Weyrich's World: Parallel Universe Or Twilight Zone

It sounds like a plot from a bad science fiction movie.

America is taken over by a snarling band of evil aliens. Most people are turned into zombies, but a courageous handful of valiant souls tries to fight them off, all the while preserving some remnant of civilization and searching for an escape portal to another dimension where they will be safe.

But it's not a movie script; it's the warped worldview of Paul Weyrich, veteran right-wing strategist and godfather of the Religious Right. In a Feb. 16 open letter, Weyrich declared that there is no "moral majority" in America as he once thought and announced that the United States is "very close to becoming a state totally dominated by an alien ideology."

In a subsequent piece in The Washington Post, Weyrich urged his fellow "cultural conservatives" -- his term for the Religious Right and its allies -- to create a "complete, separate, parallel" universe of schools, media and even private courts based on "Judeo-Christian" values. The Free Congress Foundation president said the right should remain in politics, but only to ensure that "cultural Marxists" don't "mobilize the full force of the state to destroy us."

Just who are these Darth Vaders who have all but triumphed in America? Many are the usual suspects. Weyrich fingers public schools, the courts, MTV and Disney. In The Los Angeles Times, he also ID's "upper-crust, suburban Republican women," wily and nefarious sirens who kept congressional Republicans from shutting down the National Endowment for the Arts.

But more than these, Weyrich has zeroed in on the true culprits in America's cultural collapse: you and me!

That's right, Weyrich says we Ameicans are the archfiends in his nightmare. Asked by the Times, "Are you telling Americans they are bad people?," he replied coldly, "We have to look at who is on which side of the cultural divide."

Weyrich explained, "There is one truth. The values that the traditional Judeo-Christian culture has represented -- functional, workable societal values -- work for everybody, regardless of ethnic background, regardless of religion, regardless of their point of view."

So there you have it. We stubborn Americans keep thinking our nation was founded on freedom. The Constitution guarantees church-state separation, a clear division between religion and government that prevents Weyrich from imposing his theocratic "one truth" on all of us. No wonder he's frustrated.

But before we all congratulate ourselves on Weyrich's "retreat" in the culture war and our supposed victory, remember that he's only one guy. Pat Robertson, James Dobson and a host of Religious Right warlords with multi-million-dollar political machines have rejected Weyrich's jeremiad and vowed to fight even harder for "Judeo-Christian" control of the government -- and they don't have much room for the "Judeo" part.

They undoubtedly agree with his dour assessment of America's public schools, our courts and our legacy of constitutional freedoms. And frankly they've already created a "parallel" universe of fundamentalist Christian schools, bookstores and media (although Weyrich as a Catholic isn't particularly welcome there). They have a well equipped base of operations; now they're looking for new worlds to conquer.

The Religious Right isn't about to join Weyrich in a quixotic Heaven's Gate flight to a "parallel" universe. When it comes to that aspect of the mission, only Weyrich is likely to say, "Beam me up, Scotty!"

Justice Blackmun: Freedom Fighter

We note with sadness the March 4 passing of retired Supreme Court Justice Harry A. Blackmun. Justice Blackmun will be remembered as a passionate defender of church-state separation and individual freedom of conscience.

In 1992's Lee v. Weisman, a case dealing with state-sponsored religious worship in public schools, Blackmun summed up his church-state views quite eloquently.

"When the government puts its imprimatur on a particular religion," he observed, "it conveys a message of exclusion to all those who do not adhere to the favored beliefs. A government cannot be premised on the belief that all persons are created equal when it asserts that God prefers some."

When he was appointed to the high court by President Richard M. Nixon in 1970, Blackmun was not expected to champion civil liberties. His views soon evolved, however, and Blackmun became one of the court's most reliable advocates of church-state separation and free exercise of religion. He is best known, of course, for authoring the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, guaranteeing women's right to abortion.

In November of 1995 Justice Blackmun attended Americans United's annual conference, where he was honored with the Madison-Jefferson Award. At that time he said, "Over our history there are always those who want to take this wall of separation [between church and state] and remove a brick here or there or damage it more than that. I think one has to be vigilant and constantly on the alert."

Those were wise words from a wise man. Americans would do well to heed them today.