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Prayer in the Bush League

Again, when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites; they love to say their prayers standing up in the synagogue and at the street-corners, for everyone to see them. I tell you this: they have their reward already. But when you pray, go into a room by yourself, shut the door, and pray to your Father who is there in the secret place; and your Father who sees what is secret will reward you.

In your prayers do not go babbling on like the heathen, who imagine that the more they say the more likely they are to be heard. Do not imitate them.

Jesus, quoted in Matthew 5:5-8


Continuing the debate begun in Prayer in the Bush League....

>> It's his day, however he won, and if he wants to pray to his deity, so be it. <<

If Bush* wants to be divisive and contradict his pledge of inclusiveness, so be it. I and others will call him on it.

>> I've spent eight years watching Clinton/Gore wrap themselves in pseudo-religion when it suited them. <<

As opposed to Bush*, who trotted out Jesus when asked who his favorite political philosopher was in the debates? If claiming Jesus in one's life is a sign of phoniness, Dubya is the winner (or loser) hands down.

Clinton and especially Gore have lived Jesus's teachings far better than Bush* has. At least they've admitted their sins, unlike Bush*—with his free ride in the National Guard, his drug use, his drunkenness, his three arrests, and a possible abortion. Gore is a saint in comparison.

>> Nice to see some appearently genuine belief. <<

Bush* may believe he understands Jesus's message, but he hasn't proved he does. Where do you want to start? How about his eagerness to imprison and execute people, including one criminal whose lawyer fell asleep during his trial? Is there any question what Jesus's position on capital punishment would be? I don't think so.

From an op-ed piece on Bush's* favorite political philosopher. In the LA Times, 1/3/00:

Let's look at just a few of Jesus' best-known political teachings.

When telling of the judgment of the "nations" (ergo political), Jesus said, according to Matthew's Gospel: "For I was hungry and you gave me food . . . I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me. . . . Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers . . . you did it to me." It sounds to me like welfare, open immigration, universal health care, increased international aid and prison reform, all in one sermon.

In another sermon (you know, the one on the Mount?) Jesus is reported to have said, again according to Matthew: "You have heard that it was said, 'An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.' But I say to you, 'Do not resist an evildoer.' But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also." This is a direct contradiction to the very idea of the death penalty. Yet Bush has shown no pity when it comes to executions in his state.

If Christ is Bush's favorite political philosopher, why are none of these themes reflected in his so-called political philosophy of compassionate conservatism?

Bush* divides, not unites
>> If anyone believes that prayer was really forcing a state religion on the people who watched it, they're full of it. <<

The problem is he violated his own pledge to be a uniter, thus showing his hypocrisy.

>> Now, if Bush begins passing legislation FORCING people to pray to CHRIST specifically- that's unconstitutional. <<

The Constitution doesn't limit its reach to forced worship of a deity. School-led prayer is unconstitutional in general because it helps establish prayer-based religion. The phrase "...no law respecting an establishment of religion" prohibits anything in the area of ("respecting") establishing religion in any form.

Besides, Bush* has advocated school-led prayer in the past. We don't need to see him "begin passing legislation" to call him a divisive hypocrite. Merely advocating unconstitutional legislation shows his desire to impose his theocratic views on the rest of us.

>> This may be a little tacky- but if we're really going to be a religiously tolerant culture, that has to include the majority religion well. Equality, not privelege. <<

I agree the government should ignore Christianity equally as it fulfills its constitutional mandate to do NOTHING respecting AN establishment of religion in any way, shape, or form. The concept of a wall separating church and state is longstanding and it follows directly from the First Amendment. Faith-based charity funding is of dubious constitutionality and so is our national motto "In God We Trust."

Bush* can say what he wants at his inauguration and not violate the Constitution. I criticized him because he departed so egregiously from his promise to unite rather than divide America. He continues to divide rather than unite with his appointment of the likes of Ashcroft and his tax giveaway to the rich.

If that's the way he wants to play it, so be it. We moderates and liberals will continue to call him on his right-wing partisanship.


