Routine violations exclude millions
Bruce Springsteen, secular humanist and member of the Americans United for Separation of Church and State:
The biggest? That's like asking a man whose house is termite-infested, "Which one's eating the most?"
Attacks on church/state separation abound today, usually spawned in well-funded, aggressive campaigns of the religious right, intent on denying this vital American ideal.
Still, for all that mischief, the biggest violation is the routine, thoughtless, allegedly harmless mixing of religion with politics that even moderates and liberals condone. We see it brewing in the rhetoric of our next election, as candidates compete to display their "spiritual" fitness to lead secular government.
When politicians invoke God's blessings on the nation, extol the centrality of "faith" to Americanism or advertise their personal religion to attract certain voters, they implicitly exclude millions of differently believing Americans from "We, the People."
When presidents boast of consulting heaven for professional advice, above the good counsel of their fellow citizens, when our representatives automatically endorse cliches that Americans, by definition, should "trust in God," are "one nation under God" and represent "God's city on a hill," they're singing the anthem of theocracy and division, not democracy and equality. You can sing one or the other, but not both.
We've always counted people out of America - refusing to see our prejudices and honor our true national creed. Women, African-Americans, gays, political and ethnic minorities have been dismissed from the majority's idea of who "we" are. When unquestioned monotheism becomes the litmus test of civic virtue and patriotism, we slander good friends, neighbors and many of our best citizens.
Albert Einstein and Thomas Edison. Frederick Douglass and Langston Hughes. Katharine Hepburn and Christopher Reeve. Pat Tillman and Lance Armstrong. All somehow not as American as "believers" are? That's not the America I believe in.
- Send e-mail to Bruce Springsteen at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tax dollars being used to ignore Constitution
Jon Voisey, Kansas University senior and member of the Society of Open-Minded Atheists and Agnostics:
Love it or hate it, the "separation of church and state" is the current interpretation of the First Amendment, designed to keep the government out of church just as much as the church out of government.
Today, that wall is under siege; from the "intelligent design" movement (which our courts have recognized for the religious rhetoric it is), to "under God" and "In God we trust" in our pledge and currency (which are more harmful than most people realize).
But perhaps the most disturbing breach is that of faith-based initiatives. While I certainly have no problem with giving assistance to those who need it in whatever ways work, our government has taken almost no steps to maintain any oversight of this program.
None of these organizations are required to keep their federal money separated from their funds for religious activities. Instead, organizations like Pat Robertson's (who called for the assassination of Hugo Chavez) receive taxpayers' dollars. Others receiving funding have been investigated for fraud and withholding aid from non-Christians. There were even prison rehab programs investigated for telling their captive audiences to "give their life to Jesus."
In 2004, former faith-based program director Jim Towney admitted that no non-Christian group had received funds. In 2005, an exemption was given to these organizations, allowing them to enact discriminatory hiring practices. Additionally, there is no evidence demonstrating that these programs fare any better than secular ones.
I find a program that hands out $2 billion annually without separating church and state a threat to the founding document upon which our nation was built. Just remember: These are your tax dollars, too, being used to ignore our Constitution.
- Send e-mail to Jon Voisey at email@example.com.