In the battle over Separation of Church and State, both sides have invoked the Founding Fathers–George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, and James Madison–to support their respective positions.
The strict Separationists contend that the Founders were Deists, and did not support the view of the Bible held by the Religious Right of today. (Deists take a â€œwatchmakerâ€ view of God: they believe that God created everything, and then left it up to humanity to manage things. They do not believe that God actively intervenes in history. As a result, they tend to deny any Biblical accounts of supernatural acts.)
The Religious Right contends that the Foundersâ€”while hardly card-carrying Fundamentalistsâ€”were nominal Christians who understood the necessity of Christian influence in matters of law and public policy.
Both sides have legitimate points: the Foundersâ€”Deists that they wereâ€”would not pass as theocrats. Pat Robertson would be very disappointed at them, and they at him (as I am at him). At the same time, to call them Separationists would be a major overstretch. They supported the rights of Christians to exercise their faith in the public arena.
The Establishment Clause of the First Amendment was aimed at keeping the government from forming an official State Church. Prohibitions against religious tests were aimed toward the same end. This enabled Christians to play and integral role in forming law and policy, while preventing government from establishing theocracy, from which Vatican-style oppressions may breed.
However, there still remains a legitimate question: to what extent should Christians play a role in the formulation of law and public policy? I would add another question along those lines: at what point does this influence cross the line and become Unconstitutional?
I agree with the Separationists on one point: man-made theocracy is a very bad idea. History has shown that no group of humansâ€”religious or secularâ€”is competent to impose theocracy in any way that is fair or equitable.
However, the Separationists are disingenuous when they claim, â€œreligious conservatives have no right to impose morality on anyone.â€ Every law is an expression of someoneâ€™s morality. Indeed the contention that â€œreligious conservatives have no right to impose morality on anyoneâ€ is itself an imposition of morality on religious conservatives.
That being said, what morality should be imposed? What are the criteria by which we decide what morality indeed should be legislated?
To that end, I suggest that morality should be legislated as it undergirds the three unalienable rights of citizens: life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness (in that order).
That means life comes first. A personâ€™s liberty is second in importance, and can only be superseded by another personâ€™s right to life. Similarly, your right to pursue happiness is fundamental, but another personâ€™s life or liberty precedes it. I would also add one more wrinkle: any imposition of morality that forces the government to exceed its Constitutional limits is also off-limits.
How can this be done? Letâ€™s take a look at some hot-button issues.
Technology has shown quite clearly that the child in utero is indeed alive. Anyone who denies that life begins before birth is as out-of-touch as a flat earther. Inside 50 days, brain waves are measurable; at eight weeks, all organ systems are present and functional; the child in utero feels pain, sucks his/her thumb.
It is a legal double-standard when, one one hand, we permit the killing of a child in the womb for the full nine months of pregnancy while–on the other hand–we sentence Scott Peterson to death for the “double murder” of a pregnant woman and her unborn child.
Making abortion illegal would require two things: (1) the Supreme Court would have to reverse both the Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton decisionsâ€”this would return the issue to the states; and (2) the states would have to adopt legislation that would pass muster in the legislative and executive branches of their states. A third possibility exists: upon the reversal of Roe and Doe, the House and Senate pass an abortion ban that the President signs into law.
At that point, an enforcement provision would have to be developed. Passing a law is one thing; enforcing it is another. Abortion rights activists contend thatâ€”by making abortion illegalâ€”we will eventually have the FBI investigating every woman who suffers a miscarriage or stillbirth.
While that scenario is possibleâ€”it is a logical result of the big government that the Left has promoted for seven decadesâ€”it is unlikely. Why? Abortion was illegal for over 150 years in every state of the Union, and the federal government showed no interest in pursuing illegal abortionists. Before Roe, those cases were local matters and would remain so if Roe were reversed today. By leaving abortion to the states, this allows Christians to influence the formulation of laws while keeping federal government from exceeding its Constitutional powers.
Before Lawrence v. Texas, some states had anti-sodomy laws on their books. One such state was Texas. The gay rights groups contend that what consenting adults do among themselves is no concern of the government. Any such government intrusions, they argue, are a violation of the 4th Amendment rights of homosexuals.
In spite of my theological views against homosexuality, I agree with the gay rights lobby on this matter. (They are exercising liberty and pursuit of happiness without infringing on the right to life of others.)
However, gay adoptions are a different matter, as subjecting a child to such dysfunction infringes on the childâ€™s rights to liberty and pursuit of happiness, allowing the institutional denial of a two-parent family (father and mother) to a child when such parents are available.
The issue of “gay marriage” is as volatile as abortion, as it may be the social issue that sunk John Kerry in 2004. Regardless of your opinions in this matter, the Defense Of Marriage Act (DOMA) is bad legislation because it aims to circumvent the Constitution via a federal law. This is dangerous: if we allow this trend, then what good is the Constitution? If we allow federal law to circumvent the Constitution with respect to civil proceedings, is it that much more of a stretch to do away with gun rights in the same manner?