The debate continues....
>> Clinton was the crooked-est politician to come along in decades <<

Since Nixon, I presume? But I'd say the Reagan administration was just as crooked, although Reagan himself was too addled to be evil.

>> By the time the Reps were done they'd called him on everything from Lewinski to the brand of cigar he used. <<

They're still doing it. I expect this anti-Clinton obsession to last generations—same as the hatred of FDR and Jane Fonda did.

>> Number one, I don't recall anywhere in the gospels Jesus getting a hummer from Mary Magdalene when the taxpayers thought he was raising the dead. Number two, I don't call giving false testimony in federal court for a straight year 'admitting their sins.' <<

I don't recall Jesus getting a free ride in the National Guard, using drugs, being a drunk, getting arrested three times, and possibly impregnating a woman and then procuring an abortion for her. So? What comes next? Are you gonna impugn Clinton in yet another format? <g>

>> you do surely see a difference between an arrest 25 years ago and getting illegal money from a Buddhist temple while you are holding office. <<

Gore wasn't convicted or even charged with anything, was he? So "mistakes were made." That's inevitable, as every president in history has proved.

Would I say one mistake in office was worse than one arrest 25 years ago? Probably. But I didn't list just one arrest for Bush*, I listed a whole litany of bad behavior. I'd say Bush's* many transgressions far outweigh Gore's one mistake.

Jesus probably would forgive everyone's sins and mistakes, no matter when they happened, so I'm not sure the time frame matters. On a moral scale, 25 years is a drop in the bucket. Besides, I believe Bush* swore off booze at age 40, so we're talking about events more recent than his college daze. (Who knows about his drug use?)

Indeed, Bush* called a reporter an "asshole" during the campaign, a contemporary action that fails to meet Jesus's standard. So does his faux weeping over Oklahoma's bombing victims while he was pulling the trigger against Iraqi civilians. I could go on.

You seem to have confused Gore's one or two lapses with Clinton's legion of lapses. Let me repeat: Gore is a saint compared to Bush*.

Bush* covered up truth
>> There's a big difference between getting a DUI and giving up alcohol for the next two decades and the Clinton/Gore "we're sorry we got caught" speeches. <<

There's not much difference about lying about one's mistakes, or covering them up, in the present. Bush* is guilty of that now, not 25 or however many years ago. As a candidate, he intentionally misled the public about his moral character—his fidelity to "family values." That's arguably worse than hanky-panky in office because it defrauds voters of their right to an informed vote.

Anyone who has covered up his immoral past has zero right to be talking about restoring "dignity" and "honor" to the White House. Dignity and honor start with telling the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. Bush* dodges truth like a pro.

>> Maybe that guy didn't have enough money to get a presidential pardon (I'd have made the 'not Mark Rich' enough comment, but Val Kilmer beat me to it). <<

Jesus probably would pardon people without being paid for it. Clinton was trying, however imperfectly, to emulate him. How does pardoning people for pay—which isn't what happened, but never mind—compare to executing people? There's no comparison; Bush's* actions are less Jesus-like.

One letter writer seems to get the point. From the LA Times, 8/15/01:

Jesus was forgiving of sinners, but he reserved his harshest words for the hypocrites, repeatedly. Bill Clinton may have been a lying sinner, but at least he did not try to have the Ten Commandments posted in every public building.

Laguna Beach

If she gets it, why don't you?

>> Would Jesus have pardoned Leonard Peltier? Would Gore? <<

Yes and probably not, since Gore was a pandering politician like Clinton.

>> Is that hippocrisy worse than asking for unity, but refusing to acknowledge the Bush presidency as legit even AFTER one has conceded? <<

Yes, Bush's* hypocrisy is worse. Gore has no reason to acknowledge Bush's presidency as legit because it isn't legit. Gore conceded because he didn't have a way to overrule the Supreme Court, not because the Court's decision had a shred of validity.

