Occasionally, weekend news shows fill empty air time with meaningful coverage. On Saturday, two pundit panels actually discussed topics using first hand information and intellectual value. The first is about Donald and whether the religious right will support him (Tony Perkins from Family Research Council is interviewed). The second, perhaps more substantive, is about the county clerk (Kim Davis) who was jailed for contempt of court. Her attorney, Matthew Staver, is interviewed.
Several video clips were run of Donald that implied he wasn’t too religious. One clip showed Donald being very uncomfortable when asked if he had ever asked God for forgiveness; Donald hemmed and hawed finally saying he doesn’t ask for forgiveness, he tries to make it right. Another clip from 1999 showed Donald clearly supporting pro-choice; today he supports pro-life. The questions posed to Tony Perkins wondered whether the religious right would support Donald.
Perkins’ answers dodged the heart of the questions. Instead, he took the position that evangelicals were so frustrated with failed politics and politicians who refuse to take action that they are attracted to anyone who demonstrates a different approach to leadership – even if the politician’s record is less than perfect. Perkins said that religious conservatives understand that a person’s heart can change over time. In the end, however, Perkins had to acknowledge that Donald’s dismal religious commitment likely will be his downfall with evangelicals voting in the primaries. The mariner felt that Tony Perkins, both a republican leader and an evangelical leader, was caught in the middle trying to defend a republican candidate and evangelical principles at the same time. Due to good interviewing, Perkins finally had to sacrifice Donald.
The refusal of Kim Davis to issue government marriage licenses to homosexuals raises conflicts on several levels. One level is the interpretation of the first Amendment as a genuine separation of church and state not to be in conflict – the position Thomas Jefferson took (see mariner’s post “Church or State?” for a review of secularism versus religious opinion). In his interview, Matthew Staver avoided this interpretation. Instead, he talked about the legal shutdown caused because Davis cannot be fired and will not quit – which is legal regardless of the contempt of court citation.
This level of argument is not broad enough to revisit the historical trends that have allowed government to perform what the church calls sacraments but which are performed by the state without religious opinion. Precedent for recognizing civil marriage was justified early in the 1800s because a couples’ relationship with the state changes due to race, different tax law, divorce settlement, child ownership, citizenship, abuse and many other legal acts managed by government. The government also manages equal rights.
Tony Perkins also was asked about this issue and took the point of view that there are many occasions where the state grants leniency through local law and regulations when there is a conflict in roles, that is, the line of separation between church and state is smudged. The mariner believes “smudging” does not resolve the oil and water relationship between religion and secularism.
The Founding Fathers knew from personal experience that there are many religions – some demanding both civil authority and religious authority, some with different definitions of God, some preferring different opinions from others about polygamy, race, etc. – but there can only be one government guaranteeing freedom for all religions to have their religious opinions and at the same time assure equal justice for all citizens. The Founding Fathers chose a government run by the people, by all the people. One nation, one set of laws, thereby bestowing liberty for all people in their opinions about religion and bestowing equal liberty for all through democracy. One person, one vote. Religious opinion does not work this way hence the separation of church and state as expressed in the Bill of Rights.
It has been a good weekend for meaningful news.