I really, really don't like writing about religion and politics. There's something very off-putting to me on the topic, but here I go nonetheless. Yesterday, evangelical pastor Franklin Graham, son of probably the best known evangelical pastor, Billy Graham was on "Morning Joe" on MSNBC. Several discussions around religion and faith ensued but the thing that has nudged me to write this article is the comment that Mr. Graham made about Obama being a "son of Islam". To be clear, what Mr. Graham was saying was that in Islamic tradition, if your father was Muslim, then you are Muslim. This is similar to Jewish tradition that if the mother is Jewish, then so is the child. Mr. Graham was also factually wrong by the way, though it never seems to bother the media conducting the interview. Mr. Graham said Obama's great grandfather, grandfather and father were Muslim. Actually, Obama's grandfather was a Christian and converted to Islam. His father indeed was a Muslim, but his mother was not. Graham went further to say that no one could really know whether one is a Christian or not because that was between God and the individual. He said, that "the president's said he's a Christian, so I take him at his word". When the interviewer asked Graham if he thought Rick Santorum was a Christian, he said yes, because of the values he has. He didn't apply the same waffling "maybe" rule to Santorum that he did Obama. Additionally, when asked if Romney was a Christian, Graham said Romney is a Mormon and most Christians don't accept Mormonism as legitimate Christianity.
OK, back to the issue on Obama being a "son of Islam". Graham also said that Obama has given a "free pass to Islam", and is not doing enough to protect Christian minorities in places like Egypt, where the Arab Spring has swept more fundamentalist Muslims into power. Christians are indeed being persecuted in Egypt. Graham feels like Obama is not doing enough. So, the "code" here folks is something like, "well, he says he's a Christian, but just look at what he is doing. He's soft on Islam and ignoring the plight of the Christians. Perhaps he's not so much of a Christian after all!"
Again, Mr. Graham has his facts wrong. These alleged representatives of God are idiots, and I've had it up to here with them inserting themselves and their nonsense into politics. I have had enough of Santorum saying "Satan is at war with the United States". I've had enough of Newt Gingrich saying Obama has launched a war against Christianity. I've had enough of charlatans like Franklin Graham suggesting, even subtly that the President is "not who he says he is".
There is no place for religion in politics. Religion is about the laws of God. Politics are about the laws of Man. When you mix the two very bad things can happen. Besides, this country was established as a secular country. We have codified that protection for people to worship in their faiths. It is a protected right established in the 1st Amendment to the Constitution of the United States. We have said there will be no "state church", in other words, we will not as a society establish a religion. We have in our legal writings said that we are not a "Christian" nation as evidenced by the Treaty of Tripoli signed in 1796 by John Adams that: "As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion,—as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquility, of Mussulmen,—and as the said States never entered into any war or act of hostility against any Mahometan nation, it is declared by the parties that no pretext arising from religious opinions shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries."
So, as it pertains to our framework as a society, we are secular. As to our politics, we know religion often plays into the discussion of who we want to elect to office. Just within Presidential politics, this has come up over and over again. Al Smith, former governor of New York was a Catholic. He was the Democratic nominee for President against Herbert Hoover. Did the topic of Smith's Catholicism come up during the campaign? You bet it did. Back then, the Catholics were considered to be "Agents of the Vatican" and therefore couldn't be trusted with the highest office in the land. It came up again in 1960, when John Kennedy had to make a speech basically saying that he wouldn't be influenced by the Pope. It has come up time and again with Obama, whose opponents are gleefully throwing out questions on his origins of birth, which faith he really subscribes to, and pretty much anything else they can to try and discredit the man.
However, none of this should be tolerated. It is essentially against the law to use religion as a basis for electing or not electing our representatives and leaders to office. How do I know? Well, anyone who took Civics in high school should know this, but basically because the foundational document governing this nation says so.
Article VI section 3 of the United States Constitution says very clearly:
All Debts contracted and Engagements entered into, before the Adoption of this Constitution, shall be as valid against the United States under this Constitution, as under the Confederation.
This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof; and all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land; and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby, any Thing in the Constitution or Laws of any State to the Contrary notwithstanding.
The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the Members of the several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.
There you have it. In red and white. A strict prohibition against using religion as a test for elective office. I wonder if Reverend Graham has ever read this? I wonder if any of the people who rail from the pulpits on Sunday have read this? It certainly seems like they haven't.
By the way, the Oath of Office of the Presidency of the United States has nothing whatsoever about being "The Defender of the Faith" in it. So Obama doesn't have any responsibility to "protect" any single religion, he has a responsibility to protect all religions within this country given the requirements in the 1st Amendement. He has no responsibility to protect religion outside of the boundaries of this nation.
OK, here's where I usually say I don't give a care about who or what anyone believes in and who they worship. Not today. I'm sick to death of these holier than thou ministers and politicians using religion as a wedge issue. I'm sick to death of some people in this country believing they are better than others because they are Christian or Muslim or Wiccan or Buddhist or Mormon or whatever the hell they believe. It is long past time we threw religion in the dustbin of history or at the very least put in its rightful place with the rest of the fairy tales, Grimm and otherwise. Enough already.
Tell me what you think,