More on church vs. state
>> If the writers of the Constitution really intended a complete seperation of Church and State, why is our national motto "In God we trust?" Why is the eye of God in the national seal, along with the term Annuit Choeptis? <<

Artist Rob Davis answers that one:

"In God We Trust" and the other symbol were added to the nation's money during the first few decades of the 20th Century, long after every one of the Founding Fathers had been dead and buried. Some of them no doubt spun rapidly in said graves when Congress approved those things _and_ added "...under God..." to the Pledge of Allegiance (another 20th Century invention, by the way).

"Annuit Coeptis," or "He has favored our undertakings," appears on the reverse side of the Great Seal. This side is never used for official documents. The first committee to work on the seal, which included Franklin, Adams, and Jefferson, rejected a design featuring pillars of flame representing God.

"E pluribus unum," or "Out of many, one," appears on the obverse side and is considered the first US motto. Not coincidentally, it suggests the states' collective strength, not their right to nullify laws and go their separate ways. Clearly, the Founders were anything but lone individualists.

"In God we trust" was adopted as the national motto on July 30, 1956—perhaps to protect us from the godless Communists. Given our trust in wealth, progress, science, guns, McCarthy hearings—i.e., anything but God—this motto is most ironic.

The Supreme Court's recent ruling on Ohio's state motto—"With God all things are possible"—said this phrase portrays an activist God and thus establishes a particular type of religion. In contrast, it said "In God we trust" is religion-neutral. But the Constitution doesn't say government can't establish a particular religion or type of religion. It says government can't establish religion, period.

The courts generally have supported things like the US motto and seal, but not unanimously. Eventually, the minority of judges condemning these things will become the majority. Then the courts will rule against them.

Where the "wall" came from
>> The seperation of Church and State is the result of a later Supreme Court INTERPRETATION of the First Amendment. <<

The "interpretation" follows directly from the wording of the First Amendment—as directly as anything does. Of course the courts have to interpret this, because they have to interpret everything. What does "high crimes and misdemeanors" mean? What does "bear arms" mean? What does "four years" mean? (Four earth years? Four Venusian years? Four Martian years?) Saying the Constitution requires interpretation tells us little about how clear its wording is.

Maybe the interpretation was codified later, but the Founding Fathers intended it from the beginning. For instance:

We maintain therefore that in matters of Religion, no man's right is abridged by the institution of Civil Society and that Religion is wholly exempt from its cognizance....[And] if Religion be exempt from the authority of the Society at large, still less can it be subject to that of the Legislative Body. The latter are but the creatures and vicegerents of the former. Their jurisdiction is both derivative and limited: it is limited with regard to the co-ordinate departments, more necessarily is it limited with regard to the constituents. The preservation of a free Government requires not merely, that the metes and bounds which separate each department of power be invariably maintained; but more especially that neither of them be suffered to overleap the great Barrier which defends the rights of the people.

James Madison, Memorial and Remonstrance against Religious Assessments, June 20, 1785

So religion is wholly exempt from government's "cognizance." Apparently the Founding Fathers considered "establish" and "be cognizant of" synonyms. Madison said government may not establish or recognize religion in any way, shape, or form.

Not only can't the various branches of government interfere with each other, but they can't "overleap the great Barrier" separating Civil Society (of which government is part) and Religion. Hmm. Sounds like a wall between church and state to me.

That the Founders didn't consider the US a Christian country and wanted no part of religion in government (except for the occasional prayer or motto) is clear:

As the government of the United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian Religion, — as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion or tranquility of Musselmen, — and as the said States never have entered into any war or act of hostility against any Mehomitan nation, it is declared by the parties that no pretext arising from religious opinions shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries.

John Adams, Article 11, Treaty of Peace and Friendship between the US and the Bey and Subjects of Tripoli of Barbary, May 27, 1797

What influence, in fact, have ecclesiastical establishments had on society? In some instances they have been seen to erect a spiritual tyranny on the ruins of the civil authority; on many instances they have been seen upholding the thrones of political tyranny; in no instance have they been the guardians of the liberties of the people. Rulers who wish to subvert the public liberty may have found an established clergy convenient auxiliaries. A just government, instituted to secure and perpetuate it, needs them not.

