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Separation of church and state, back by popular demand

In 2012, the religious right has veto power over one of two major political parties in the most powerful nation on earth. No candidate can win the Republican nomination without pledging allegiance to “one nation under [a religious-right] God.” Yet Mr. Conservative, Barry Goldwater, once said, “I don’t have any respect for the religious right.” How did this happen?

Shortly after the Republican convention in 1980, Ronald Reagan stood before evangelical ministers in Dallas, declaring, “I know that you cannot endorse me, but I endorse you.” This pivotal declaration, the culmination of effective organizing by the religious right, has brought us to the unprecedented moment in American history we face today.

Often unnoticed by the media and public, theocratic laws have already been passed in Congress and legislatures throughout America.

Thomas Jefferson coined the phrase “separation of church and state.” James Madison, the Father of the Constitution, called for “total separation of church and state.” In the early 1960s John Kennedy affirmed American values: “I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute … where no religious body seeks to impose its will directly or indirectly upon the general populace or the public acts of its officials.”

In the 1970s the religious right got organized, winning seats on school boards, city councils and in legislatures. Religious bias in government is widespread:

• Sex education for our youth replaced by religious propaganda.

• Stem cell research is thwarted by religion.

• The religious right bias holds sway in the military.

• A religious bias can be found in children’s laws (in faith-healing, child care, vaccination, corporal punishment).

• “Faith-based initiatives” discriminate with tax money and vouchers funding schools discriminate with tax money.

• Government funds for Boy Scouts discriminate against gay people and the nonreligious. (Girl Scouts don’t discriminate).

• A religious bias in public schools and textbooks and in impeding end-of-life autonomy.

These laws connect to thousands of real people harmed, both religious and nonreligious. Due to a federal loophole, there’s a separate legal standard in over 35 states for the misnamed “faith-healing” of children. Hundreds of children every year experience torture worse that Abu Ghraib, largely unnoticed.
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