The Reverend Barry Lynn explains why the Religious Right has it all wrong. In the wake of the 2004 presidential election, the Religious Right insisted that George Bush had been handed a mandate for an ideology-based social agenda, including the passage of a "marriage amendment" to ban same-sex unions, diversion of tax money to religious groups through "faith-based initiatives," the teaching of creationism in public schools, and restrictions on abortion. Led by an aggressive band of television preachers and extremist radio personalities, the Religious Right set its sights on demolishing the wall of separation between church and state. The Reverend Barry Lynn is a devout Christian, but this propaganda effort disturbs him deeply. He argues that politicians need to stop looking to the Bible to justify their actions and should consult another source instead: the U.S. Constitution. When the Founding Fathers of our great nation created the Constitution, they had seen firsthand the dangers of an injudicious mix of religion and government.
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October 02, 2006
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Excerpt from Piety & Politics by Barry W. Lynn
IAM A CHRISTIAN MINISTER who strongly supports the separation of church and state and some leaders of the Religious Right simply cannot deal with that. You've read about some of their personal attacks already.
TV preacher Pat Robertson regularly calls me names. He has also asserted, on numerous occasions, that I take things so far I believe that if a house of worship catches on fire, a municipal fire department cannot extinguish the blaze. (For the record, this is crazy, and I don't believe it.)
The Reverend Jerry Falwell routinely tells reporters that I'm not a real minister. I received my master's of divinity from Boston University School of Theology in 1973 and was ordained in the United Church of Christ later that year yet Falwell says I'm a phony cleric because right now, instead of pastoring a church, I run Americans United for Separation of Church and State, a national advocacy group based in Washington, D.C.
By Falwell's rather rigid standards, his crony Robertson isn't a real preacher either. After all, Robertson also does not pastor a church and hasn't done so for many years. These days, he mainly claims to heal people over the television.
In fact, as Falwell well knows, a minister does not have to pastor a church to be considered fully ordained. Every year, I preside at weddings, speak at funerals, and deliver sermons as a guest minister in pulpits all over America. Unless Falwell knows something I don't, I have not forfeited my ordination, and my denomination has not revoked it. This means I have the right to function as a minister regularly and consider that a part of my identity. I also hold a law degree, and although I have not argued a case in court for a number of years, being an attorney is also part of who I am.
So what's going on here Why the personal attacks Why the need to (literally) put words into my mouth and attack my credentials
The principal reason is that the Falwell-Robertson line of argument has little support in law, history, or culture. I support complete religious/philosophical freedom for all and believe that only the separation of church and state can give us that. Falwell and Robertson want to see a state based on a religion theirs.
It's an old story. The Religious Right desperately wants to shift the focus of the debate. The plain truth is that Falwell is angry that any of his fellow Christians would dare to publicly support the separation of church and state, a principle he despises. That a man who believes in God and long ago accepted Jesus Christ would do it outrages him. Therefore, he'd rather attack me personally instead of responding to my views and engaging in a vigorous debate over specific issues. It's called an ad hominem attack shifting the discussion from issues to personalities and it's one of the oldest tricks in the book.