even those critics from the right who are not totally insane reject the notion that the US was intended to be a Christian theocracy. Instead, what these men of the Enlightenment chose was a liberal democracy based on reason and scientific thought. They clearly rejected the notion of a theocracy, and the belief in separation of church and state and in religious freedom was enshrined in both the Preamble and the First Amendment. The Fourteenth Amendment confirmed the principle.
Nevertheless, modern movement conservatism based itself on the "Moral Majority" of Jerry Falwell, and the right has waged war on liberal democracy, seeking to replace it with oligarchic theocracy ever since. This ideological blend has united the Republican base for years. The wealthy wing of the GOP used the theocrats to cement its position as the oligarchy, and the social reactionary wing was willing to be used by the oligarchs to enable their theocracy. Or so they thought.
The problem is that the social reactionary wing has been used by the oligarchs to a point where it is really starting to hurt, and they really haven't made much if any progress on establishing their theocracy. They are naturally angry, but, after years of brainwashing by their corporate masters, the social reactionaries are mad at the government (i.e., we the people), not the oligarchs. Instead of realizing that 1) smaller government and lower taxes only mean that the rich can steal from them with impunity, and 2) the rich will never enact their lunatic social agenda, the social reactionaries blamed it on the scary black, Kenyan-born Muslim — even before he was inaugurated! After all, rich white people can't be wrong, can they?
So I am glad Santorum has placed the issue of separation of church and state clearly on the agenda. No more grumblings about "family values," "law and order," or "morality." Forget those old dog whistles. Lay it out there as Santorum does and let's discuss it.
I often ask those who claim America is a "Christian" nation which form of Christianity they think we are. Puritans? Catholics? Quakers? Seventh-Day Adventists? Mormons? Baptists? Which flavor of Baptist? Primitive Baptist or Southern Baptist? You see, the truth is that there are as many different religious beliefs as there are sentient people in the US.
If we ever adopt Santorum's
idea that the church can havethen it is Katie-bar-the-door. You see, people do not generally change their religious beliefs just because someone votes that they should or because someone orders them to. Religious beliefs are fundamental to the very core of who a person is. How can "the blessings of liberty" be "secure" if I do not have the freedom to decide what God or gods I choose to believe or not believe in? It is the very essence of human freedom.
noinfluence or noinvolvement in the operation of the state,
The Spanish Inquisition showed us that it took extreme torture to get people to renounce their religious beliefs and often even that didn't work. The Soviets showed us that a government can repress public religious expression but never extinguish religious belief. The fact is that every time in the history of human civilization that a government has tried to make people conform to a religion it has resulted in death, destruction, and destitution.
What we agreed to when we founded this country was that such matters are personal and should carry no weight in the public discourse of governing. "Because that's my faith" is not a valid argument in a liberal democracy. Since their faith is the social reactionary right's only argument against abortion, gay marriage, contraception, etc., the wing nuts must change the nature of our government or abandon the argument. Given that we are still a liberal democracy, that argument has already been lost by the right.
So I am glad that Rick Santorum has said John F. Kennedy's speech on separation of church and state makes him "want to throw up." The only Catholic president in history affirmed the separation of church and state to appease (you guessed it) social reactionaries on the right who feared the Pope would be giving JFK orders. Now Santorum seems to be saying, "You're damn straight the Pope will be giving me orders and, not only will I be obeying them, I will do my best to make sure that every one of you obeys them, too, whether you're Catholic or not." And the social reactionaries thunder their agreement. The irony is thick.
So I say, OK, Rick, let's vote on it. I think it's time you put the issue squarely and forthrightly on the table. Then, as Armando pointed out, you can explain why this is wrong:
We in the United States, above all, must remember that lesson, for we were founded as a nation of openness to people of all beliefs. And so we must remain. Our very unity has been strengthened by our pluralism. We establish no religion in this country, we command no worship, we mandate no belief, nor will we ever. Church and state are, and must remain, separate.Before you get nauseous and declare your undying opposition to the separation of church and state, however, you might want to consider that the words above were spoken by your hero, Ronald Reagan.
But remember, Santorum, even if you improbably win and even if you even more improbably pass theocratic legislation, your position is still unconstitutional. Our Founding Fathers tried to make sure of that. Even some George W. Bush-appointed judges realize it. You'll have to repeal the First Amendment and probably the Fourteenth Amendment too. Good luck with that.
But thanks for bringing this issue out of the closet, so to speak, and putting it squarely on the table: Do we believe in separation of church and state or not? I think it's THE fundamental question of our time.
Cartoon courtesy madmikesamerica.com
Spanish Inquisition courtesy Wikipedia