« AnteriorContinuar »
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 nonprofitt, nonpartisan, First Amendment citizens' group working to protect individual freedoms. I am pleased to appear today to present our views on the subject of religious freedom and the mixing 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 paint — 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 Bill 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 md Thions 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
Assaults upon the First Amendment may take many formas: 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 as if Jews and other members of minority religions are something less than first-class citizens.
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 palitics. That claim, like the counter argument that religious leaders have a right to speak out on political issues, is often designed to end the discussion.
We are interested, however, in discussion, and to that end People For has just published an issue paper entitled "10 Rules for Mixing 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 theological beliefs. Thealogian Harvey Cox says "it is impossible to separate religion from politics because it is the same people who are both palitical beings and religious beings." And, in fact, barding palitical 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 church-state interaction.
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 mixding 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 adime or debate the morality of foreign add, for example, despite their religious differences. But a religious doctone on the other hand, is acceptable only to those who share a particular faith and is not open to reasonable debate.
The distinction is explained well by David Little, professor of religion and socialogy at the University of Virginia. Descobing the views of Roger wmiams, the colonial Baptist known as the "father of Amerdcan religious pluralism," Little discusses Wiliams' belief that "there existed an independent standard of public morality according to which governments might sightly 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 Itself 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 invalvement. Columnist George Win 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 doctone makes it easy to see that while it may be arrogant to talk about forming a "Moral Majority," it
is at least within the boundades of pluralism, while talk of forming a *Christian Nation" is not. There are other examples:
** Federal Judge William Overton correctly held that "Scientific Creationism" should not be taught in the Arkansas public schools because it required a belief in a specific religious doctone, a fundamentalist interpretation of the Book of Genesis.
** It's unacceptable to base a Middle East policy on a particular interpretation of the Bible. The fact that "Judea and Samaria" were part of Israel in the old Testament is not a justification for Israel to annex the West Bank today. Similarly, it's unacceptable to base unconditional support of Israel on a doctrinal belief about the necessity of a converted Israel to set the stage for the Second Coming of Christ.
** While there is sufficient religious basis for the obligation to feed the hungry and clothe the naked, a Bible verse alone is no more an acceptable justification for supporting a government program or a specific funding level than it is for opposing the Equal Rights Amendment.
** Belief in the biblical concept of "an eye for an eye" is not an acceptable basis for supporting capital punishment; belief that capital punishment is wrong because it precludes the opportunity for the convicted person's conversion is not an acceptable basis for opposing it.
** It's acceptable to use moral arguments for or against a bilateral U.S.- Soviet nuclear freeze, but unacceptable to equate the freeze with godlessness or to condemn it on the basis that the Soviet Union is a "Satanic" power.
III. DISCUSSION OF MORALITY IS BEST APPLIED TO THE COMMON GOOD, NOT PRIVATE ACTION.
This is a time-worn principle that has come under recent attack, but it makes good sense for several reasons. First, there is far less consensus on the morality of private action than on public issues; this is particularly true in the area of sexual morality. Second, government cannot successfully enforce private morality that doesn't have a public manifestation; efforts to do so generally end up weakening respect for law.
41-269 0 - 85 - 15