War on Christianity
Back in June I wrote a post about Rick Santorum and his “interesting” views on public education.
The original post did not include the fact that Santorum’s children, while living in Virginia between 2001 and 2004, attended an online charter school that cost of the Pennsylvania taxpayers $100,000. You can read about that in detail here. (I am sure God was happy to overlook a little white lie about state of residency for someone as devout as Santorum.)
At the time I wrote, “Santorum’s poll numbers are so low that hitting 5% would likely send him into a Bible-beating-God-praising frenzy.” I never thought he would still be relevant in March. Obviously I underestimated Santorum, which according to Santorum himself, means I also underestimated God, who apparently wants Rick Santorum to be president.
This week Santorum told a Louisiana church group, “One of the great blessings I’ve had in every campaign is people underestimate me. People underestimate what God can do.”
Santorum is the latest conservative politician trying to claim he is on a divine mission, while simultaneously validating his political aspirations with the (demonstrably false) claim that the Founding Fathers intended to create a Christian nation.
In 1986 Pat Robertson distributed a memo directing Republicans to “Rule the world for God.” Santorum is just another one of Robertson’s holy warriors.
The end result of this worldview is a Christian theocracy–one that looks a lot more like Iran than America.
Rick Santorum is the latest political Christian to lay claim to divine support for his political aspirations.
While Santorum lacks the charm and charisma of Sarah Palin, this idea of restoring America to the Christian origins of our Founding Fathers has kept his campaign alive far longer than the strength of his policy positions would otherwise warrant.
At a Santorum rally in Louisiana last week he was introduced by church pastor Rev. Dennis Terry, who said,
“I don’t care what the liberals say, I don’t care what the nay-sayers say, this nation was founded as a Christian nation. The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob – there’s only one God. There’s only one God, and his name is Jesus.”
Pastor Terry is free to follow his heart and believe the nation was founded as a Christian nation. My heart tells me Indiana beat Kentucky in the 2012 Sweet 16. They didn’t.
There is no “other side of the story.” There is no “liberal media bias.” There is a mountain of evidence, from the writings of the Founding Fathers themselves, telling us time and again that they did not intend to found a Christian nation.
Nowhere is this more clearly stated than in the Treaty of Tripoli, which was drafted during Washington’s second term and signed into law by John Adams on June 10, 1797.
“The government of the United States of America is not on any sense founded on the Christian Religion.”
Could it have been more clear? The text of the treaty was printed in multiple newspapers. There was no public outcry or complaint. (Of course there was no Fox News to decry the “War on Christianity” in the 1790s)
Before cutting and pasting text from David Barton’s website into a comment, keep in mind that this is the same John Adams who wrote to Thomas Jefferson:
“The divinity of Jesus is made a convenient cover for absurdity. Nowhere in the Gospels do we find a precept for Creeds, Confessions, Oaths, Doctrines, and whole carloads of other foolish trumpery that we find in Christianity.”
The same Thomas Jefferson, who wrote:
“I am for freedom of religion and against all maneuvers to bring about a legal ascendancy of one sect over another.”
I would like to ask Pastor Terry and Rick Santorum how they reconcile their worldview in the face of such clarity.
And this is a small sample of quotes and comments from the Founders themselves supporting the position that they did not intend to form a Christian nation.
People have the right to be Christians. They can talk about God and evangelize. They have the right to base their vote on social issues, though the government regulating sexual behavior doesn’t seem to be particularly consistent with a platform of liberty and limited government. (It also doesn’t seem to be consistent with the behavior of many leading figures of modern conservatism and evangelical Christianity.)
The danger of this infusion of God into politics and history is that we no longer discuss the various merits of political ideas. If Santorum claims God and the Founding Fathers are on his side, disagreeing with Santorum is to oppose divine will.
The Founders understood the dangers of infusing religion into politics. This is why they took such pains to keep them separate.
Is God opposed to the expiration of the Bush tax cuts? Is God opposed to regulating oil companies to protect the environment (or regulating boating lanes to protect manatees?) Does God think the individual mandate is evil?
Or are all of these political issues with various merits to be discussed and voted on by a reasonable public, irrespective of religious affiliation?
Why does this brand of political Christianity have to be divorced from science and history? Christians should take their religion back and let us all have a real discussion about the serious issues facing this country.
The rest of us should heed James Madison, the father of the Constitution, said:
“Rulers who wish to subvert the public liberty may have found an established clergy convenient auxiliaries. A just government, instituted to secure and perpetuate it, needs them not.”
It seems not every member of the modern Republican Party is hellbent on taking us back to the 1950s. Utah was very close to passing an “abstinence only” sex ed bill this week, until their Republican Governor Gary Herbert vetoed it.
The bill would have banned public schools from teaching contraception as a way of preventing pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. It was obviously written by someone who hasn’t spent a good deal of time in a typical American high school.
The Obama administration’s 2010 budget eliminated spending for abstinence only sex ed, shifting funds to pregnancy prevention education that include abstinence along with “medically accurate and age-appropriate” information.
In 2010, a total of 367,752 infants were born to women aged 15–19 years, for a live birth rate of 34.3 per 1,000 women in this age group. According to the CDC this is a record low for U.S. teens in this age group. According to Republicans, this is the perfect time to replace real sex education with aspirin and abstinence.
Even with the drop in 2010 teens still get pregnant in the U.S. at much higher rate than teens in any other industrialized nation.
