President George W. Bush pledged to end tyranny around the world during his inaugural yesterday - yet sent exactly the wrong message by presiding over festivities that were heavily religious, often Christian, in nature, says Americans United for Separation of Church and State.
The Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United, criticized the Inaugural for its de facto message that the United States has some sort of official tie to religion.
"If President Bush is serious about ending tyranny all over the globe, he needs to start by respecting religious diversity and church-state separation at home," said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United. "Behaving as if our country is an officially Christian republic instead of the secular state it is only plays into the hands of extremists who use religion as an excuse to hate our country and its freedoms."
Lynn noted that during yesterday's kickoff religious services, the Rev. Kirbyjon Caldwell offered a benediction that claimed to be offered in a spirit "respecting persons of all faiths" but ended "in the name of Jesus Christ, amen."
"That was perhaps most offensive of all," Lynn said. "It was as if Caldwell said, 'Yes, we respect all religions, but now I'm going to pray in the name of the one that really matters.'"
Bush's inaugural speech contained several references to religion. Most were generic, but he used a quote lifted from a section of the Old Testament Book of Isaiah, a quote that resurfaces in the New Testament. Gospel singers and choirs also performed at the event, giving it a Christian gloss.
Even conservative stalwart Peggy Noonan in her Jan. 21 Wall Street Journal column criticized the president for giving "a God-drenched speech." She added, "God was invoked relentlessly."
Past inaugurals have included participation by non-Christian clergy at the religious services. Bush did not bother to include them this year.
"An event that is billed as a celebration for the entire nation should include everyone, even those who profess no faith," Lynn said. "This inaugural sent a message that in order to be truly American you must also be religious."
Lynn said this, coupled with Bush's constant attempts to undermine church-state separation through his policies, is cause for concern.
"Through his 'faith-based' initiative, the president seeks to force all Americans to pay taxes to support the religions of others," Lynn said. "We will not defeat tyranny abroad while imposing a variant of it here."
Americans United for Separation of Church and State is a religious liberty watchdog group based in Washington, D.C. Founded in 1947, the organization educates Americans about the importance of church-state separation in the safeguarding religious freedom.
Americans United is a religious liberty watchdog group based in Washington, D.C. Founded in 1947, the organization educates Americans about the importance of church-state separation in safeguarding religious freedom.