Saturday, December 08, 2007

A Referendum on Church and State

As long as we have come this far in George Bush's undeclared theocracy and Mitt Romney's open endorsement this week, doesn't the Republican Party owe Americans a clear choice--a Huckabee-Romney or Romney-Huckabee ticket--that would, in effect, be a referendum on the separation of church and state?

Some may fear the outcome of such a confrontation with a more secular Democratic ticket, but the alternative is to keep allowing the Religious Right to keep dominating the American conversation far out of proportion to be their true numbers and in contradiction to a consensus that existed in the nation's politics since 1776 until Islamic terrorists gave Bush's Christian absolutists a climate of fear in which to propagate their own extremism.

Failure to bring this debate out into the open allows a unthinking nod of heads to Romney's religiosity that asserts "Freedom requires religion, just as religion requires freedom."

For over 200 years, Americans have subscribed to the proposition that freedom requires freedom and that everyone, in the words of John F. Kennedy "has the same right to attend or not to attend the church of his choice...where no religious body seeks to impose its will directly or indirectly upon the general populace or the public acts of its officials."

In claiming his right as a Catholic to be considered for the presidency, Kennedy was affirming the separation of church and state. In claiming his right as a Mormon, Romney is blurring that tradition.

"I would not look with favor," JFK told Protestant ministers in Houston in 1960, "upon a President working to subvert the first amendment's guarantees of religious liberty...And neither do I look with favor upon those who would work to subvert Article VI of the Constitution by requiring a religious test, even by indirection. For if they disagree with that safeguard, they should be openly working to repeal it."

Responding to Romney's speech, Huckabee, the former preacher, said "it's a good thing and healthy for all of us for people to discuss faith in the public square," but diplomatically evaded details of his own, such as his views on evolution and women as pastors, noting that "where two or more Baptists are gathered together, there are at least seven different opinions."

Until now, Democrats have been unwilling to confront this question, settling for affirmation of their own faith in addressing evangelicals but not drawing the distinction between religion as a private matter and a deeply divisive public issue.

By nominating Huckabee and/or Romney, the Republican Party would inevitably make that part of the choice for the kind of America voters envision and want.

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