Republicans Practice Old-Time Religion


On Feb. 28, Rick Santorum said that watching John F. Kennedy’s speech to the Baptist ministers in Houston in 1960 made him want to “throw up.” President Kennedy’s speech, in which he said that a Catholic president would not take orders from the Vatican, probably had a lot to do with his election and, by inference, made it easier for Sen. Santorum to be taken seriously as a candidate in today’s political climate.

President Kennedy spoke eloquently, but Sen. Santorum either doesn’t understand or prefers to misrepresent President Kennedy’s words, “I believe in an America that is officially neither Catholic, Protestant nor Jewish — where no public official either requests or accepts instructions on public policy from the Pope, the National Council of Churches or any other ecclesiastical source ...

“[W]here no religious body seeks to impose its will directly or indirectly upon the general populace or the public acts of its officials — and where religious liberty is so indivisible that an act against one church is treated as an act against all.”

The Republicans seem to think that religion is a good issue for this election. Texas Gov. Rick Perry, before dropping out of the campaign, proposed a constitutional amendment permitting prayer in schools.

The Christian Post quoted constitutional attorney Bret Millsaps saying, “As the saying goes, ‘as long as there are tests in school, there will be prayer,’ will always be the case... The larger issue becomes when children are required to pray or a specific time period for prayer is established with the confines of the school day. That ‘s what gets the ACLU excited and all up in arms.” The issue of separation of church and state shouldn’t be difficult to understand, but many people have trouble with it. Europe had many problems with the notion of a state religion. King Henry VIII was a devout Catholic as long as he got what he wanted from the Vatican.

When he wanted a special dispensation to marry his brother’s widow, Catherine of Aragon, he got it. When Henry subsequently wanted a dispensation to divorce Catherine, and didn’t get it, he dropped out of the Catholic Church and took all of England with him.

The state religions were determined by the ruler, and at best were limited to specifying which people might hold government office. In his book, Inquisition: The Reign of Fear, historian Toby Green makes the point that the Inquisition wasn’t even about religion, but about politics, and when the Popes tried to control the abuses of the inquisitors, the Kings simply threatened to form their own churches. The Founding Fathers had no objection to religion as a personal matter, but left prayer to the people, not the government.

George Washington wrote, “The Citizens of the United States of America have a right to applaud themselves for giving to Mankind examples of an enlarged and liberal policy: a policy worthy of imitation.”

Sen. Santorum and Gov. Perry would have us believe that separation of church and state prohibits religious belief. It doesn’t. Rather, it protects us from having religion, or any single version of religion imposed on us.

Thank God for the First Amendment.

Sam Uretsky is a writer and pharmacist living on Long Island, N.Y. Email

From The Progressive Populist, April 1, 2012

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