« AnteriorContinuar »
I am an active member of the Riverside Baptist Church, at 680 I Street SW., Washington, DC. I would invite you all to come to church Sunday. It is wonderful. But, we have not yet organized a Baptist Fire Brigade, so if our church would catch fire on Sunday, we would call the D.C. Fire Department. It is therefore reasonable that we in our building must comply with those basic fire and safety codes.
More seriously, many terrible things have been done historically in the name of religion. The Crusades, the Inquisition, the religious wars and persecution, Baptists in Virginia were beaten and imprisoned and run out of town for proclaiming their Baptist faith. We know the story of the Mormons in the United States. Many things have been done in the name of religion that were wrong, child sacrifice, the burning of people at the stake, the drowning of witches and so forth. So there must be some reasonable way for society to expect basic compliance with law on the part of religious groups and religious persons. And it seems to me, for example, as the Supreme Justice Warren Burger of the Supreme Court said, pertaining to the Bob Jones case, that:
Denial of tax benefits will inevitably have a significant impact on the operation of private religious schools, but will not prevent those schools from observing their religious tenets. The Government has a fundamental overriding interest in eradicating racial discrimination in education. That Government interest substantially outweighs whatever burden denial of tax benefits places on petitioners' exercise of their religious beliefs.
It is not always easy to delineate where the line must be drawn. But it seems to me, Mr. Chairman, that in such a basic matter as civil rights, that our society has no more important business than to make sure that every person born into this society, regardless of that person's sex or race or economic condition, or geographic location, has every opportunity and every incentive to become the most, the best that is in that person to be, to rise to that person's full stature and fulfill whatever gifts God has given that person.
Now, as I, as a religious believer, believe that as a part of my religious belief, but it also seems to me that is so basic and fundamental a right of American citizens that the Constitutional civil rights of American citizens must be protected at all costs, and not even a religious group in the name of religion has the right to violate those most basic rights of our American citizens.
So we would urge that you look in depth at these difficult questions and that you, by all means, stand by the first amendment which for nearly 200 years has protected our rights. And that while recognizing that Government has some reasonable right to expect of religious people what it expects of all citizens, that the basic freedoms that we have been guaranteed to the wisdom of our Founding Fathers be protected in the way they have been for 200 years, and that is by cherishing and keeping the first amendment undiluted and unchanged, whatever else the Senate might wish to do.
[Material submitted for the record follows:]
PREPARED STATEMENT OF JOHN BUCHANAN, JR.
Mr. Chairman and Members of the Committee :
My name is John Buchanan and I am here today on behalf of People for the American Way, a nonprofit, nonpartisan, First Amendment citizens' group warking to protect individual freedoms. I am pleased to appear today to present our views on the subject of religious freedom and the missing of religion and politics.
Our only partisanship is on behalf of the constitutional liberties of American citizens – in 1984, an especially timely issue. This year, Americans will elect a President whose term will expire in 1989 – the year the Bill of Rights was proposed and the 201st anniversary of the Constitution. This constitution has been the guiding document for the
oldest and most successful democracy on the face of the earth.
People for the American Way is working to ensure that on the bicentennial of the Constitution American citizens will continue to enjoy their full constitutional liberties.
I am making a profoundly conservative point – that both major parties, Democrats and Republicans, should resist any and all attempts to weaken or dilute the First Amendment to the Constitution. The First Amendment is the cornerstone of the Bin of Rights. It protects freedom of speech, of the press, and the right to petition. Above all, it is the guarantor of the individual citizen's freedom of conscience, and of the separation of church and state.
Like ndThions of deeply religious Americans, I believe in a strict construction of the First Amendment. I believe that the First Amendment means what it says: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof..." The intent was not only to prevent organized religion from dominating government, but also — and equally important – to prevent government from interfering with the individual citizen's right to worship God as he or she chooses.
Assaults upon the first Amendment may take many forms: for instance, there is the recently debated proposed school prayer amendment.
There is no power on earth which can prevent a person of faith from
praying in school or anywhere else. In fact, as Congressman Charles
Rose once said, "As long as there are math tests, there will be prayer in public schools." Along with many main stream religious leaders, however, we have deep concerns about state-prescribed and state-composed prayer
in the public schools.
Another threat comes from the host of proposals to declare the United States a "Christian" nation, as if there is a uniformity of belief among
Catholics, Protestants, and believers in the Eastern Orthodox Church, and
if Jews and other members of minority religions are something less than
The "Christian Nation" movement is part of a frightening new
development in our national life - a misuse of religion for narrow political
ends. Some critics claim that it is inappropriate to mix religion and politics. That claim, like the counter argument that religious leaders have
a right to speak out on political issues, is often designed to end the
We are interested, however, in discussion, and to that end People
For has just published an issue paper entitled "10 Rules for Missing
Religion and Politics" by Jim Castelli.
