Sunday, July 03, 2005

E Pluribus Unum

The Times Magazine's article on a "Church State Soltuion" is a good example of why progressives and moderates and liberals are frustrated by that organ: the superficiality of that article is breathtaking.

(Click here to read the entire post ...)

In our own era, two camps dominate the church-state debate in American life, corresponding to what are now the two most prominent approaches to the proper relation of religion and government. One school of thought contends that the right answers to questions of government policy must come from the wisdom of religious tradition. You might call those who insist on the direct relevance of religious values to political life ''values evangelicals.'' Not every values evangelical is, technically speaking, an evangelical or a born-again Christian, although many are. Values evangelicals include Jews, Catholics, Muslims and even people who do not focus on a particular religious tradition but care primarily about identifying traditional moral values that can in theory be shared by everyone.

What all values evangelicals have in common is the goal of evangelizing for values: promoting a strong set of ideas about the best way to live your life and urging the government to adopt those values and encourage them wherever possible. To them, the best way to hold the United States together as a nation, not just a country, is for us to know what values we really hold and to stand up for them. As Ralph Reed recently told an audience at Harvard, ''While we are sometimes divided on issues, there remains a broad national consensus on core values and principles.''

On the other side of the debate are those who see religion as a matter of personal belief and choice largely irrelevant to government and who are concerned that values derived from religion will divide us, not unite us. You might call those who hold this view ''legal secularists,'' not because they are necessarily strongly secular in their personal worldviews -- though many are -- but because they argue that government should be secular and that the laws should make it so. To the legal secularists, full citizenship means fully sharing in the legal and political commitments of the nation. If the nation defines itself in terms of values drawn from religion, they worry, then it will inevitably tend to adopt the religious values of the majority, excluding religious minorities and nonreligious people from full citizenship.

Despite the differences, each approach, values evangelicalism and legal secularism, is trying to come to terms with the same fundamental tension in American life. The United States has always been home to striking religious diversity -- diversity that has by fits and starts expanded over the last 230 years. At the same time, we strive to be a nation with a common identity and a common project. Religious division threatens that unity, as we can see today more clearly than at any time in a century in the disputes over stem-cell research, same-sex marriage and end-of-life issues. Yet almost all Americans want to make sure that we do not let our religious diversity pull us apart. Values evangelicals say that the solution lies in finding and embracing traditional values we can all share and without which we will never hold together. Legal secularists counter that we can maintain our national unity only if we treat religion as a personal, private matter, separate from concerns of citizenship...

Despite the gravity of the problem, I believe there is an answer. Put simply, it is this: offer greater latitude for religious speech and symbols in public debate, but also impose a stricter ban on state financing of religious institutions and activities. This approach, the mirror image of O'Connor's compromise, is drawn from the framers' vision and the historical experience of separating church and state in America. The framers might well have been mystified by courthouse statues depicting the Ten Commandments, but they would not have objected unless the monuments were built with public money. Having made a revolution over unfair taxation, they thought of government support in terms of dollars spent, not abstract symbols.

Frankly, I'm kind of shocked that Balloon Juice has more insight into the real problem here than Noah Feldman, "professor at the New York University School of Law and a fellow at the New America Foundation."

Look, those guys want funding and religous imagery.

Feldman's article gets worse as you read it; for example he has no problems with local school boards teaching "Intelligent" "Design" creationism.

He doesn't get the original motto of the US was the title in the above post, not "In God We Trust."

The framers broke their own rules- not just in the religious sphere, of course, but in slavery, and in other ways.

What we need is not a return to "the original intent," of a vision of slavery and land theft and limited democracy, but a true democratic revolution in America.

And any moves towards democracy, and inviolability of civil liberties is what really scares "religious conservatives."

No comments: