TV preacher Pat Robertson has called on President George W. Bush to ensure that the post-war government of Iraq is secular and maintains the constitutional separation of church and state.
Speaking on his "700 Club" program March 17, Robertson said, "The thing that the president of the United States has got to keep in mind is, under the Ba'ath party, Iraq was a so-called secular state. That's why many of the Islamic nations don't like [Saddam Hussein]. If the United States tries nation building, it's got to [have] at the very top of its agenda a separation of church and state. There has to be a secular state in there and not an Islamic state. If they let an open vote, and let the Shi'ites for example take a vote, they will probably have the majority, and [under] one-man one-vote will say, we'll go in for shariah, and the next thing you know, you've got a mini-Iran in there."
Continued Robertson, "So it's going to be absolutely imperative to set up a constitution and safeguards that say we will maintain a secular state much like what Indonesia has, but to respect the faith of all the people in there, including the Sunni and the Shi'ites and the Christians and the Assyrian Christians, whatever, and the Kurds. Very important."
Robertson's endorsement of church-state separation is startling, according to Americans United for Separation of Church and State. Observers at the church-state watchdog group say the Christian Coalition founder has been a harsh and persistent critic of the constitutional concept.
For decades, Robertson has insisted that church-state separation is found in the constitution of the old Soviet Union, but not in the U.S. Constitution. He says the United States was founded as a Christian nation.
In a speech at the Christian Coalition "Road to Victory" Conference Oct. 12, Robertson said, "We have had a distortion imposed on us over the past few years by left-wingers who have fastened themselves into the court system. And we have had a lie foisted on us that there is something in the Constitution called separation of church and state."
Americans United Executive Director Barry W. Lynn hailed Robertson's turnabout on the subject.
"Pat's conversion shows there is hope for even the most wayward soul," said Lynn, tongue planted firmly in cheek. "I sent him a letter of congratulations and an Americans United membership application in today's mail. We are always looking for new supporters, especially those with the kind of financial clout that Robertson has.
"I'm not sure that Pat intends to apply his newfound enthusiasm for church-state separation to the United States as well as Iraq," continued Lynn. "But I'm sure that once he gives it some thought, he will realize that religious liberty is as good for Americans as it is for Iraqis. "
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 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.