Derek Davis doesn't mince words when it comes to his opinion of President Bush's so-called "faith-based initiatives," which provide federal funds for faith-based social service agencies.
"I don't really like it," says Davis, an expert of church-state issues. "I think it's got problems. I sort of anticipated exactly what is happening now - Bush is circumventing Congress and appropriating money to agencies under his control. Of the funds, 99 percent are going to Christian churches.
"If we're going to do it, at least pretend to be fair and respect America's diversity."
Davis has spend much of his career studying the relationship between church and state, and he'll bring that knowledge to a series of events in Lawrence the next few days.
He's the 2007 Theologian in Residence through a program sponsored by 18 churches, faith organizations and university departments.
Davis dean of the College of Humanities and interim dean of graduate programs and research at the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor in Belton, Texas. He served from 1995 to 2006 as director of the J.M. Dawson Institute of Church-State Studies at Baylor University, and from 1993 to 2006 was editor of the Journal of Church and State.
"Church-state issues are always interesting to people, in part because religion has so much to do with the history of this country," Davis says. "For most people, Christianity is a backbone for this country. It's a glue that holds everything together."
Whether it's displaying the Ten Commandments at courthouses, having "In God We Trust" printed on money, saying the phrase "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance or the push for federal assistance for religious education, Davis says he expects church-state issues always to remain controversial in the United States.
But unlike some who think having a strict separation harms religion, he believes that separation actually helps both government and religion.
"Some separationists want to marginalize religion, but I believe (separation) is good for government and religion, for the nation. If you can free up religion to be all it can be, there's a benefit for the nation. It's not about tying religion down or marginalizing it."