More importantly, limiting schools to abstinence only sex education superimposes the will of the Christian moral majority on everyone.
Governor Herbet said, “If HB 363 were to become law, parents would no longer have the option the overwhelming majority is currently choosing for their children. I am unwilling to conclude that the state knows better than Utah’s parents as to what is best for their children.”
Finally some ideological consistency and rational thinking from a politician.
And the Christian moral majority might want to take a hard look at the reality of abstinence only sex education.
A 2009 study done at Drexel and the University of Pittsburgh found a strong correlation between statewide conservative religiousness and teen pregnancy.
Researchers acknowledge the data does not suggest cause and effect, but Joseph Strayhorn of Drexel University said, “We conjecture that religious communities in the U.S. are more successful in discouraging the use of contraception among their teenagers than they are in discouraging sexual intercourse itself.”
Sarah Palin is a good Christian American. But that didn’t stop her daughter from having sex and getting pregnant.
And the journey of Bristol Palin illustrates an interesting point.
A few years ago Bristol became a sex education ambassador for The Candie’s Foundation. In 2009 she pulled in a $262,500 paycheck for her role in their teen pregnancy prevention campaign.
In one of her ads she says:
What if I didn’t come from a famous family? What if I didn’t have all their support? What if I didn’t have all these opportunities? Believe me, it wouldn’t be pretty. Pause before you play.
So kids, don’t have sex unless your parents are rich and famous.
In another ad she appeared with Mike Sorentino “The Situation” from the Jersey Shore. To clarify, this was a teen mom, who lost her virginity while she was drunk, appearing in an ad for responsible sex with a guy whose celebrity is based largely on his unending quest for casual sex. More teen pregnancies could have been averted with $262,500 worth of aspirin.
But none of that is the interesting part. Young Ms. Palin wasn’t always a proponent of abstinence only sex ed. In the early days of her celebrity she went on the Today Show and said she thought preaching abstinence was not realistic.
Bristol was probably right the first time when she said, “I think abstinence is, like — like, the — I don’t know how to put it — like, the main — everyone should be abstinent or whatever, but it’s not realistic at all. … Because it’s [sex is] more and more accepted now.”
I agree that abstinence is a good idea. It is a surefire way to avoid getting pregnant. But it isn’t all that realistic. Perhaps we should address the problem with pragmatic realism, then turn our collective attention elsewhere.
From Americans United Wall of Separation blog: Indiana Creationism Bill New Amendment Exposes Unconstitutional Religious Agenda
This article appears on the Americans United Wall of Separation blog today. Find the full text here.
Americans United for Separation of Church and State is a nonpartisan educational organization dedicated to preserving the constitutional principle of church-state separation as the only way to ensure religious freedom for all Americans.
How many of us believe our tax dollars, federal or state, should be used to fund a fundamentalist Christian theme park?
Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear has done just that by giving a Creationism-themed amusement park called the Ark Encounter Project tax incentives worth between $37 and $43 million.
If the state government of Kentucky is going to forgo all that revenue, it will have to cut spending or fill in the gap with federal dollars. Especially since Kentucky is also planning to spend an additional $11 million tax dollars to improve the access roads leading to the park.
Gov. Beshear claims there is nothing “remotely unconstitutional” about this. Really? Nothing “remotely unconstitutional” about funding a Christian theme park with tax dollars? Imagine if the state legislature of California gave tax incentives to an American Muslim group for a Muhammed theme park to educate people about Islam. Fox News would erupt in outrage.
For those who are tempted to stop reading because Creationism is “so 1925,” consider the fact that nine bills have been introduced by seven states seeking to introduce or expand creationism curriculum in public education in 2011. Kentucky is on that list, as is Texas, home of Presidential contender Rick Perry.
Is Gov. Beshear merely carrying out the will of the people? Kentucky already teaches creationism in school. It is home to the Creation Museum, which opened in 2007 to, in the words of Vanity Fair’s A.A. Gill, “square off with geology, anthropology, paleontology, history, chemistry, astronomy, zoology, biology, and good taste.” Perhaps a Creationism theme park fits right in with Kentucky’s radical Christian agenda.
While I do not think Creationism advances Christianity or the spiritual well-being of the nation, I do recognize the rights of individuals to build and patronize a Christian-themed fun park.
I certainly do not think $50 million of our tax dollars, state or federal, should be used to facilitate its construction.
Some Americans might question the wisdom of a country falling farther and farther behind the rest of the world in science teaching creationism irrespective of financing.
Kentucky is a Beneficiary State
Those who are not Kentucky residents may well wonder why they should care what Kentucky does with its tax dollars. Here is why you should care.
Kentucky is one of the poorest states in the country. The median income in Kentucky is $40,061, which is over $10,000 below the national median income. The poverty rate is 18%, which is above the national average. For every $1.00 the citizens of Kentucky pay the federal government in taxes they get back over $1.50 in federal spending.
The Tea Party tell us when government spends money to subsidize heat and food for poor people it is bloated and needs to be drowned in Grover Norquist’s bathtub. Yet the same Tea Party is strangely silent when government supports the radical Christian agenda.
If the people of Kentucky want a Creationism Theme park they should pay for it themselves. As the Rev. Barry W. Lynn said, “The state of Kentucky should not be promoting the spread of fundamentalist Christianity or any other religious viewpoint. Let these folks build their fundamentalist Disneyland without government help.”
But shouldn’t someone from the Tea Party be saying that?