In spite of its flaws, DOMA represents an attempt to keep gays from imposing their morality on Americans. Currently, if a state legalizes gay marriage, then all remaining 49 states must recognize the â€œmarriageâ€ due to Article 4, Section 3 of the Constitution (better known as the Full Faith and Credit Clause, which requires states to honor the civil proceedings of other states). In this case, homosexuals would be imposing their morality on all Americans, forcing them to recognize their â€œrelationshipsâ€ on the same moral plane as heterosexual marriage.
Rather that resort to bad law–which is what DOMA is–a more equitable solution to this would be to get the government out of the marriage licensing business altogether. If two people wish to form a legal entity for the purpose of division or protection of assets, then this can be established through contract law (and it need not be sexual: an 80-year-old disabled man may enter such an arrangement with someone much younger to ensure long term care). In this case, terminating that relationship (divorce) would be more orderly, as termination matters can be stipulated in the contract.
By taking marriage licensing out of the hands of government, we get the best of both worlds. On one hand, a gay couple can get â€œmarriedâ€ at Metropolitan Community Church. However, First Baptist Church is under no obligation to recognize such â€œmarriagesâ€. Marriage would be returned to religious institutions, which is where it belongs anyhow.
How could we address the issue of pornography? On one hand, adults who use it are exercising their right to pursue happiness; however, exposing children to it represents an infringement on their liberty and pursuit of happiness. (Sexual predators often use pornography to lure children into sexual relationships. This is indeed an infringement on them. Exposing a child to pornography increases the likelihood of the child becoming addicted to pornographic media, which is destructive both personally and financially)
Unfortunately, making mainstream pornography illegal may not be feasible within a Constitutional framework: the law enforcement mechanism would require a government holding the power of a totalitarian regime.
Perhaps a middle ground is possible. It would be fair–and Constitutional–to require pornographic establishments to be restricted to non-residential areas. This would recognize the First Amendment rights of pornographers while respecting the concerns of traditional families.
As for e-porn, that is stickier: there is very little that can be done from a legal standpoint. While the federal government rightfully pursues child pornographers, that task is very difficult. Mainstream e-porn is almost impossible to pursue legally. (How do you enforce an American law against a site that is based in Mongolia?) Concerned parents should take it upon themselves to control what comes into their houses. That is tough, but doable. And it requires no new laws.
In general, the threshold is this: if a lawâ€”no matter how well-intentionedâ€”requires the State to exceed its Constitutional authority to enforce it, then it should be scrapped.
I have no sympathy for pornography businesses, but I donâ€™t want the Draconian government that would be required to enforce an anti-porn law with teeth. Iâ€™m against homosexuality, but I donâ€™t want my government peeking into everyoneâ€™s home to make sure couples are doing it â€œmissionary styleâ€ either.
Education (evolution, sex education, ADHD…)
Perhaps the thorniest of issues is education. Within the education system, there are several matters that will get religious conservatives into fistfights with secularists.
Should we permit the teaching of Intelligent Designâ€”a theory promoted by Lehigh University biochemistry professor Michael Beheâ€”as a competing theory to evolution? Should we permit public schools to push value-free sex education on teens and pre-teens? Should we permit schools to â€œdiagnoseâ€ children with ADHD and force-feed them Ritalin? Should we permit the handing out of condoms to teens and pre-teens? Should school personnel arrange for teens to have birth control services and even abortions, without parental notification?
It is amazing that the Leftâ€”which insists, â€œThou shalt not legislate thy morality on society!â€â€”is very dogmatic about pushing evolution, value-free sex education, condoms, â€œAll Ritalin All the Timeâ€, and abortion on teens and pre-teens. Itâ€™s okay to impose morality as long as itâ€™s their morality.
On the matter of evolution, I have one simple question: why are secularists so afraid of â€œIntelligent Designâ€? Behe raises many valid arguments, which he demonstrably articulates from the field of biochemistry. Behe introduces the concept of â€œirreducible complexityâ€, which contends that some biological systems are so complex that they could not have evolved. This pokes serious holes into the Darwinian model of natural selection.
Homeostatic controlsâ€”a staple of every organism as simple as bacteria or as complex as humansâ€”are evidences of intelligent design, as they represent feedback control systems. Any engineering graduate can attest to the mathematical complexity of analyzing or designing even rudimentary control systems. If mechanical or electrical or aeronautical control systems are products of intelligence, then why not biological control systems?
The human eye has biological systems more complex than the flight controls of an F-22 fighter plane. Why should we just chalk this up to â€œNatural Selectionâ€, which is the scientific way of saying, â€œS*** happensâ€?
