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A Look at the Separation of Church and State, Through New Eyes

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Representative Virgil Goode has stepped in it in ways I only thought possible for fringe hacks like Limbaugh and Coulter. I was wrong, but the story of the day isn't Goode's hate and ignorance, it's the hidden truth beneath the veil.

Don't let yourself be fooled, this isn't a debate about Muslims in Congress, or the appropriateness of swearing your oath on the Qur'an -- which Keith Ellison has no intention of doing -- nor is this about one pathetic man suffering from Islamophobia.

You have to dig a little bit deeper than that I'm afraid, until you come to the inescapable conclusion that I just did: the theme of this story is that the doctrine of separation between church and state -- imagined or not -- serves a greater purpose than it appears to at first glance. The only time people seem to object in recent times is when it is their own religion that is being shut out, but Goode's statements gives rise to another use entirely: protecting religion from religion.

I read a post this morning from the New York Times blog The Caucus written by Michael McElroy that was interesting not because of what McElroy said, but what he quoted from another blog, the conservative site Powerline.
The key point here is the MSM’s unthinking acceptance of Ellison’s reassurance that the separation of church and state applies to Muslims just as naturally as it does to members of other faiths. The problem is that, to my knowledge, there is no significant branch of Islam that recognizes anything like a separation of church and state.
You have to scratch your head when you read this, and wonder what particular branch of Christianity, or any other faith for that matter, recognizes a separation of church and state, because I've personally seen nothing of the kind. There are groups like Americans United for Separation of Church and State, but they hardly speak authoritatively for the many religions under their tent.

Quite the opposite in fact, a lot of Christians seem to despise the separation doctrine, but they are hardly alone.

It is a double-standard that I've seen becoming more common over the past few years. Many people are demanding that the entire Muslim faith apologize for the actions of a few radical extremists, yet place no such burdens upon Christian extremists when abortion clinics are bombed. Now we see it expanding beyond simple instances of terrorism, and I find it quite disturbing.

Representative Goode is consumed by his fears. He understands little, but speaks loudly in a way that would make racists and bigots all around the world proud. He does not preach tolerance, acceptance, understanding or cooperation. Instead he preaches lies, hate, and fear mongering.

These days it seems like the doctrine of separation only comes into play when theists push too far into government and school, only to be pushed back by agnostics or people who favor separatism as a measure of balance. Not being an expert on history, the constitution, or the law, I am beginning to wonder if the separation was more for the protection of religion than it was for the protection from religion. After all, one religion cannot dominate another if neither of them can become symbiotic with government.

Through Rep. Goode's eyes he sees danger and fear, I see reason and purpose. The separation does not care if any religion or faith respects the divide, it applies to all equally. It doesn't really protect atheists from believers or believers from other believers, it protects the freedom to choose. It protects us all.

When Keith Ellison takes his oath of office to defend the constitution and serve the American people, the country will begin the adjustment period of having something new to understand and accept. Immigration is not new here, there have been Muslims among us for a very long time. Now they step forward to participate in the greatest democracy experiment of all time.

Where Goode sees danger, I see opportunity.

Ellison may be capable of serving with distinction during his career in Congress, instead of justifying a small mans fears, he can remind us that behind the religious texts, under the clothes, behind the prayers and under any God, exists men and women. Human beings. People who can set aside their religion to serve us all.

Diversity breeds strength, but nobody said it was going to be easy. Let's see what Ellison brings to the table and perhaps it will enrich all of us for the better. Let's then remind Rep. Goode that the biggest danger one can ever face is their own fear. He is dominated by his, but thankfully most of us are not.Technorati tags: , , ,
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The text of this article is Copyright © 2006,2007 Paul William Tenny. All rights reserved. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 United States License. Attribution by: full name and original URL. Comments are copyrighted by their authors and are not subject to the Creative Commons license of the article itself.