Saturday, February 7, 2009

Liberalism Attacked the Constitution

Senator DeMint (R-SC) proposed to amened the anti-religious language in the stimulus bill with the purpose of allowing "the free exercise of religion at institutions of higher education that receive funding under section 803 of division A" of the stimulus bill. What I find strange about this is not that the proposed amendment didn't pass, although that sucks. And it wasn't that the original bill has anti-religious language, although that sucks too. What I found interesting is that only one Republican voted against it. This means that every Democrat who voted on the amendment supported limited religious expression and almost all Republicans voted for protecting it. Sen. Gregg (R-NH) was one of two who didn't vote at all (terminally ill Massachusetts Democratic Senator Ted Kennedy being the only other). But if my theory is sound, Sen. Gregg may already be on board with the Democratic party as Obama's Secretary of Commerce nominee. If religion isn't a partisan issue, why the strict divide? Political correctness aside, I don't think we can pretend any longer that political liberalism and theological liberalism are as mutually exclusive as we tend to think.

So what about that one Republican vote against the amendment cast by Olympia Snowe (R-ME)? According to National Review magazine, Snowe is the most liberal Republican Senator in office. Her pro-abortion and gay-rights records are consistently in line with liberal philosophy. Those of us in California know what it's like to have a leader with an "R" after his name. But without the action to support the words, a liberal Republican is still a liberal.

For the moment, let's refocus our attention on the central issue. The bill contained the following clause which limits freedom of religious expression: “PROHIBITED USES OF FUNDS. - No funds awarded under this section may be used for - (C) modernization, renovation, or repair of facilities - (i) used for sectarian instruction, religious worship, or a school or department of divinity; or (ii) in which a substantial portion of the functions of the facilities are subsumed in a religious mission.”

On the surface, this might sound fine. Let's just keep our universities neutral. What could be wrong with that? The problem is that when it comes to religious issues, there is no such thing as being neutral. The Supreme Court ruled that atheism is a protected religious view under the first amendment in the 1961 case of Torcaso v. Watkins. If congress is to respect this ruling, and still wants to expel spirituality from universities that receive funding to repair leaking classrooms, they need to be sure no atheist worldviews are being propagated either.

Even if it were possible to avoid any inference of God, or non-belief, the practical consequences are virtually impossible to avoid. Despite allowing a less than "substantial portion" of religious function, no school will risk the legal expenses in combating even the most frivolous ACLU lawsuits that are sure to follow. But conceding the remote possibility that some colleges might push the envelope by permitting religious discussion in the formerly leaky classrooms, the fact remains that congress has made a law prohibiting the expression of religion or the free exercise thereof. Sound familiar? If not, read the first sentence of the first amendment of our Constitution. If you click that link, you can even read it from the image of the original handwritten document itself.

For further evidence of this violation of the first amendment, read President Thomas Jefferson's letter to the Danbury Baptist Association regarding their concern over government restrictions on religious freedom. Clearly, Jefferson reassures them that there will be a "wall of separation" to protect the individual expression of religion without any government imposed restriction. This is the only reference to the "wall of separation" mentioned in all founding documents. By its context, the protection it promises would seem to include even a "substantial" religious use of government funded university facilities.

Congress is responsible for representing the people so I guess its possible this denial of the first amendment could reflect the view of their constituents (click here for a complete list of how each senator voted). However, I believe each senator swears an oath upon taking office that they will protect and defend the Constitution of the United States. Fortunately, the founders foresaw this potential conflict by establishing a separation of powers. The judicial branch is responsible for ensuring laws passed by congress fall within constitutional boundaries. Let's hope the courts have enough judges in the federal system to see the obvious injustice explicit in the stimulus bill.

Both state and private universities are experiencing the economic turmoil like everyone else. So federal funding is a welcome blessing to institutes of higher learning who are tasked with training America's next generation. This is what makes this anti-religious crusade so egregious. At a time of great need, a select group of our nation's leaders wish to exploit the opportunity by bribing educators with an anti-religious agenda. It's funding with secular strings attached. It's as if they're saying "You can have money to fix your buildings that you otherwise can't afford to repair, but you must stop talking about that religious nonsense before you get it."

My purpose for pointing out this disturbing event is not to enrage you, but to motivate you. I encourage you to keep an eye on those who represent us and to let them know how you think about their actions. It is easy to become complacent by underestimating what one person can do. At the very least, you should ask your friends who support these Senators what they think about it. Maybe they don't even know. Maybe they don't understand the issues. You can change that. Yes, even though you are only one person.

1 comment:

Aaron said...


Great Post!

"Political correctness aside, I don't think we can pretend any longer that political liberalism and theological liberalism are as mutually exclusive as we tend to think."

Amen. Far too many people attempt to set up a false dichotomy between politics and religion, as if the two were in no way related and ought to be kept separate. Ironically, the idea that "politics and religion should be kept separate" is itself a political view which addresses religion, making the statement self-refuting. But I see this dichotomy put forth much more by liberals, so it is especially unfortunate to see the conservative-minded fall into this trap.

An individual's political views do not spring up ex nihilo. They come from an underlying worldview. It is this same worldview that influences their religious views. So it should be no wonder then that political liberals are theologically liberal as well. The same goes for conservatives.

What IS a wonder is that it is always the conservatives who are accused of mixing faith and politics. Again, ironically, liberals mix faith and politics as well (it is just not as obvious to most people). They mix their liberal theology with liberal politics.

Of course, to attempt to dismiss a view because it can be labeled "religious" is to commit a genetic fallacy, regardless of whether it is a liberal religious view or a conservative religious view. What is important is not whether your view can be classified as "liberal" or "conservative." Rather, what matters is whether or not your view is TRUE.