On Monday, 8/28, Ohio governor candidate, J Kenneth Blackwell, held a big press conference to announce an endorsement by a group of Christian pastors. Normally that wouldn’t bother me – even Rev Russell Johnson being one of the endorsers wasn’t a surprise. He had been endorsing Blackwell on the sly for sometime. Pastors and priests should be free to exercise their rights as citizens to endorse candidates for elected office. As long as they are doing it as individuals and not using the resources of their church in support of the person or against the other candidate.
What bothered me was Blackwell’s press conference and the inferences he and others made as written in the local papers.
We are fundamental believers in the fact that the public square should not be stripped or scrubbed clean of religion or faith or God,” Blackwell said. “I will fight for the right of the nonbeliever to not believe, because we all have a right to be wrong.”
Pastors stand up for Blackwell – Columbus Dispatch 8/29/2006
Hmm, ‘we all have the right to be wrong’?
Talk about being arrogant. Blackwell plays good word games. He could have said ‘I will fight for the right of the nonbeliever to not believe, because we all are equal under the law.’ but instead he took the opportunity to express that his religious beliefs are correct and the non-believer is wrong. Had he said what I suggested above, he would be in line with government neutrality toward religious beliefs. It is not about being “right” or “wrong”. If we are equal under the law than our beliefs don’t matter and shouldn’t matter.
Also not to beat a dead horse but there is not an effort toward the “public square” to “be stripped or scrubbed clean of religion or faith or God.” That will never happen regardless if Blackwell is elected or not. As I have posted before the “public square” doesn’t equal “government”. Some of us, including the founding fathers, don’t want religion mixing with government in the way that Blackwell intends.
I think he’s better than President Bush at articulating Christian values and how that plays out in terms of policy,” said [Bishop Harry] Jackson, a Democrat.
Wow, Blackwell is more religious than Pope Bush. That is saying a lot.
That is the shell game Blackwell and his supporters are playing. They are playing the religion card and it is bad for Democracy.
Democracy ideally relies on elected bodies of power to create laws and govern the day-to-day affairs of the nation. Debate ensues and usually compromise is reached. Because these bodies are not unanimous and are not taking the cues from the same source generally a mutually beneficial and efficient solution is reached. Democracy in essence relies on compromise and debate of parties seeking the best interest of the nation.
The problem with church and government mixing usually means the issues begin to be defined not as fair or just, but as good and evil. Religion has a bad habit of making a black and white argument. Christians, Muslims and Jews see the world as a test and struggle to the souls of humanity for eternal reward to the believers and eternal punishment for the unbelievers. Hence compromise with those outside the group in power usually isn’t an option as they are not good or as good as the ones with religion. In essence, it is wrong to compromise with evil.
Religion and Government Should Never Be Mixed
Ohio has a unique constitution in that some rights afforded to its citizens are not as vague or as open to misinterpretation as the Federal constitution. Here is an example:
No person shall be compelled to attend, erect, or support any place of worship, or maintain any form of worship, against his consent; and no preference shall be given, by law, to any religious society; nor shall any interference with the rights of conscience be permitted. No religious test shall be required, as a qualification for office, nor shall any person be incompetent to be a witness on account of his religious belief….
Ohio Bill of Rights
I would be very interested if either candidate would support this constitutional right. I think Blackwell would have a tough time supporting it as his press conference made clear. Should we elect someone who can’t uphold even basic civil rights?