*sigh* I pity Andrew Sullivan. He has to deal with idiotic readers like this one:
our post concerning David Barton wrongly implies that the following views are extreme: 1) the separation of church and state is a myth, 2) America is a “Christian nation,” and 3) pastors are allowed to endorse candidates from the pulpit. The trouble is that none of these views are extreme; on the contrary, it would be hard to gainsay any one of them.
First, the Supreme Court’s decision in 1947 to apply the Establishment Clause against the states has been subjected to sustained scholarly criticism. No scholar disputes that the Establishment Clause originally protected each state’s right to establish a religion (many states in 18th and 19th centuries in fact had established churches). To incorporate the Establishment Clause into the Fourteenth Amendment therefore is incoherent, for it is impossible to protect against state infringement a right that belongs to states in the first place. The Harvard Law Review has written on this subject, as have other publications.
Second, America has always been and continues to be a Christian nation in the sense that most of its citizens are Christians. There is nothing extreme about making this rather banal observation.
Finally, not only are pastors allowed to endorse candidates from the pulpit, but their right to do so is protected by the First Amendment. To be sure, there is a question as to whether churches will lose their tax-exempt status if they endorse candidates, but the only reason that the tax code potentially denies churches the power to endorse candidates is that in 1950s Lyndon Johnson managed to usher a bill to that effect through Congress in order to punish some of his political opponents. It has nothing to do with “separation of church and state” at all.
1) The separation of church and state is a concept that has existed since the time of the founders. John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, and all the rest of the founders believed strongly in the need to prevent this nation, and its states, from having official religions, like Britain, the nation we fought for eight years, did. While the Establishment clause was not (and still isn’t) enforced as strictly as should have been before 1947, the founder’s intent, and the text of the amendment, have always been clear: no state religions can be tolerated.
2) We’re a “Christian nation” because most of us are Christian? Are we a female nation because most of us are female? Are we a Caucasian nation because most of us are Caucasian? Using this logic, we can discriminate against men, racial minorities, indeed, left-handed people, as they are not the majority. It’s eery how the fundamentalist Christian movement uses most of the same arguments as the racist “states rights” activists from the ’50s and ’60s.
3) Yes, Lyndon made the tax-status rule official, but any half-way decent interpretation of the Establishment clause would find that giving tax-exempt status to a religious organization, if it isn’t nonprofit and nonpartisan, is a endorsement of religion, pure and simple. There isn’t the defense of it being a non-profit organization; it’s a campaign organization, now that it has endorsed candidates, and raised money for them. It thus can’t be given the same exemptions that those organizations get.