My recent post discussing Wayne Grudem’s new work, Politics According to the Bible, must have ruffled a few feathers over at Americans United for the Separation of Church and State. Their communications associate, Sandhya Bathija, decided to respond to my linking their organization to the view that “government should exclude religion.” She writes:
A new year is just getting started and Religious Right activists are already agitating for a government based on their fundamentalist Christian beliefs.
Blogger Shane Vander Hart discusses a new book by Dr. Wayne Grudem, professor of systematic theology at Phoenix Seminary, called Politics According to the Bible. In Grudem’s tome, he claims that anyone who thinks the government should exclude religion is plain wrong.
Grudem and Hart believe groups that advocate for that view don’t want religious people to participate in public life or vote. They argue that Americans United and our allies just want religious people to be quiet and stay home.
But if they really took a moment to understand Americans United and our mission, they would see that’s not at all what we advocate. We believe all Americans, religious or not, should participate in our democracy, at least if they choose to do so.
We only insist is that no one should try to impose his or her religion on others through governmental force. The government should remain neutral on matters of faith, in order to make the United States a welcoming place for believers and non-believers alike.
Well shoot I don’t want mischaracterize Americans United. They file lawsuits in order to silence pastors in their own pulpits. They send letters to the IRS in order to try to shut pastors and churches up. They advocate against free speech just because it is done in a church. They say you can participate publically in the process, just don’t “impose” your religion on others and you can’t hear who your church or pastor favor. Recently I posted on an op-ed that Grudem wrote on this very subject and I thought I would highlight it once again.
…not recommending that pastors should routinely endorse or oppose various candidates in political elections. Many pastors might decide never to do this. But whose decision should it be? There may be times when the moral and religious issues on which candidates differ are so blatant and so clearly supported or opposed by biblical principles that pastors should have the freedom to speak out on various candidates when they believe it is wise for them to do so. The pastor, with wise counsel from mature leaders in the church, should be the one to make that decision. It should not be made by the government…
I agree with that sentiment. As a former pastor I never did so (from the pulpit), but did encourage members of my congregation to vote their values. As far as wanting to “impose his or her religion on others through governmental force,” well what does that mean? I’ve never wanted government to compel anyone to place their faith in Jesus. I don’t want to force others to pray. Perhaps some of their members/supporters believe that if the only place you can go to vote is in a church then that is “imposing” religion.
Frankly, the meme promoted by some in their camp that the Christian right want to impose a theocracy on the United States is a myth. But I would like to ask Ms. Bathija who does a religious person participate in democracy if their religious values are not part of that process? Just vote? Well your organization wants to take away the opportunity for churches to inform their congregants even by distributing voter guides? Americans United says the following on their website:
What about “voter guides” produced by outside groups? Houses of worship should be extremely wary of voter guides produced by outside groups, especially partisan Religious Right groups. Many of these organi¬zations (sic) hold a tax status that permits them to engage in partisan activities that religious organizations are not permitted to take part in. Also, when a guide has been produced by an outside group, religious leaders have no way of knowing if the answers are accurate or if the guide has been stacked to favor certain candidates.
But yet if the church produced its own voter guide they would likely send out yet another letter to the IRS that will undoubtedly not be acted on.
I find this ironic that they have zero problems mobilizing people to get behind their causes and “imposing” their religious (nobody lives in a worldview vacuum) beliefs regarding marriage on the rest of us as an example. The idea that government can be neutral toward religion is an absolute myth. One set of values and morals get replaced with another. If people can’t advocate for legislation just because they may have a religious reason for doing so (like marriage) then they are being told to be quiet and stay home, and Americans United for the Separation of Church and State is complicit.