Defending The Wall

On Church, State And The 109th Congress

Religious Right organizations have big plans for the new Congress.

Still peddling the myth that “values voters” re-elected President George W. Bush (despite much evidence to the contrary), Religious Right leaders are demanding quick action on their agenda.

An attempt to push the “faith-based” agenda may be first up. White House “Faith Czar” James Towey said in a speech last month that legislation was forthcoming, although he offered no specifics.

Bush has never been a big fan of the separation of church and state. His re-election, along with the election of several Religious Right allies in the Senate, means that defenders of church-state separation will have their work cut out for them.

But this is no time to give up. The agenda the Religious Right seeks to implement is radical. The American people do not support it. By mobilizing, organizing and working at the grass roots, we can turn back this oppressive tide.

Americans United has been hard at work defending the wall since 1947. We know that the fate of that protective barrier does not depend on any one election, court decision or vote in Congress. Rather, ours is a long-term struggle. We must remember that fact.

Civil liberties have faced trying times before. In the 1950s, the Red Scare led some to question the very promise of the Bill of Rights. Perhaps, they argued, Americans really are too free. Some were willing to exchange those freedoms for the promise of security.

Cooler heads prevailed. The Bill of Rights certainly took a licking, but it kept on ticking.

In the end, that is the very genius of our system and our charter of freedoms. They are built to withstand the assaults of small-minded demagogues and friends in high places. Years from now, when Jerry Falwell has finally retired and Supreme Court justices like Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas have stepped down, our Constitution, our Bill of Rights, our wall of separation, will still stand.

That wall may be battered. It may be in need of some repairs. It will certainly need support. But it will stand. And the best thing of all is that as the proper historical understanding of the wall returns, we can rebuild it.

The next few years will certainly be challenging. But you can rest assured that, with your help, Americans United will stay on the job.

The wall of separation, so often mocked, scorned and abused by those who don’t appreciate it, deserves nothing less.