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September 14, 1984 - Image 14

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1984-09-14

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

14

Friday, September 14, 1984 THE DETROIT JEWISH NEWS

CLOSE-UP

PREACHING
POLITICS



Are Reagan and Mondale,
after addressing the B'nai Brith
Convention, backing away from
the church-state issue?

Continued from Page 1

same reference to the Constitution ap- politicians hoping to get their votes, is
peared in both candidates' speeches,
difficult to determine. Neither speech
Mondale said. "I believe in an America was inspiring. Mondale's delivery was
that honors what Thomas Jefferson flat and Reagan's was low-key. But it
first called the 'wall of separation be-
was also the first time either candidate
tween church and state.' " And Reagan had offered up a major issue.
said, "The unique thing about
I'm afraid it was one of those situ-
America is a wall in our Constitution . ations- that brings down on the press
separating church and state."
accusations of sensationalism. The
So what was all the fuss about? two presidential candidates were ap-
Mondale virtually ignored all poten-
pearing in the same hall, if not simul-
tial issues in favor of the religious one, taneously, then almost. They were ad-
possibly taking his cue from a pro-
dressing the same group, if not in de-
posed B'nai B'rith resolution opposing bate, then almost. And the media had
any and all ties between government assembled a great weight of equip-
and religion. (The draft resolution, too,
ment and personnel to cover the
mentioned the "wall of separation be- almost-confrontation. What could
tween religion and government.") they do but extract the only speck of
Reagan celebrated what he saw as the news on hand? It looked almost as if
successes of his Administration, stood the TV, radio and print people had
"four-square on the side of human lib- been maneuvered into the situation.
erty," attacked "ugly intolerance,"
But who was doing the maneuver-
pledged support of Israel and tried his ing? Mondale? Reagan? The B'nai
hand at a few Hebrew phrases (which B'rith? The media itself? An agent to-
he muffed).
tally independent of all four? We will
The assembly appeared to greet probably never know. The fact re-
both candidates with some suspicion, mains that Mondale, Reagan and the
although in all fairness it did seem to media came together in a most news-
be warmer toward Mondale. (For worthy time and place, and that Mon-
whatever it is worth, Mondale was in- dale made a few points. Given all of
terrupted 22 times by applause, and that exposure, though, one would have
Reagan was interrupted 21 times.) In wished for a more thorough and cohe-
any case, neither speaker generated rent discussion of the crucial issues
what you might call excitement.
facing us this year.
Whether the lack of passion was
But that may be too much to wish
due to the average age of the delegates,
for. The church-state separation issue
most of whom seemed to be past their
is well on its way to a hopeless muddle.
middle years, or to the fact that the
The day after he spoke before B'nai
audience members were simply evinc-
B'rith, the President blamed the press
ing a healthy detachment toward
for distorting his remarks and said

that "antireligionists," rather than his
Administration, were trying to break
down the wall between church and
state; a rather odd connection of oppos-
ing premises. And Mondale, in an ap-
parent attempt to reassure conserva-
tive Protestants in the South, asserted
that "there's a relationship" between
religion and politics.
"Meantime," New York Times
writer John Herbers reported Sunday,
"theologians, public officials, pundits
and others are debating the issue and
what it means to the relationship be-
tween church and state. Although
people of various faiths, including
political leaders, are split on the issue,
all acknowledge that over the past two
detades there has been a movement
away from the strict 'wall of separa-
tion' enunciated by Thomas Jefferson.
The Supreme Court has encouraged
the movement with a series of rulings
that stress accommodation of religion
in government."
". . . the separation (of church and
state)," wrote David Fink and Patrick
O'Driscoll in USA TODAY, "is no
longer so clear. The Supreme Court
has said a city-funded Christmas
manger scene does not violate the
Constitution; the Rev. Jesse Jackson
and the Rev. Jerry Falwell preach
politics from the pulpit; Catholic
bishops decry the nuclear buildup; and
the Republican platform urges that
only anti-abortion judges be appointed
to the federal bench."
The inevitable result of all this
pressure is heat, and it is the sort of

heat that can burn both presidential
candidates. They have felt it, and are
already backing away. Reagan cannot
afford to alienate young conservatives
and Jews, who may be attracted to him
on economic issues but put off by his
links with the Moral Majority. Mon-
dale does not want to lose his tenuous
hold in the South. Political strategists
in both parties are reportedly advising
the candidates to soft pedal the reli-
gious issue and get on with more prod-
uctive subjects,
Earlier in the B'nai B'rith conven-
tion's proceedings, liberal Leonard
Fein who edits Moment magazine, and
conservative Irving Kristol, who co-
edits The Public Interest magazine, did
debate. Actually, they discussed,
rather than debated, the question,
Are Jews Losing Their Traditional
Concern for the Welfare of Others?"
Generally, Fein and Kristol

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