Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Theocracy Watch - More Republicans Jump Ship 

This is a great op-ed.

First, a little about-the-author:
John C. Danforth, a former United States senator from Missouri, resigned in January as United States ambassador to the United Nations. He is an Episcopal minister.
Note that he was a Republican senator from Missouri and still identifies with the party as he criticizes it.

I think that reasonable Republicans everywhere should be listening to Danforth and Chris Shays. The further the Elephant stumbles down the road to Theocracy, the more plausible a backlash becomes. I, for one, would welcome a backlash and expect it to be forthcoming in 2006, but my Republican friends would probably do well to start convincing their compatriots to spend more time on fiscal responsibility and less on feeding tubes, lest the party completely lose its compass.

On the abortion issue and how it relates with the debate over stem cell research, Danforth draws a line that I find fairly reasonable (though I disagree with him):
It is not evident to many of us that cells in a petri dish are equivalent to identifiable people suffering from terrible diseases. I am and have always been pro-life. But the only explanation for legislators comparing cells in a petri dish to babies in the womb is the extension of religious doctrine into statutory law.
There is a difference between having religious views inform legislation and having religious doctrine become legislation. It's good to see that at least some on the Right recognize that distinction. Danforth makes it exceptionally clear:
I do not fault religious people for political action. Since Moses confronted the pharaoh, faithful people have heard God's call to political involvement. Nor has political action been unique to conservative Christians. Religious liberals have been politically active in support of gay rights and against nuclear weapons and the death penalty. In America, everyone has the right to try to influence political issues, regardless of his religious motivations.

The problem is not with people or churches that are politically active. It is with a party that has gone so far in adopting a sectarian agenda that it has become the political extension of a religious movement.
This is a more eloquently worded version of a statement I made here a while back.
Evangelize all you want, just don't do it through the government of my country.
Danforth makes the reason for this all-to-clear. Although I think it should be clear to everyone from what we know of Islamic states in the Middle East why religion's capture of government is a bad thing.
While religions are free to advocate for their own sectarian causes, the work of government and those who engage in it is to hold together as one people a very diverse country. At its best, religion can be a uniting influence, but in practice, nothing is more divisive. For politicians to advance the cause of one religious group is often to oppose the cause of another.
Advancing the cause of one religion to the detriment of another (or to those who adhere to no religion, I insist upon adding) is one of the primary reasons for a little bit of text we call the 1st Amendment. Kudos to Danforth for trying to steer his party back to being a political party, rather than the political arm of a religious movement.


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