A Progressive Theo-Political Blog Bringing You The Best and Worst of Baptist Life.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

He Ain't No JFK

We separate church and state affairs in this country, and for good reason. No religion should dictate to the state nor should the state interfere with the free practice of religion. But in recent years, the notion of the separation of church and state has been taken by some well beyond its original meaning. They seek to remove from the public domain any acknowledgment of God. Religion is seen as merely a private affair with no place in public life. It's as if they are intent on establishing a new religion in America — the religion of secularism. They are wrong.

The founders proscribed the establishment of a state religion, but they did not countenance the elimination of religion from the public square. We are a nation "under God" and in God, we do indeed trust.

The original meaning? As opposed to original intent? It's interesting to note that Romney's church-state philosophy parts ways with the "jurisprudence of original intent" promoted by Christian Right leaders since the Reagan era. Everyone from former Attorney General Edwin Meese to the late Chief Justice Rehnquist to nutcases like David Barton have argued consistently that the Founders proscribed the establishment of only a National Church.

According to the Christian Right originalists, the religion clauses of the First Amendment were not intended to apply to the states. Thus, they rejected the historic decision of Everson v. Board of Education which applied (incorporated) the Establishment Clause to each state via the Due Process Clause of the 14th Amendment. With statements like "the founders proscribed the establishment of a State Religion" - Romney seems to part ways with the Christian Right by seemingly siding with ardent Baptist separationists like Hugo Black.

Or does he? Mitt's philosophy is ambiguous at best and inconsistent at worst. You'd think being the Mormon candidate trying to woo the evangelical wing of the Republican Party good ole Mitt would offer some consistency in this area?

And then he claims that those who adhere to the separation principle are seeking to remove religion from the public square. Give me a break.

Religion is cheapened when we try to secularize the sacred.

Does Mitt not realize that the Baby Christ is trivialized when placed next to Santa and Rudolph?

For someone who freely talks about his faith day in and day out, it seems a bit disingenuous to claim that religion has been given the boot from the public life of Americans everywhere.

Read more: Brent Walker of the BJC on Mitt Romney.

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Blogger Bird said...

Yeah Mitt's a little confusing for sure.

But whether or not he'd be a president like JFK remains to be seen. Who knows what sort of president JFK would have turned out to be anyway? Two years isn't a long time -- certainly not long enough to establish a legitimate legacy in the Office of the Presidency.

Conversely, someone could look at JFK's questionable morals and say, "He Ain't No Mitt Romney."

5:39 AM

Blogger Jim Paslay said...

big daddy,

Make your case where you stand concerning church-state issues, but resorting to name-calling like you did about David Barton is a cheap shot. He is many things, but nuts he is not.

I still am offering a $100 bill for the first liberal who can find the phrase "separation of church and state" in the Constitution. Guess I'll be keeping it a while!

2:37 PM

Anonymous Jeremy said...


In response to your second point, I will offer you $100 if you can find the word "Trinity" in the Bible.I say this because similarly, perhaps the phrase "separation of church and state" is not in the Constitution, but the principle is still evident and real.

Church/State separation is not a liberal issue - it is an American issue and for that, a Baptist issue. Several have misused the phrase to suggest that there should be a separation of faith and politics/social issues - however, this is not what I nor BigDaddyWeave is suggesting.

3:28 PM

Blogger Big Daddy Weave said...

Barton is a revisionist historian of the worst kind. His writing is deceptive and often downright dishonest. He makes claims throughout his books that have never been substantiated and has been caught on more than one occasion peddling fabricated quotes.

So maybe "nutcase" does not serve Barton well. How about poser? He pretends to be an academic but is really nothing but an activist who tries to pass off fictional propaganda as the scholarly work of a real historian?

3:26 PM

Blogger Michael Westmoreland-White said...

Jim, that's an old chestnut. Of course the phrase "separation of church and state" is not in the Constitution. Nor are such bedrock Constitutional principles as "separation of powers," "checks and balances," "judicial review," or "federalism," but ALL of those principles are clearly in the Constitution or the various Amendments. Oh, and I'll give $200to the first NeoCon who can find ANY support in the actual text of the Constitution (as opposed to a few snippets of the Federalist papers quoted way out of context) for the concept of the "unitary executive."

BDW, I told Melissa Rogers that I heard 2 speeches masquerading as one with Romney. Further reflection makes it 3 speeches. 1)The JFK speech--Romney is running for president, not theologian in chief and will be guided by the Constitution and law, not dictated to by his church. 2) He will not apologize for being a Mormon (nor should he) and religious tolerance (I would said "freedom") must not just apply to folks who believe like us. Endorses, sometimes awkwardly, America's religious pluralism and common moral values or civil religion. 3) The speech I thought was dangerous: Secular people are dangerous. You can trust him as a Mormon, but not nonreligious people. This speech came in a context in which Romney had said only a few days before that he would have no Muslims in his cabinet--and who has been talking about "Islamo-fascism" in his stump speech. So, this speech sounded like "us vs. them" with the "us" including evangelicals, Catholics, and Mormons (and Jews?) and the "them" including atheists, agnostics, secularists and, of course, the evil Muslims.

That 3rd part of the speech, and not Romney's Mormon faith (I have no problem with Sen. Harry Reid, for instance) makes me think he is not fit to be president of the U.S.

6:29 PM

Anonymous Chuck said...

Big Daddy,

I disagree with your description of Barton as a poser.

However, it would be brilliant if applied to Al Gore on global warming:

"He pretends to be an academic but is really nothing but an activist who tries to pass off fictional propaganda as the scholarly work of a scientific mind."

I wish you could introduce him thusly in Atlanta.

8:55 AM


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