When I hear a girl say “I’m not really religious, but I’m spiritual,” I feel like saying “Well, I’m not really honest, but you’re attractive.” – Augie Smith
President Bush’s detractors – and even some political allies – have made much of his embracement, and public display, of his religion. His enemies claim that he is trying to turn the United States into a theocracy, while the doubting friends are uncomfortable and even embarrassed by his public mentions of God.
The enemies are in two camps: those who have a complete disdain for all things Christian (the secular Left), and those who think religion is only good as a way to hook more gullible voters. The former are characterized by Katie Couric, who in a 1998 interview suggested that Christian organizations were responsible for the death of Matthew Shepard. The latter are represented by the major Democrats, such as Hillary Clinton, who – evidently as a result of a recent conversion -- in a recent speech in Boston invoked God more than half a dozen times.
At this point we come to a blending of problems: many people believe that the Constitution maintains that there is a “separation of church and state.” This view has been supported by several courts, who apparently see “separation” as a synonym for “outlawing any public display of Christian faith.”
Historically, the decisions by judges to ban prayer at football games, or declaring unconstitutional the phrase “one nation under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance, as the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals did, are relatively new, within the last sixty years or so. The current Supreme Court overruled the Ninth Court’s decision based solely on procedural grounds – it did not affirm our right to say the word “God” during the Pledge.
The modern point of view originates from an opinion by Justice Hugo Black in Everson v. Board of Education (1947). In his opinion, Justice Black used broad language to systematically argue for the complete removal of any religion from governmental discourse. This decision was followed by Engel v. Vitale in 1962. Next was Abrington v. Schempp, in which the Supreme Court ruled that Bible reading in schools was unconstitutional. This is widely regarded as the case in which the Supreme Court began to blatantly attempt to change America from a pro-religious society to an anti-religious one.
Modern courts have chosen these precedents to support their own biases and preferences. They ignored precedents such as Vidal v. Girard’s Executors (1844). In this case, Justice Joseph Story included in his majority opinion: “… the Christian religion is a part of the common law.”
In 1892 the Supreme Court noted: “…this is a Christian nation.”
In 1931 the Supreme Court said that the government must make decisions in the belief that these decisions “are not inconsistent with the will of God.”
In 1952, Justice Douglas wrote: “We are a religious people and our institutions presuppose a Supreme Being….We cannot read into the Bill of Rights a philosophy of hostility to religion.”
Clearly, those who try to play the “separation of church and state” card are on shaky legal ground.
As for those who are now trying to put God into their public language for political gain – good luck. This ruse will fool some of the people, but most will see through it. And perhaps those of the secular Left who disdain religion in all its manifestations will be consistent in their actions, and come out against those who dare to invoke a higher power.
As for those friends who feel that too much emphasis has been put on God, they also fall into two camps – those who are uncomfortable with discussing their own religious beliefs, and those who feel that Bush loses political credibility when he expresses his.
There’s nothing to be done about the first group; my advice for them is to deal with it. Become comfortable with discussing it, or don’t discuss it at all. But accept the fact that many people – Bush among them – use their faith as a source of strength, and don’t mind others knowing.
As for George Bush’s religion and his political credibility…David Aikman, a former senior correspondent for Time magazine who has written a book about Bush’s Christian faith, says “Virtually every American president in office has either been a person of faith or a supporter of the principle that faith was a good thing. I think this particular president – although he has been more outspoken than most recent people in office – is absolutely in the mainstream of an important American historical tradition.” In terms of religiosity, Aikman compares Bush to Democrats Woodrow Wilson and Jimmy Carter and Republicans Abraham Lincoln and William McKinley.
After all this, some readers will think I must be some sort of religious kook. Far from it – those who know me best will vouch that my problems stem from other mental or emotional imbalances. But I understand that for a society to survive and thrive, it must have some sort of underlying foundation of right and wrong, a sense that there are rules that we break at our own peril. For an elitist group – 5 of the 9 Supreme Court justices, for example -- to try to unravel the tapestry of religion that is part of the essence of the American nation and society, vexes me.
Oh, by the way, the First Amendment says, in part:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…[emphasis added] The Founding Fathers should have included the judiciary.