Recently Mark Udall, candidate for U.S. Senate, sent me a letter in which he endorsed the separation of church and state. Now Mitt Romney has given a speech on the subject of faith. At a superficial level, Romney also endorses the separation of church and state:
“We separate church and state affairs in this country, and for good reason. No religion should dictate to the state nor should the state interfere with the free practice of religion.”
However, generic endorsements of the separation of church and state are inadequate. Just as anyone can proclaim support for a contentless version of “freedom,” so can everyone but an out-and-out theocrat generically proclaim support for the separation of church and state. That is why, in my letter to candidates, I asked for replies to specific questions regarding abortion, stem cell research, and tax funding of religious groups and doctrine.
In his speech, Romney explicitly calls for tax funding of religious teaching:
The founders proscribed the establishment of a state religion, but they did not countenance the elimination of religion from the public square. We are a nation “Under God” and in God, we do indeed trust.
We should acknowledge the Creator as did the Founders — in ceremony and word. He should remain on our currency, in our pledge, in the teaching of our history, and during the holiday season, nativity scenes and menorahs should be welcome in our public places. Our greatness would not long endure without judges who respect the foundation of faith upon which our constitution rests. I will take care to separate the affairs of government from any religion, but I will not separate us from “the God who gave us liberty” (emphasis added).
In other words, Romney does not wish to spend tax funds to promote the particular doctrines of, say, Mormonism or Catholicism; he merely wishes to spend tax funds to teach children in “the public square” about the God common to the Judeo-Christian-Muslim tradition.
This reminds me of the speech delivered by Leonard Peikoff in 1986 (and published as “Religion Versus America” in Ayn Rand’s The Voice of Reason.) Peikoff said:
“If prayer is said aloud [in tax-funded schools],” [Jack Kemp] explains, “it need be no more than a general acknowledgment of the existence, power, authority, and love of God, the Creator.” That’s all — nothing controversial or indoctrinating about that! (page 78)
Romney said, “Freedom requires religion just as religion requires freedom. Freedom opens the windows of the soul so that man can discover his most profound beliefs and commune with God. Freedom and religion endure together, or perish alone.” For a refutation of Romney’s claim, see Peikoff’s article.
Romney’s comment reminded me of something that Laura Ingraham said at a recent banquet. She said that without a particularly religious virtue, “you can kiss the free market goodbye.” It is obvious that Romney and Ingraham think that religion must come before freedom. Will it then surprise anyone when they and their fellow travelers decide it’s okay to sacrifice “just a little” freedom for the cause of religion?
Elsewhere Romney states that he wishes to outlaw nearly all abortions, restrict medical research, expand censorship of (ambiguously defined) “obscenity,” and spend tax dollars on “faithbased groups.” Various religious leaders in this country have advocated the complete ban of all abortions, more spending of tax dollars on religious groups and instruction, censorship of “pornography,” and so forth.
Romney’s claim that “religion requires freedom” is obviously false; for example, religion thrived for century after century in the brutally oppressive Egyptian empires and Middle Ages. Freedom does not require religion, though it defends freedom of religion — and freedom from religion. What freedom requires is that religious leaders abstain from forcing their theology onto others. Despite his generic statement to the contrary, Romney has demonstrated that he wishes to sacrifice freedom to religion. And that is why I will never cast a vote for Mitt Romney for any office, under any circumstances.