I hadn’t looked at the Faithful Democrats site for awhile, and look what I missed! There’s quite a splenetic brouhaha that has emerged over the NYT article on Democratic consultant Mara Vanderslice that I mentioned here.
The bottom line is that there is a substantial body of opinion on the left that insists upon a kind of church-state separationist orthodoxy, and regards any attempt to be more precise, actually mentioning the two religion clauses, as caving to the Religious right. Here are two examples of what I mean, the first from Rob Boston of Americans United:
The phrase came into being precisely because it is a useful way of summarizing the religion clauses of the First Amendment. To be frank, most people don’t know what “Establishment Clause” means, and to many, “free exercise” sounds like a special offer at the local gym. The phrase “separation of church and state” sums up in these concepts in a familiar and user-friendly way.
It would be a mistake to abandon the term. Polls show that most Americans support church-state separation. Only the extreme Religious Right groups want to tear down that wall.
The second comes from Frederick Clarkson, the aforementioned anti-theocrat:
What we are seeing in Common Good Strategies’ advice to drop separation of church and state because the phrase does not appear in the constitution is an utter capitulation to the religious right and its Christian nationalist interpretation of history and its approach to contemporary politics. It will not only be shocking, but will ignite a signficant struggle in the Democratic Party if clients of this fashionable consulting boutique abandon principles that are the product of centuries of effort to create a society in which people of differing religious views can get along with one another and enjoy equal rights under the law.
Get it? Any attempt at nuance, anything other than simple-minded separationism, amounts to a capitulation to the religious right. After all, the American people aren’t smart and careful enough to distinguish between, say, accommodation of religion in the public square and theocracy.
I have my own beefs with Vanderslice and the religious left, but they’re nothing compared to those of the anti-theocracy watchdogs.