I would like to be among the first to applaud Rob Boston of the Americans United for Separation of Church and State on his fine article "Alternative Universe: Iowa Presidential Forum Exposes Religious Right Disconnect from Reality." Mr. Boston sat through the Religious Right's Thanksgiving Family Forum (for which he deserves an award), and concisely set down what is wrong with the GOP candidates in terms of their thinking about our government, which if anything exposes their complete ignorance regarding American civics, American history, and foundation documents of American government. CNN reported that the six candidates who attended the event were Michele Bachmann, Rick Perry, Herman Cain, Rick Santorum, Ron Paul and Newt Gingrich:
Thomas Jefferson and James Madison don’t agree with you. You hate the separation of church and state; Jefferson and Madison loved it. Jefferson and Madison worked together to end the government-established church in Virginia and guarantee religious liberty for all. Jefferson coined the metaphor of a “wall of separation between church and state.” Madison spoke of the “total separation of the church from the state.” Neither favored an officially Christian government. They are not on your side; stop invoking them.
The Declaration of Independence and the Constitution are two different documents designed to do different things. There’s no doubt that the Declaration of Independence is an important historical document. It was a bold statement of our nation’s desire to be free from British control. But it does not list our rights. The rights of Americans are outlined in the Constitution, not the Declaration. I realize that it bothers you that the Constitution is secular and that you place great stock in the fact that the Declaration contains a deistic reference to the “Creator,” but that does not change this simple fact: The foundational governing document of the nation is the Constitution – and it does not state that we are an official Christian nation.
We have three co-equal branches of government. It’s discouraging to hear you cheer when candidates vow to stop the courts from handing down decisions that you don’t like. Our system grants the president no such powers – and for good reason. We’re not a dictatorship, after all. An independent judiciary is essential to the maintenance of a free society. When you applaud a man who promises to fire, harass and intimidate judges and turn the courts into a rubber-stamp body, you are advocating for autocracy. Aside from the separation of church and state, there is another important type of separation in our Constitution: the separation of powers. You might want to read up on it.
When you advocate denying public office to people on the basis of what they believe (or don’t believe) about God, you are being bigots. Article VI of the Constitution states that there shall be no religious test for federal office. People are free to reject political hopefuls on the basis of their beliefs, of course, but candidates should not promote this type of bigotry. We would have no difficulty labeling a person who says that a Jew is unfit for the presidency an anti-Semite. Likewise, a person who says that an atheist is unfit for that office should be called what he or she is: a bigot. It’s not something to be proud of.
You cannot simultaneously argue that decisions are best left to states and localities and demand federal control when states and localities do something you don’t like. Several candidates attacked Washington, D.C., policy-makers and asserted that states and local governments should have more control, much to the delight of the audience. They talked about how people have the freedom to make decisions on the local level. But apparently that freedom does not extend to making decisions that the Religious Right does not like. Moments later, many of these same candidates vowed to stop states from legalizing same-sex marriage or civil unions and demanded to criminalize abortion in all 50 states by federal writ. When you promote this type of intellectual disconnect, you expose yourself as the giant hypocrites that you are.
The conservative group The Family Leader sponsored the event along with Focus on the Family affiliate Citizen Link and the National Organization for Marriage, who we have reported on extensively for their attempts to scare people regarding marriage equality via their lies about gay people.
The Des Moines Register reports that AU Executive Director the Reverend Barry Lynn echoes what many Americans are feeling about the 2012 GOP field:
The Rev. Barry Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, said in a statement: “It’s a shame that so many candidates see fit to attend this fundamentalist Christian inquisition masquerading as a debate.
“Our nation faces many serious problems, but a lack of religion in our political system isn’t one of them. In fact, this election has already become deeply entangled with religion, with four candidates now claiming that God told them to run. Enough is enough.”