Friday, October 5, 2012

The unforgiving minute: A synoptic history of the separation of church and state (second revised edition for 2012)

(Corrected below, with apologies to Willard Romney, who apparently didn't go as far around the God-bothering bend this week as the Washington Post's Sally Quinn.)

A synoptic history of the Constitutional principle of the separation of church and state (updated again for 2012*):

James Madison, 1791: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.

Thomas Jefferson, 1802:
The Establishment Clause of the First Amendment guarantees Americans a wall of separation between church and state.

John F. Kennedy, 1960:
The separation of church and state is absolute. My church will not dictate my policy decisions.

Mitt Romney, 2008: The separation of church and state is relative. My church will dictate my policy decisions, but only to the extent that I will discriminate against the same people Christian conservatives would already be discriminating against anyway.

Bart Stupack, 2009The separation of church and state is a fairy tale. My church will show up at the Capitol steps in a limo to dictate policy.

Rick Santorum, 2012: The separation of church and state is an abomination. "Earlier in my political career, I had the opportunity to read the speech [by JFK to the Greater Houston Ministerial Association in 1960], and I almost threw up."

Sally Quinn, 2012: The separation of church and state is impossible. “This is a religious country. Part of claiming your citizenship is claiming a belief in God, even if you are not Christian.” Agnostics, atheists, and other nonbelievers need not apply.

Minute's up.

*This timeline was originally published in shorter form in 2009, when I thought the process of theocratic overreach had probably already reached its furthest point in the US. Now it appears I may have stand ready for further revisions from time to time, as the exigencies of Republican electoral politics require it.

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