Dershowitz Piece Misleading:
All Presidents Flaunt Constitution
Religion Page Editor,
Sacramento Valley Mirror
Alan M. Dershowitz undeniably made some valid points in his opinion piece in the L. A. Times. However, it is very misleading for him to imply that the promotion of the idea that America is a Christian nation is new to the Bush Administration or is unique to the Republicans.
The evangelist who opened the Bush inauguration with a blatantly Christian prayer was Franklin Graham. Four years ago, it was Franklin's father, Billy Graham, who opened the Clinton inauguration with a blatantly Christian prayer. Franklin Graham's invocation ended with the words, "We pray this in the name of the Father, and of the Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen," thereby excluding all the atheists, Jews, Muslims, and all other non-Christians from participation in what should have been a purely American political event. Four years ago, Billy Graham's invocation ended with the words, "We pray this in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, Amen," thereby doing exactly the same thing.
I am not looking forward to the Bush Administration. I have no doubts that Bush is going to do everything he can to support religion at taxpayer expense through such harebrained schemes as "Charitable Choice" and other plans. And it was certainly wrong for the Bush inauguration ceremony to include Christian prayers by Christian ministers (or any other kinds of prayers by any other kinds of religious leaders, for that matter). However, it is to everyone's long-term advantage to be as accurate and truthful as possible.
The fact of the matter is, Clinton's 1997 inauguration was much more religion-saturated than George W. Bush's. Example: Bush's inauguration featured only a single choir, and it was from a public high school. Clinton's inauguration, on the other hand, featured three choirs, and all of them were church choirs. I ask you, so far as their inaugurations are concerned, who was the bigger pusher of religion?
Let us not make the mistake of only complaining about the violations of the separation of state and church committed by Republicans, and ignoring those committed by Democrats. Neither party has much of which to be proud so far as supporting the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment is concerned.
Lack of support for the First Amendment is endemic in our political system as a whole; it is not simply a Republican trait.
Religion Page Editor,
Sacramento Valley Mirror
From: "Positive Atheism Magazine" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: Re: Dershowitz
Date: Thursday, January 25, 2001 10:57 PM
I openly opposed the candidacy of Al Gore, and expect I would be attacking Gore's Inauguration and Presidency just as viciously as I have done to Bush. This election was not easy on me.
To me, the last President we had who was truly a Separationist was the (very religious) Jimmy Carter. The one before him was the (equally religious) John F. Kennedy. In fact, I would go so far as to say that Kennedy was the only thorough-going Separationist we've had since Theodore Roosevelt, and, to a lesser extent, Calvin Coolidge. The rest of the Presidents of the past century either took state-church separation for granted, didn't think much on the matter, or worked to thwart it (Eisenhower; Reagan; Bush I; Bush II).
Meanwhile, I didn't hear about Clinton's Inauguration perhaps because the only ones who would complain about such things are from the left: I wouldn't expect to hear many Republicans criticizing Clinton for compromising his commitment to the Establishment Clause. I did roundly criticize Clinton on two occasions: First, over his patently exclusivistic Christmas Address of 1996, and in another address in May, 1997 (National Day of Prayer Proclamation ?), wherein he said,
Our people have always believed in the power of prayer and have called upon the name of the Lord through times of peace and war, hope and despair, prosperity and decline.
I also called him for falsely portraying Washington as a pious man, when he said:
Today within our Nation's Capitol Building, a stained glass window depicts General Washington humbly kneeling and repeating the words of the 16th Psalm, "Preserve me, O God, for in Thee do I put my trust."
That stained-glass window is no more truthful depiction of Washington than the ones depicting Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead.
I also carried criticism of Clinton's 1996 Thanksgiving Address.
But Bush's tone was overtly anti-non-Christian, and I expect to see many latent Separationists coming out of the woodwork and keeping close tabs on Bush's quest to demolish the Establishment Clause. The exclusivism of Bush's approach to religion, and Bush's readiness to bring that exclusivism to work with him, is very potently described in Dershowitz's column.
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