James Madison, Memorial and Remonstrance against Religious Assessments, June 20, 1785

Related links
Separation of Church and State Home Page
      What about quotations that appear to oppose separation?
      A list of flawed quotes
      Misquoting by the religious right
"The Supreme Court Issues a Monumental Decision":  Freedom of and from religion explained

No religion...a matter of interpretation?
>> See above- that's a matter of interpretation. <<

Funny to see a so-called libertarian arguing for a greater government role in establishing religion. Perhaps your interpretation of "libertarian" is different from mine: the dictionary definition.

You talked about the motto and the seal. Why use these indirect examples when Thomas Jefferson, perhaps the leading Founding Father, established the idea of the wall separating church and state himself? If he didn't know what the Founding Fathers intended, who does?

I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should "make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof," thus building a wall of separation between Church and State.

Thomas Jefferson to Danbury Baptist Association, January 1, 1802

Madison, the father of the Constitution, concurred with his friend Jefferson on this point:

The purpose of separation of church and state is to keep forever from these shores the ceaseless strife that has soaked the soil of Europe in blood for centuries.

James Madison, letter objecting to the use of government land for churches, 1803

>> You find a phrase anything like what I have in parenthesis above in the Constitution. It's sure isn't in the 1st Amendment. <<

Surely you jest, because you can't be serious. I intentionally copied the First Amendment and made only minor alterations:

My "do NOTHING respecting AN establishment of religion in any way, shape, or form" is syntactically identical to "make no law respecting an establishment of religion." The three keys—"respecting," "an establishment," and "of religion"—are identical, period. Perhaps you were thinking of another amendment, because your claim about this one is false and ridiculous.

>> I have a problem with the faith based policy because it will allow the state to dictate action to the Church, Synagogue, and Mosque. <<

I have a problem with it because any donation to a religious group helps that group establish its religion. That violates the First Amendment.

Given your defense of government involvement in religion—establishing the motto and so forth—I'd say you don't have enough of a problem with the policy. Maybe you should stop defending the present administration and start criticizing it, like me.

More of Dubya's divisiveness
>> Tax giveaway? I'm sorry, I thought he was just deciding not to take money they had earned. Silly Capitalist me... <<

That's okay...most so-called capitalists are silly these days. Actually, he's taking money we owe to whoever holds the national debt and giving it away to the rich. It should go to the debt-holders instead.

See Are Taxes "Theft"? for more on the subject.

>> If Ashcroft divides, why doesn't Colin Powell unite? <<

A wrong and a right make a wrong and a right, not two rights. And Powell is little more than a lackey of the military-industrial complex. Whether he'll challenge the right-wing on any substantive point remains to be seen.

>> We must be reading different Constitutions. <<

Apparently, since you didn't recognize my replication of the First Amendment.

>> Not only does mine only give you freedom of Religion <<

It also gives me freedom from government-established religion—such as enforced school prayer or pseudo-Christian mottos.

>> it also says the electoral college picks the president. <<

It also says "Each State shall appoint, in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct"—which, in practice, means a free and fair vote of the state's registered voters. I believe the Florida state constitution gives final authority to the Florida Supreme Court to determine the legislature's intent if its intent is unclear. So let's not waste time quoting dueling constitutional provisions.

>> I don't like the way Bush won, but I'd be equally disturbed by a Gore win. <<

I'd be disturbed by a Gore win unless we did a full and fair recount of Florida's ballots, which is what Gore called for repeatedly.

Bush* president, but not elected
>> Like it or not, as per the Constitution, Dubya is the President. <<

Not the legitimate president.

>> Questioning his legitimacy however will simply encourage the divisiveness you accuse Bush of promoting. <<

So? Unlike Bush*, I haven't vowed to be a uniter, not a divider. That makes him the only hypocrite here. I can divide the country all I want and be true to my principles.

