I am old enough to remember when my religious beliefs and practices were my business, not because bad church-state separationists wanted to "exclude religion from the public square" as the right-wingers like to charge, but because we were taught that respect for the equal rights of others was an important American value.
- On April 9th, Channel Six reported that an American chaplain in Iraq was refusing to give troops water unless they first allowed him to baptize them. The Miami Herald quoted the Chaplain as saying, “It’s simple. They want water. I have it, as long as they agree to get baptized.” The Chaplain had a 500 gallon pool. Most of the soldiers who wanted water from that pool had gone weeks in the desert heat without bathing. The good Reverend obviously understands marketing and leverage: your soul for a bath.
- In another recent story, after Education Secretary Roderick Paige told a Baptist publication that it is important for the public schools to “teach Christian values,” several civil liberties groups called upon him to apologize or resign. Instead, Paige’s press secretary confirmed the accuracy of the quotations, and issued a statement saying “Secretary Paige’s deep faith has helped him to overcome adversity, to find clarity and has sustained him throughout his life.” I’m happy for you, Rod, but that doesn’t justify using my tax dollars to teach your religious beliefs to my children and the children of others who don’t share those beliefs.
- A recent survey, co-sponsored by Beliefnet.com and the Ethics and Public Policy Center under a grant from the Pew Charitable Trusts, found that 81% of evangelical Christian leaders believe that it is “very important” to try to convert Muslims in other countries and 83% said it was very important to evangelize U.S. Muslims. (Only fifty-two percent even felt that Muslims should be welcomed into the American community.) Of course, the same First Amendment that makes the Chaplain’s behavior improper and Paige’s remarks worrisome protects these beliefs. But one wonders if such sentiments, and the actions of groups like Franklin Graham’s Operation Blessing, which are in the Middle East now, waiting for permission to enter Iraq in order to distribute humanitarian aid and Christianity, might not add further fuel to the Muslim world’s suspicion that America is engaged in a “holy war.”
- Former White House speechwriter David Frum (author of those immortal words, “axis of evil”) has written a book about the Bush Administration. According to Frum, White House staffers learn quickly that an excellent way to “put down” other staffers is to say “missed you at Bible study yesterday.” I wondered why no one in the Bush Administration seems to understand that tax cuts for rich people aren’t an economic stimulus. Now I understand—they were all at Bible study when those four hundred economists and thirteen Nobel Laureates explained it!