It's frightening: Through a series of Supreme Court decisions, the line between government and religion has become blurred. Not only is it not what the Founding Fathers envisioned, it is becoming a direct threat to America's freedoms. Every year, the demarcation line gets fuzzier.
Taxpayers now fund a growing number of religious organizations, particularly in the area of religion-oriented charter schools. Clearly, this isn't what was supposed to happen, but religions are finding out that there's a flipside to the government-religion partnership. The reality is that if taxpayers fund any religious organization, it comes with strings attached—and that means greater oversight and regulation by the hand that feeds.
For the dyed-in-the-wool patriot, here's some food for thought: The Founding Fathers were so concerned about any overlap of religion and state that they drafted the establishment clause of the First Amendment that states: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof." Despite such a clear directive, Americans are now paying for a variety of religion-affiliated organizations, which places religious freedom on thin ice.
President Biden's religious scorecard seems to be registering more than its share of black marks from a number of faiths. His commitment to creating a more level playing field in America is undermining his relationship with the religious zealots, mostly because LBGTQ rights and a woman's choice seem to be highly mobilizing hot buttons for those who claim to be religious.
I can't remember any time when there's been more of an outcry by the religious community about potential legislation, but, for the life of me, I can't understand why Biden's actions are being met with such an impassioned response by those who invited the participation of government into their faiths. This could have all been avoided if religions and the federal government had remained entirely separate domains. So, what's going on?
The whole theory of the transplantation of colonists from western Europe to North America's soil was that government and religion would be separate. Though it was largely economic opportunity that brought the Pilgrims toward America's shores, the memories of England's treatment of separatists were still fresh in the immigrants' minds in the 1600s. The church-state partnership would not be tolerated in the New World. Now, some Americans seem to be rethinking that basic tenet of their freedom.
Today, the hatchet-men are out there looking for ways to punish the president for not finding adequate deference for the voice of the Christians. It isn't just the born-agains; now there's a push by Catholic bishops to deny Biden the right of communion, and they are scheduled to take it to a vote later this summer. Poor Joe. All his life he's been a stalwart in his Catholic faith, and now his worthiness is being questioned. It's a bit reminiscent of the sad failures of the old world, where the doctrines and policies of churches dominated everything that happened in government.
It's becoming crystal clear that the concept of separate church and state is more easily said than done. Biden is being attacked for his zeal in protecting the rights of not just the religious, but of all Americans. The so-called religious are not so happy. Though they've embraced Biden's reestablishment of the White House Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships and applauded his more humanitarian views on immigration, religions worry that their freedom is now being undermined. It is.
But, religions have only themselves to blame.
Because the public funding of religious organizations is the new reality, so should be the understanding that such public funding allows the government to dictate to religions on other areas of our freedom, including their right to discrimination.
I find it very distressing that members of various religious groups are demonizing our Biden for his LBGTQ and abortion agenda. It's like the so-called Christians can't get it through their thick, little minds: This is not about religion. This is about freedom. Biden isn't going to force Christians to have abortions. He's not going to mandate that religions accept people who don't uphold the tenets of their faith. He's not going to force Mormons to allow openly gay bishops. He's not going to re-write the hopeless racism of the Bible.
Though it was the impetus for the settlement of the New World, religious freedom is under attack. This is because religions, in an effort to obtain government favors, are chewing away at the boundary that ensured their autonomy.
Joseph Biden isn't perfect, and according to the so-called religious, he's not a perfect Catholic or a perfect Christian. But, more importantly, he is a caring human being. Religious beliefs should not cloud the importance of what he's doing.
The author is a retired businessman, novelist, columnist and former Vietnam-era Army assistant public information officer. He resides in Riverton with his wife, Carol, and the beloved ashes of their mongrel dog.