Monday, January 7, 2013

Editorial: Church-state debate remains insoluble

The unnamed editor writes, "Almost daily an issue arises that continues to put the question of separation of church and state to the test. We can't seem to leave this alone and go our separate ways, choosing to believe what we prefer." This is the same voice that only a couple of weeks ago fired its own defensive salvo in the imaginary War on Xmas. Like parody, irony is dead, or at least on life support.

In writing his attempt at a Rodney King moment, the editor entirely misses two key points that are so obvious it feels that just naming them is belaboring them.

 First, there is no legal "debate." The enforced separation of church and state, meaning the prohibition of any legal requirement of religious observance or the use of public resources to promote or facilitate religion, is long-settled law that not even the most right-wing Supreme Court since the Civil War can bring itself to breach.

Second, the only people making an issue of this are the religionists, under the direction of those who would move us toward theocracy. There are enough of those in government to force those of us who simply want our Constitution defended to stand up and point out cases where government allows behavior that crosses the legal line. But there's no question about where that line is. This is not about competing interpretations of the law. This is about people who want to reinterpret the law to favor themselves.

Maybe what the editor really wanted to say is that the religionists just don't seem to ever be willing to give up on their dead hobbyhorse. But his framing in this editorial allows the reader to continue to believe the ridiculous canard that there's some sort of liberal conspiracy to destroy religion. No, editor: liberals in this country are the strongest advocates for protecting religious liberty, and we do that by preventing the ascendence of any cult to official primacy.

Christians have played the victim card for two thousand years, it's built into the culture across the religion's many sects and cults. But believing you're the victim doesn't make it so.

If I squint and read charitably between the lines in the editorial, I might have hope that a good editor could have reduced the entire piece to one line: "Religionists should just stand down and shut the fuck up." Knowing where the editor and publisher are coming from in terms of faith, however, I just see confusion and internal conflict. This is a shame, because the editorial was an opportunity for the paper to act as a force for common sense.

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