[Vision2020] Separation of Church and State Protects Rights

Tom Hansen thansen at moscow.com
Fri Nov 4 07:01:26 PDT 2011

Courtesy of today's (November 4, 2011) UI Argonaut at:


Separation of church and state protects rights

max bartlett | uiargonaut.com

Right now, America faces a number of pressing issues: A weak economy, high unemployment, a growing gap between the rich and poor, a crumbling infrastructure, poor health care, and increasing poverty. 
In the midst of all this, Congress has been paralyzed. Politicians have failed again and again, to take action. Compromise has been impossible. Members of Congress, on both sides of the aisle, seem uninterested in helping working Americans, and more concerned with the approval of their corporate campaign donors. 
However, the House of Representatives recently passed a resolution 396 to 9 — the most overwhelming show of bipartisanship in recent memory — to support putting the phrase “In God We Trust” on public buildings, and to “reaffirm (it) as the official motto of the United States.” 
It’s tough to say what is saddest about this story. Perhaps it is that, in the midst of an ongoing national economic crisis, the only thing Congress can agree on is a non-binding resolution. Perhaps it is that the easiest way for Congress to score political points is to say they share the beliefs of 80 percent of the country, but in a vague, inoffensive sort of way. Or maybe it is that there were only nine people in the House of Representatives willing to stand up for separation of church and state. 
Some politicians find it easy to forget that America is not a “Christian nation.” About 80 percent of our population identifies with a Christian denomination, but that does not make the U.S. Christian. We have a white majority as well, but few people would call America a “white nation.” And they forget the Constitution exists to defend the rights of the minority and defines separation between church and state to protect the right of Americans to choose their own beliefs.
Naming “In God We Trust” as America’s “official motto” undermines that separation. It attempts to label America a Christian nation, rather than one with a Christian majority. 
Much of the modern American obsession with conflating God and government goes back to the Cold War: “Under God” was added to the Pledge of Allegiance as a way of separating America from the “Godless” Soviet Union. Others may claim that America was founded as a Christian nation, yet many of the Founding Fathers were not Christians. Thomas Jefferson even rewrote the Bible to fit what he thought Christianity should be. The Founders would hardly fit the modern conservative or evangelical definition of Christian.
Aside from the question of church and state and the popular myth of a Christian America, the resolution is a distraction. A convenient social issue meant to appeal to a broad demographic of voters. Congress would prefer we discuss the merits of “In God We Trust” rather than the other problems facing America. But it’s not just the wall between church and state that we should be concerned with: It’s the lack of a wall between state and Wall Street.

Seeya round town, Moscow.

Tom Hansen
Moscow, Idaho

"Honest and true,
As the morning star.
Vote for just two,
Ament and Lamar."

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