Where Right and Left Collide: A Zeek Debate, p. 5

between Jay Michaelson and Evan Sayet
Moderated by Dan Friedman

5. Religion and state:

DF: We are in a strange situation where one party is running a Catholic who is in favor of maintaining the boundaries between church and state, and a woman's right to an abortion, whereas the other party is a Born-Again Christian promoting a lot of faith-based initiatives that blur the state/church boundary, claiming a direct relationship with God and in favor of banning abortion. Why does the current administration want to change a bulwark of US political practice, and insist on reversing a policy that is supported by a majority of the country?

ES: The problem with big government, high taxes and the prejudices against any organization that mentions the word "G-d" is that it works to undermine the existence of religion (which is, of course, the leftists' goal). So long as big government taxes us in ever greater amounts and then decides for us what organizations will get our charity, and so long as the left's interpretation of separation of church and state is to deny funding to any worthy organization that does the despicable -- mention G-d's name -- we are moving towards what the socialists want, a society in which higher values play no part.

The notion that the government can take my money and give to charities that the leftists adore but I consider abhorrent is just another example of the left attempting to deny power to the "stupid people" and put it in the hands of the "enlightened elite." Giving to worthy and successful charities without regard to any particular religion satisfies our Founding Father's intent and the Constitution itself. It in no way "establishes" a religion but rather recognizes that charities can be secular or religious. As for having a direct relationship with G-d I prefer that to someone like Bill Clinton who believed in nothing bigger than himself. I can feel assured that President Bush would not send our troops into harms way for the "benefit of Haliburton" or "to make his daddy happy" (or whatever today's baseless and vicious attempt to undermine America's fight against evil) since he believes he will be ultimately judged by an all-knowing G-d.

On the other hand I cannot know that Bill Clinton or John Kerry would not use our troops as a distraction since, whatever their claims, they clearly do not believe in anything other than their own personal power and wealth. Finally, as to "banning abortion" I see no evidence of this in the policies or speeches of George Bush. While there is an argument (a correct one) that Roe V. Wade is unconstitutional and that this vital issue should be decided by the people (yes, the stupid, evil people) in a more local manner - this argument in no way "bans" abortions. I am personally pro-choice. Yet I feel that [Republican policies] are closer to my position than are the Democrats. Sadly the Democrats are NOT pro-choice but rather pro-abortion. Choice requires access to information and the Democrats' position is to deny patients information and to do everything in their power to ENCOURAGE the killing of the soon-to-be-born baby. This is why they fight to allow children to have this medical procedure performed on them without parental guidance, work to deny doctors in clinics the right to speak freely to their patients and even to prevent doctors from referring their patients for proper medical care such as psychological counseling PRIOR to their killing their soon-to-be-born baby.

My goodness, Planned Parenthood now actually sells T-shirts that proudly proclaim "I Had An Abortion" -- as if one roots for abortions the way one roots for the Cubs or Giants. Given the choice, then, between allowing the people in different communities to decide this difficult issue or being pro-abortion, being pro-choice I find the Republican position to be the right one.

JM: Dan, notice how your question isn't being answered. You asked why the Bush administration is making such radical changes in American church/state policy. The response you received was a series of lies and calumnies against "leftists."

I am a halachic Jew about to go on a long meditation retreat, and someone who has a direct, loving relationship with God. To suggest that "leftists," of whom I am presumably one, want to undermine religion is just ridiculous. Someone who says such a thing is either (a) using it as a scare tactic (liberals are homosexual feminist commie atheists!) or (b) simply ignorant of what liberalism is about, which is answering the Biblical mandate of "Justice, justice shall you pursue."

Impugning the faith of Bill Clinton, a church-attending Christian, or John Kerry, a mass-taking Catholic -- this would be slander in many other countries, and it is contemptible here.

Yet throughout my colleague's long tirade against socialism and atheism, your question was never answered. Even if it were true that the Bush administration's radical policy shifts returned us to some mythical "founding fathers" image of religion and state -- a claim certainly not true as applied to Jefferson, Franklin, or Madison -- it is still a radical policy shift that begs explanation. Which you asked for, and which was not provided.

To answer your question: Bush and his administration are radically shifting our nation's church/state policy because they are deeply religious, but do not understand that their values are not everyone's values. The premise of Roe v. Wade is simple: whatever our values, we are not entitled to impose them on other people's intimate lives. Stop signs, pollution laws -- fine. But the state's policy power stops somewhere, and that place is definitely before it enters the uterus of a woman.

