Church and state at odds

by Jim Longworth

Late last month, Georgia Congressman Paul Broun proposed a resolution making 2010 the Year of the Bible.

The resolution contained the following language: “The President is encouraged… to issue a proclamation call- by Jim ing upon citizens of all faiths to Longworth rediscover and apply the priceless, columnist timeless message of the Holy Scripture which has profoundly influenced and shaped the United States and its great Democratic form of government, as well as its rich spiritual heritage, and which has unified, healed, and strengthened its people for over 200 years.” According to several liberal members of Congress reacted strongly to Broun’s resolution, charging that it violated the separation of church and state, and that it “advocated one book of faith over another.” Broun’s resolution came on the heels of revelations (no pun intended) that former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld had approved the issuance of Pentagon briefing reports laced with scripture passages in order to influence President Bush to implement certain military strategies. Broun’s proposal may be offensive to some people, but Rumsfeld’s actions are frightening — and border on criminal activity because he and Bush used the Bible to justify the deaths and murders of hundreds of thousands of people in an illegal war. It was GQ magazine that uncovered rampant Bible thumping by the previous administration, and since then we are now able to better understand why Bush kept referring to the war against Iraq and terrorism as a “crusade.” Some of the passages included in briefing reports were pasted over photos of soldiers kneeling down to pray, and it instructs the military to “put on the full armor of God”. Bush, a man of limited intelligence, bought into the crusade mentality, and startled some world leaders with his off-the-wall explanations for why they should join him in his mission. In his recently published book, French President Jacques Chirac recounted statements that Bush made to him in 2003 while trying to get support for an invasion of Iraq. Bush told Chirac that evil Biblical creatures Gog and Magog were at work in the Middle East, and must be defeated. “This confrontation is willed by God, who wants to use this conflict to erase his people’s enemies before a New Age begins,” Bush told Chirac. The French president was “stupefied and disturbed by Bush’s invocation of Biblical prophesy to justify” the war in Iraq. Chirac “wondered how someone could be so superficial and fanatical in their beliefs.” And the Bush dogma trickled down the line. In 2005, Lt. General William Boykin compared the war against Islamic militants to a battle against Satan. It’s no wonder, then, that many peaceful Muslims feared that the war on terrorism was really a war against Islam. Fortunately a number of respected theologians have come forward to criticize Bush and Rumsfeld for their tainted use of scripture. According to a report in the Chicago Tribune, Scott Alexander, director of Catholic-Muslim studies at Catholic Theological Union said, “As a Christian, I am deeply troubled that [such verses] are being presented as a divine call for the US to invade Iraq”. And, the Rev. John Buchanan, pastor of the Fourth Presbyterian Church where the Rumsfelds worshipped, said, “It is a misuse of the Bible to take passages out of context and employ them to support one side against another.” Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld propagated an unjust war to the American people which resulted in obscene death tolls. As such, a special prosecutor should be appointedto try these men as war criminals. In the meantime Congress should takea closer look at what really constitutes a violation of the separationof church and state, and how such violations might constitute highcrimes themselves. Surprisingly the Constitution only keepsthe state out of the church’s business, but not vice versa. Moreover,the founding fathers thought that Christian doctrine had a place ingovernment. They were simply opposed to any particular denominationbecoming the official religion of the state. Even so, the argumentcould be made that Bush and company did, in fact, attempt to establisha particular denomination as the state religion, and that they usedthat religion to justify and guide government policy. I thinkback to 1960 when Republicans tried to smear John Kennedy by arousingfear in voters that Kennedy, a Catholic, would report to the

Popeand not to the American people. And while those fears were unjustified,we now know that it is possible for a zealot to run the governmentbased on his own denominational leanings. For those and otherreasons, we should not support Rep. Broun’s resolution making 2010 theyear of the Bible, at least not until Congress and the courts canclarify exactly what separation of church and state really means, anduntil we can establish a precedent for dealing with those who violatethat separation. After all, Gog and Magog might need defeating, butthere are other evil creatures we need to deal with first.

JimLongworth is the host of “Triad Today,” airing on Fridays at 6:30 a.m.on ABC 45 (cable channel 7) and Sundays at 10 p.m. on WMYV (cablechannel 15).