>> I'm not saying I like him, but until he disgraces the office like his predecessor he is the one and only legitimate Chief Executive. <<

You're not saying you like him, but you haven't said much against him. Your messages read like a Bush* stump speech.

Your definition of "disgrace" is obviously different than mine. As of March 2001, Bush* has done five or ten major things to reward business and religious fundamentalists at the expense of the majority who voted against him. A good Democrat would have no trouble painting Dubya as a right-wing extremist and winning an election against him next month. By 2004, the litany of Bush's* broken promises and divisive actions should be long and compelling.


The debate continues (11/8/02)....
>> And the Great Seal of the United States was in fact proposed by Thomas Jefferson. <<

No, he was on a committee and proposed one version of the Great Seal. Several people had their hand in the final design.

>> He was a Deist- the central religion behind the founding of the United States, shared by John Adams, George Washington, and many of the other framers. <<

I'd call deism a common religion held by several framers, not "the central religion behind the founding of the United States." There was no religion behind the founding of the United States since it was founded for secular reasons.

>> No, I don't recognize your interpretation of the first amendment. Neither would Jefferson. <<

Thank you for your opinion. I'll go with the words of the founders themselves.

>> Pardons for money are just an imperfect emulation of Jesus? Rob, you are on crack. <<

Apparently you don't understand the concept of forgiveness any better than you understand the concept of turning the other cheek.

>> Hillary's "Fucking Jew Bastard" was an imperfect Christ emulation too? <<

No, that was more an emulation of 2,000 years of hypocritical Christians who have persecuted Jews for their beliefs.

>> [Jesus] was willing to beat the hell out of merchants in the temple- how would he treat the press corps? <<

Driving people from the temple isn't the same as beating them. One could drive people from the temple without touching them physically.

>> I don't recall asking for a greater Government role in establishing religion. <<

You've defended Bush*, who has asked for a greater government role in establishing religion. Same thing.

>> Money that has not been collected yet as taxes is not owed to anyone. Even me. <<

The American public owes money to whoever holds the national debt. You know, the debt that Clinton eradicated? The one that Bush reinstated with his recession-enhancing tax cuts? What a surprise that giving away the government's surplus resulted in a deficit. A five-year-old could've figured that out, but not Bush.

>> Touche, you've conned me into defending the Republicans, and I can't. <<

You took that burden on yourself voluntarily.

>> If you truly respect the Democrats though, I weep for you. They are all morally bankrupt <<

I respect the greatest economic boom in American history. It's a lot better than Bush's two-year (and counting) period of recession and stagnation.

Clinton may have been morally challenged, but he isn't "all Democrats" by a longshot. Most Democrats expressed their outrage at Clinton's sexual shenanigans and pardon peccadilloes, and rightly so.

>> I just think the Clinton's and their groupies were a hell of a lot more bankrupt than the current occupants. <<

Gale Norton cited for contempt of court. Dick Cheney sued for withholding public information. Harvey Pitt resigned in disgrace. Bush's* good friend and campaign contributor Kenneth Lay the biggest crook of the decade. Ashcroft's hypocritical onslaught against civil rights. Bush's* repeated lies about not having any warning about 9/11...the phony link between Saddam and Al Qaeda...his alleged desire to cooperate with US allies...his insincere demand for corporate reforms...his fraudulent environmental policies "based on science," etc., etc., etc. Lies, lies, and more lies.

>> We must also see a vastly different Jesus. <<

Yep. Mine is in the Bible as interpreted by centuries of theologians. Yours is in your Ayn Rand reader or wherever you get your ideas from.


*Not the legitimate president.

More on the moron
Quotes about Bush (better than quotes by Bush)
Bush vs. America
Bush's arrest record

Related links
Religion in schools:  the imaginary war against Christianity
Political cartoons 2001
America's exceptional values

Readers respond
"No disrespect but, I believe you miss the point" [of Jesus's teachings according to Matthew]

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