Conservatives used to understand this. They used to believe that limiting state power was a good idea. But Bush is not a conservative. He has no principles at all other than his own ill-defined moral sense. And so he has no qualms about trampling on civil rights, reproductive rights, or religious freedoms, vastly expanding government's power. He believes that what he is doing is "right." Of course, so do leaders of totalitarian states. In a constitutional democracy, you don't get to make laws to ban everything you disapprove of. Even if, in your religious view, you're definitely right and they're definitely wrong.

ES: The left loves to use words like "radical" and other such hyperbolic statements in lieu of real arguments. It's called "building a strawman" where one exaggerates the statements and policies of their opponent and then attacks not what was actually said and done but the "strawman" they have created.

Notice that in the attack on the religious George Bush for his being religious there is not a single mention of a policy that his administration has put forth that is "radical" regarding abortion. It is simply to be assumed and used that because George Bush is religious his goal is to take away all of your "reproductive rights."

But where is this policy? What is it? Name a piece of legislation? The rightly debated and Senate approved ban on the heinous act of inducing childbirth only to ram a pair of scissors into the skull of the about-to-be-born baby? If that's the most "radical" thing that can be argued after almost four years of the Bush presidency then clear thinkers in the Democratic Party need to rethink their positions.

You see the leftist simply ASSUMES that because George Bush is a man of religion that he's an evil man who wants to foist his abortion position onto through any means possible.

Meanwhile, while attempting to frightening people about George Bush because he is a man of faith the left continues to pursue abortion policy that IS radical, including the destruction of the parent/child relationship and the doctor/patient relationship (to be replaced, of course, by the GOVERNMENT).

As I've mentioned, I am pro-choice. But choice is not the Democratic Party's goal -- just their bumper sticker slogan designed to distract. Instead the left is currently pursuing a pro-abortion position where anything that might encourage a woman to give the baby inside her a chance at a full life is to be blocked and undermined

Children who do not understand the full ramifications of their acts need not have parental advice before having a medical procedure performed upon them (by someone who makes money every time they perform such an operation), adults are not to be allowed the full wisdom and advice of their doctors (lest "evil" religious doctors encourage them to put the baby up for adoption), those with psychological problems are not to be afforded the proper psychological counseling (lest they be in their right mind and opt to go through the inconvenience of the rest of their pregnancy and even keep the baby).

And as these practices are put into place one after another by the elitist and dispassionate big government we are supposed to be afraid of George Bush because, as a man of faith, he secretly has some plan to do something or other that is going to be evil.

Notice the response above. Bush and Ashcroft are doing evil things because they are deeply religious. Again no examples, no evidence, no specific policy mentioned. Just "George Bush and John Ashcroft" are deeply religious people and therefore they are to be feared.

Finally, as for basing government support for charities not on whether they satisfy the ACLU's leftist agenda of a secular world (where NAMBLA is to be protected and the Boy Scouts attacked) but rather on their success rates in actually helping people, in no way works to "establish" a national religion. So long as all charities -- dare they mention G-d's name or be totally secular -- have access to the same funds and meet the same criteria for funding the arguments against fairly considering all charities for funding simply don't hold.

JM: Examples: The Faith-Based initiatives plan, which has channeled millions of dollars to religious institutions, including many which proselytize to Jews. The Bush appointments to the federal courts, and expected appointments to the Supreme Court, who take a "strict constructionist" reading of the Constitution - that's a code word for "Roe v. Wade was wrong." Ashcroft's moralizing, censorship of art, and selective enforcement of those laws which suit his religious point of view. The attempt, in the marriage amendment, to enshrine a religiously-derived definition of marriage into the constitution. And finally, though not a policy, the personal belief which Bush has - which he has stated to his Christian Right base - that God has personally put him in the presidency so that he can fight evil. That belief is scary, and it has influenced his policies, which is even scarier. The man thinks he's on a mission from God. Is this who we want running our country?

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Dan Friedman, Ph.D, is associate editor of Zeek. Jay Michaelson is a writer and political activist whose work appears elsewhere in this issue. Evan Sayet is a writer and performer whose credits include "Politically Incorrect" as well as documentaries for "The Discovery Channel." He is currently the Communications Director for L.A. for Bush.

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