Intelligent Design does not violate any scientific principles, nor does it violate the Establishment clause of the Constitution, as it imposes no religion on anyone. That it may call attention to a Higher Power is not a statement of religion, but rather an objective conclusion with respect to observable facts.
Is academia not concerned with free inquiry? Why is such inquiry suppressed vigorously when the subject is evolution? Could it be that the Left has found a faith-based initiative (Darwinism) that they can support?
As for sex education, that is a family responsibility, not a government one. If a parent wants his or her kids to have condoms â€œjust in caseâ€, then they can purchase them at any convenience store. There is no compelling need to waste tax dollars on items that statistics show that teens will rarely use. If parents believe the gay lifestyle to be acceptable, then that is their business. They are as free to teach that to their children as conservative parents are to teach their children that homosexuality is wrong. There is no need to spend federal tax dollars promoting either view.
For schools to undermine parental authority by pushing birth control servicesâ€”and even abortionâ€”behind parentsâ€™ backs is deplorable. Even if you are pro-choice and pro-birth control, such subversion of families is beyond despicable, not to mention Unconstitutional.
As for ADHD, that is a medical matter to be resolved between doctors and families. No school nurse or guidance counselor or teacher has any business undermining parental authority in this area. (School administrators tried putting me on Ritalin. My stepmother refused: she worked with my pediatricians on alternatives. For all my childhood difficulties, I have an engineering degree, near-completion of an MBA, a successful career in information technology, and a clean criminal record. Iâ€™d say my stepmother was right: I did fine without Ritalin.)
The Founders were very clear in their support of an armed populace. Contrary to Leftist viewpoints, the 2nd Amendment is not a provision for sportsmen or recreational target practice or even self-defense. It was intended to provide citizens a means to defend themselves from government tyranny. This is hardly a radical view: even the foremost liberal Constitutional scholar–Laurence Tribe of Harvard–concedes that the 2nd Amendment is an individual–not a collective right–that provides wide latitude for gun ownership among citizens.
On the other hand, it is fair and equitable to ensure that those with a propensity to commit violent crimes have not the means to commit those crimes. Toward that end, I propose the following:
- Repeal the National Firearms Act of 1934. It is Unconstitutional.
- Repeal the Gun Control Act of 1968. It is also Unconstitutional.
- Repeal the Class 3 limitations of the Firearms Owners Protection Act of 1986. Those are Unconstitutional.
- Repeal the Brady Bill. It is also Unconstitutional.
- Repeal ALL laws banning open-carry of firearms. They are Unconstitutional.
- Require mandatory life sentences–no parole–for all murders committed with guns.
- Require mandatory life sentences for any felon who purchases–or attempts to purchase–a firearm.
- Require stiff prison sentences for adults who fail to lock their guns, whose negligence causes the harm or death of a child.
None of these views are extreme: in fact, my views are more respective of Separation of Church and State than those of the Left. By leaving matters of sexual morality to families rather than schools, by allowing students to understand issues with respect to evolutionâ€”and make up their own mindsâ€”by keeping schools out of the birth control business, we ensure that schools do not impose morality (or amorality) on anyone.
That being said, would any of these frameworks–if implemented–result in America becoming a Christian nation? Not by a long shot.
On the same token, nothing I am proposing would place Americans in any danger of theocracy. In fact, the framework I am presenting is a libertarian ideological free market undergirded with a pragmatic morality that restrains both anarchy and government tyranny.
In fact, under this libertarian, pragmatic framework:
- Abortion would remain legal in many states. None of the “blue states” would ban abortion if Roe were overturned, and most states would pass less-than-comprehensive restrictions as compromises among parties). The key difference is that–with the federal government out of the abortion business, the issue would become democratized and people would be able to choose what level of regulation they desire.
- Gays would be allowed to live as they choose (they could marry, but religious institutions would be under no obligation to recognize those relationships).
- Evolution would still be taught in schools (teachers would also be allowed to teach intelligent design).
- birth control would be just as available to teens as today (just with parental consent, as with any other medical services).
- Law-abiding citizens would be able to own whatever firearms they pleased, while violent criminals would be prosecuted aggressively for crimes they commit with firearms.
While this would hardly represent a Christian Utopia, it would allow wide latitude for people of faith and non-faith to participate in the ideological free market. Conservative Christians would be able to influence law and policy, while people of other faiths and non-faiths would hardly be in danger of having to bow before the image of Pat Robertson of Jerry Falwell.
Christians have a responsibility to be good citizens, and that includes participating in the public arena. That, however, does not mean that the Church can–or should attempt to–usher in the Kingdom of God through a judge’s bench or ballot box or executive order. Such illusions are delusional.
The Christian has one fundamental loyalty: the Gospel. However, the Christian (Conservative or otherwise) is under no command of God–or obligation of law–to live in a vacuum, completely divorced from matters of public welfare.