Thursday, June 18, 2015

A synoptic history of the separation of church and state: Fifth update for 2015!

We update the history today with a move by Jeb! Bush, who almost – but not quite – makes it seem like we've circled back fifty-five years. (Hint: It's all about the adjectives.)

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

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

1954 Dwight Eisenhower: The separation of church and state surely won't be hurt by adding "under God" to The Pledge of Allegiance in the name of anti-Communism, will it?

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

2008 Mitt Romney: 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.

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

2012 Rick Santorum: 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."

2012 Sally Quinn: 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.

2014 Rick Santorum (again): The very notion of the separation of church and state is "a Communist idea that has no place in America."

2015 Fifty-seven percent of surveyed Republicans: The separation of church and state is sacreligious, since the U.S. Constitution is a document inspired by Our Lord Jesus Christ, so it counts as Holy Scripture.

2015 Rand Paul, libertarian-of-convenience:  The separation of church and state is a one-way street: "The First Amendment says keep government out of religion. It doesn't say keep religion out of government."

2015 Jeb Bush, "moderate" GOP presidential candidate: The separation of church and state is nothing more than a "game" of "political correctness."

2015 Bobby Jindal, 2016 vice-presidential hopeful (and staunch opponent of executive orders, when it's Obama, who not that long ago told fellow Republicans they had to stop being "the party of stupid"): The separation of church and state can be disposed of by simple executive order from the governor, even after the GOP-controlled state legislature killed the same anti-LGBT bill the week before.

2015 Jeb Bush (again), apparently ignoring his promise of roughly six weeks earlier (see above) that his Catholic faith would naturally influence how he governed as president: "I don’t get economic policy from my bishops or my cardinals or my pope," adding "I think religion ought to be about making us better as people, less about things [that] end up getting into the political realm.”

Ooh! So close to what JFK promised in 1960 (also above) – so close! Except that Kennedy pledged that the church would not dictate his policy decisions – Period. Full stop. – whereas Jeb only pledges that the church won't dictate his economic decisions. This means that, as both a good Cafeteria Catholic and a Republican candidate who must pander to his base to make it through the primaries alive, he feels free to ignore anything he doesn't like that the Pope says about matters like climate change, economic inequality, privatizing Social Security, or similar things that could make a difference to his donors' bottom line. 

But, of course, he considers himself totally free to invoke his faith in the name of being anti-choice and anti-contraception, to say nothing of attempting to use the Florida National Guard to cruelly prolong the life of Terri Schiavo. (You didn't forget that one, did you?)



(This timeline was originally published in shorter form in 2009, driven by the somewhat-naive thought that the process of theocratic overreach in the US was probably already at or near its zenith. Now it appears that p3 must stand ready for further revisions from time to time, as the exigencies of Republican electoral politics require it. We welcome the task.)

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