Mr. Castelli is the Washington
Bureau Chief for Our Sunday Visitor, the largest U.S. Catholic weekly,
and author of a syndicated religion calumn. I would like to read from "10 Rules for Mixing Religion and Politics," because the paints it makes
address directly the matter before the subcommittee today.
Almost everyone mixes religion and politics to some degree. The same
values that shape political beliefs also shape thealogical beliefs. Theologian Harvey Cox says "it is impossible to separate religion from politics because it is the same people who are both political beings and
religious beings." And, in fact, bardng political debate based on religious
beliefs would violate the First Amendment's Free Exercise Clause.
What is needed, then, is not more pious rhetoric about mixing religion and politics, but guidelines as to what constitutes a legitimate mix - a "How-To Mix Religion and Politics." Because the people arguing the loudest about their right to bring moral issues into the political realm are often
those trying the hardest to avoid any form of government regulation of religious institution, this "How-To" must also include guidelines for
It's particularly important that Americans find a proper mix. The American system of religious pluralism is unique; it developed largely because people fled lands where the mix was improper - where religious dissent and diversity were not respected. But the same Founding Fathers who took such pains to preserve religious freedom also brought religious
values to bear in shaping their new land. An analysis of U.S. history, constitutional law and political practice suggests some clear guidelines
for mixing religion and politics.
I. RELIGIOUS DOCTRINE ALONE IS NOT AN ACCEPTABLE
BASIS FOR PUBLIC POLICY.
While morality is a legitimate element of public debate, there is a crucial distinction between morality and doctrine. Morality is generic; Jews, Catholics, Baptists, Buddhists and atheists can all agree that murder is a crime or debate the morality of foreign aid, for example, despite their religious differences. But a religious doctrine on the other hand, is acceptable only to those who share a particular faith and is not open to
The distinction is explained well by David Little, professor of religion and sociology at the University of Virginia. Describing the views of Roger Williams, the colonial Baptist known as the "father of American religious pluralism," Little discusses Williams' belief that "there existed an independent standard of public morality according to which governments might rightly be judged" and that "a commitment to religious pluralism must rest upon a shared belief that civil or public morality is determinable independent of religious beliefs." Little concludes that "In a pluralistic society, it is simply not appropriate in the public forum to give as a reason for a law or palicy the fact that it is derived from the 'Word of God' or is 'dictated by the Bible.""
Little notes that the Christian Right is inaccurate when it sees tself as merely doing what Martin Luther King and other religious leaders
supporting civil rights and opposing the Vietnam War did in their time.
Little states that anti-Vietnam War religious leaders cited the just war theory, not doctrine. And, he adds, "Martin Luther King made explicit and
repeated appeals to the natural-law tradition, the American Constitution
and the American heritage, which were combined with rather general
references to the Christian tradition and to figures like Jesus and Gandhi.
He did not advocate particular 'Bible-based legislation' or threaten to defeat candidates who did not conform to an explicitly religious position."
A contemporary religious leader, Cardinal Joseph Bernardin of Chicago, makes the same crucial distinction. In urging a "consistent ethic of life"
that would link opposition to abortion to opposition to the use of nuclear
weapons, capital punishment, social program budget cuts and the reliance on
force in Central America, Bernardin said Catholics "face the challenge of stating our case, which is shaped in terms of our faith and our religious
convictions, in non-religious terms which others of different faith
convictions might find morally persuasive."
I. IT IS LEGITIMATE TO DISCUSS THE MORAL DIMENSION
OF PUBLIC ISSUES.
This should be obvious, but some critics of the Christian Right
overreact and try to push discussions of morality out of the public debate altogether; they are joined by many so-called "realists" who want to
dismiss morality as irrelevant in foreign affairs. But American political debate would be unrecognizable without moral argument, just as it would be without organized religious involvement. Calumnist George Will asserts that "American politics is currently afflicted by kinds of grim, moralizing groups that are coarse in their conceptions, vulgar in analysis and intemperate in advocacy. But the desirable alternative to such groups is not less preoccupation with this sort of question, but better preoccupation.... Absent good moral argument, bad moral argument will have the field to itself."
The distinction between morality and doctrine makes # easy to see that while it may be arrogant to talk about forming a "Moral Majority,' it