Wednesday, February 16, 2005

The Sleeper Issue of '08

The Separation of Church and State.

Among the many issues that Republicans have managed to put back on the agenda, half a century after it appeared to have been settled in a manner favorable to the cause of individual liberties, is whether the state or the country should enforce religious adherence or worship.

Julie at Sisyphus Shrugged and Steve from No More Mister Nice Blog clue us in to the beliefs of one of the judges Bush has renominated. Like Alan Keyes in this past summer's Illinois U.S. Senate campaign, Janice Rogers Brown thinks the states should have the authority to have a state religion and require religious tests or oathes. This is on the heels of very public and emphatic efforts by radical evangelicals to get the "wall" between church and state torn down (see my earlier posts on D. James Kennedy and Rod Parsley, televangelists extraordinaire). The position of these advocates of theocracy is that the Wall between church and state is a fiction, that the First Amendment restrictions on government intervention in religious affairs as interpreted by "liberal" jurists have been distorted, and that policymakers should return us to the glory days when America was a "Christian Nation" (Left2Right has had some very good posts on this).

To his credit, but probably because he didn't have much choice, Bush addressed the matter of his faith during the last presidential debate and clearly stated his recognition that the government shouldn't and can't compel religious belief or devotion on the part of its citizens, and that the people were free to worship God or not as they so chose. But this is a view that is dying out among most Republicans or is one that they disagree with, if their many other public and private comments are any indication of their preferences. Remember U.S. Senate candidate Liddy Dole remarking that the "freedom of religion doesn't mean freedom from religion".

In the 1992 election, the media reacted scornfully to the vengeful "culture war" speeches during the Republican convention and afterwards proclaimed that the influence of evangelicals had hurt the GOP's chances. After the Republican triumph of 1994, that perception changed, and conservative evangelicalism was reported to be "Back". But four years later, Democratic pickups in 1998 during the impeachment battle were used by some commentators to suggest that Republican conservatives had overplayed their hand and done more to help Clinton than to hurt him. Now, after the elections of 2000 and 2004, the pendulum has swung again back to the evangelicals' side and Democrats are being challenged to reach out more to socially conservative voters.

Democratic officials and liberal bloggers should make sure this issue does not get swept under the carpet in the months ahead.

No comments: