Some people in this country, particularly Republican politicians, employ faith displays in public places in order to weaken our historic tradition of church/state separation. Separation has benefitted the interests of both sectors for centuries. Alas, times are a changing.
Here are a few examples of in-your-face religiosity that menace this tradition of keeping the two realms apart:
* Robert Jeffress, a Perry adviser and leader of the First Baptist Church of Dallas, declared that Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney isn’t a “real” Christian. (Mr. Jeffress did not delineate a real from a fake Christian but he made clear his view that Romney is in the latter camp.) Jeffress also noted that the Mormon religion is a “cult,” but did not define a cult, either. Nor did Mr. Jeffress explain why Christianity should not be considered one.
* Michelle Bachmann defended her reputation as a weather expert. You might recall her unusual Christian explanation for the recent East Coast earthquake and hurricane. According to this Republican presidential candidate, her god, which she considers the only one of the genre, was unhappy because people were not listening to him/her or it. The candidate made no mention of how she gained this information. No explanation, either, as to why nobody else, not even Pat Robertson, made this remarkable connection.
* Mitt Romney reasserted his own conviction that his god created America to lead the world. So much for the credit historians and others had mistakenly given to the Founding Fathers.
* Just a few days ago, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a resolution reaffirming "In God We Trust" as the national motto. This resolution, notwithstanding the Constitution and Supreme Court rulings to the contrary, called for displays of "In God We Trust" in public schools and other public buildings. Only nine Congresspersons voted against this resolution (396 voted in favor).
* A statue of Jesus, resting on public land in the mountains of Montana, was challenged in a district court. The statue was placed by the Catholic group Knights of Columbus.
* A cross sits atop a water tower in Whiteville, TN. The tower is city property, so a secular interest group (the Freedom from Religion Foundation) brought suit to have it removed. The suit states that the cross "unabashedly creates the perception of government endorsement of Christianity."
Countless additional examples could be cited across the land, all clearly divisive and all a menace to the tradition of church/state separation. America is sliding into theocracy; our secular Republic is under attack by a (so far) non-violent Christian Taliban.
The Center for Inquiry (CFI) calls this trend "irresponsible and shameful." Other secular groups have expressed concern that Republican politicians and Christian evangelists are dividing the country along religious lines. It would be a dreadful thing to undertake this kind of a campaign at any time, but it is irresponsible for politicians to do so at a time when the country is in the grip of such a serious financial crisis.
Polls show that 16 percent of Americans have no religious identity; over 40 million do not identify with any monotheistic god. Will these natural allies and those who embrace a religion but respect the separation clause resist the march to theocracy in time to prevent it?
Sir Ludovic Henry Coverly Kennedy wrote the following in a column in "The Guardian" a few years back ("Put Away Childish Things, April 17, 2003): "All gods from time immemorial are fantasies, created by humans for the welfare of humans and to attempt to explain the seemingly inexplicable. But do we, in the third year of the 21st century of the Common Era and on the springboard of colonising the universe, need such palliatives? Wherever one looks there is conflict: Protestants and Catholics in Northern Ireland; Jews, Christians and Muslims in Palestine; Muslims and Hindus in the Indian subcontinent; Christians and Muslims in Nigeria, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia and elsewhere. Is not the case for atheism made?" President Thomas Jefferson was a bit more concise, once referring to "this loathsome combination of Church and State.”
The assault on the establishment clause of our Constitution makes the case for keeping government free of religions and their symbols, rituals and all the rest. Perhaps much of this religious intrusion nonsense is a diversionary tactic by the religious Right. They worry that their dogma is increasingly seen as ridiculous, irrational, superstitious and anti-science - so they try to distract attention from substance to symbolism of their childish past, something familiar, traditional and yes, "sacred" (at least to them, thanks to cultural conditioning). They choose to test, inflame and stoke a culture war, and Republican politicians are only too happy to oblige. This removes the focus from our wretched economy.
In addition to offending non-Christians, the actions cited and others like them waste time and money and divide the citizenry.
Let's speak out, resist and apply the insecticide of reason to these pious termites eating away at the foundations of our freedoms, protected in part by what remains of the wall of separation between our state and their church. As Pat Condell has stated, "Remember, one person on his own can't do much, but a million people each doing a little every day can change things very quickly."