Friday, August 18, 2006

Blogging The 1st Amendment.

Looks like this will be an interesting online exchange at Faith in Public Life, between Randall Balmer, professor of American religious history at Barnard and, most recently, author of the new book, "Thy Kingdom Come: How The Religious Right Distorts the Faith and Threatens America," and Bruce Prescott, a leading national activist on defending the separation of church and state.

Here's a taste of what Randall Balmer has to say today:

Of all the political strategies being pursued these days by leaders of the Religious Right, none is more pernicious than the attempt to eviscerate the First Amendment. By trying to impose public prayer in public schools (students can pray privately any time they wish!), by advocating public funding and school vouchers for use in religious schools and by seeking to emblazon religious sentiments on public places, they try to undermine the separation of church and state, the best friend that religion has ever had.

There is even a movement within the Religious Right, led by David Barton and others, to deny that our nation's founders intended church and state to be separate. I've come to equate these people with the Holocaust deniers and those who debunk global warming -- not in the sense of moral equivalence, but in the sense of the brazenness of their denials, all evidence to the contrary. Compounding this betrayal, many of the leaders of the Religious Right, from Pat Robertson and Richard Land to Roy Moore and Rick Scarborough, claim to be Baptists, ignoring altogether that the notion of church-state separation was a Baptist idea.

As a person of faith, I have a further objection to the entanglement of church and state. It ultimately trivializes the faith because it suggests that religion needs the support of the state for legitimacy. When you fetishize the Ten Commandments or demand a ritualized, formal prayer in school or on public occasions, you diminish the faith itself.

This exchange goes through early next week and should be worth reading.

UPDATE: Here is the first blog post from Bruce Prescott.

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