Religious Right Agenda Threatens American Freedom
This past February, the Virginia House of Delegates approved an amendment which will eliminate the church/state protections from the state constitution and allow officially sanctioned prayer in public schools. Bill HJ-537 proposes an amendment to Virginia's constitution that would "permit the exercise of religious expression, including prayer and ‘religious beliefs, heritage, and traditions' on public property, including public schools...." The amendment was passed by a 69-27 vote in the House, and has been submitted to the Senate. That such an amendment could even be considered, let alone passed, is both a disgrace and an outrage to the memories of Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and all Americans who fought for a constitution that kept religion out of government.
Unfortunately, that is not all. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist and House Majority Leader Tom DeLay are pushing hard for a number of Religious Right issues, including but certainly not limited to, the Terri Schiavo case, the Federal marriage restriction, abortion, and judicial nominations. During a meeting in Washington D.C. with the Family Research Council, a conservative Christian group, DeLay complained about the current federal tax law, claiming it "forces Christians back into the church." Mr. DeLay has either forgotten – or chosen to ignore – the fact that the whole idea of the wall of separation between church and state was to keep the government free from religion, not just to keep religion free from government. To put it more bluntly, Christians don't have the right to push their political agendas on the nation any more than another faith does.
Despite the constant complaints from the Religious Right about becoming "increasingly oppressed," there is no hard evidence that this is the case. Where are the signs of "oppression" they keep whining about? Are Christian churches all across the country being destroyed? Hardly. I still see plenty of them; not only standing, but more new churches going up. Are all ministers and priests being round up and thrown into jail simply because of their occupation? I don't think so unless you count people like Jim Bakker. However, that might have something to do with the fact that Bakker actually broke the law. In his case, one could reasonably argue that with 23 counts of fraud and one count of conspiracy, a jail sentence was justified. So when you add everything – or more accurately, the lack of anything – up, I have only one final question: Where's the beef?
Leaders of various conservative Christian groups need to learn the difference between real oppression and simply not getting their own way on the issues they would like to see made into law. If Christians want an example of oppression, they only need to dust off their American history books and reacquaint themselves with the institution of slavery in this country. An institution that was supported in its time by various Southern conservative Christian churches, many of whose members owned slaves themselves, and who had no intention of giving up their way of life without a fight. It took four years of a bloody civil war to accomplish that. Of course, one can see why some evangelical Christians might not wish to be reminded of such unpleasantness, but it remains a fact nonetheless. Compared to the oppression actually suffered by African Americans for generations before slavery finally came to an end, the gripes of Christian activists remind me of small children throwing temper tantrums because Mom or Dad said "no" to their special wish of the day.
Far from being "oppressed," conservative Christians have become so influential in the political arena today that watchdog groups such as Americans United For Separation of Church and State (http://www.au.org) have cause for real concern. The Rev. Barry W. Lynn, Americans United Executive Director, has been blunt and outspoken in his criticism of the Religious Right's efforts to push their conservative agenda on the nation as a whole. Some of their latest news stories include:
Supreme Court To Hear Arguments In Case Challenging Federal Religious Freedom Law
Friday March 18, 2005
Americans United Urges Justices To Uphold Religious Liberty Measure
Americans United Critcizes House Approval of "Faith-Based" Job Bias
Thursday, March 3, 2005
House-Passed Bill Would Allow Religious Discrimination in Federal Job-Training Programs
Supreme Court To Hear Oral Arguments In Ten Commandments Cases Wednesday
Monday, February 28, 2005
Americans United Urges High Court To Strike Down Government-Sponsored Religious Displays
Lawsuit Opposes Proselytism, "Christians-Only" Hiring Policy in Publicly Funded Inmate Program in PA
Thursday, February 17, 2005
Challenge To Religiously Based Vocational Training Program Tests Constitutionality of Bush "Faith-Based" Iniative
Bush Again Nominates Pryor, Brown For Federal Courts
Tuesday, February 15, 2005
Americans United Criticizes President's Efforts To Radically Re-Make The Federal Bench
These stories regarding church-state separation issues on Americans United's home page make it clear that the recent amendment passed by the Virginia House isn't the only attempt by evangelical Christians to threaten the religious liberty Americans have enjoyed since the Constitution was established.