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September 14, 1984 - Image 37

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

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

THE DETROIT JEWISH NEWS Friday, September 14, 1984

37

ANALYSIS

Politics and religion

BY VICTOR M. BIENSTOCK
Special to The Jewish News

Since the days of the Founding
Fathers, separation of church and
state has been the bedrock of the
security and freedom of the Jews
of America.
It is ironic that President
Ronald Reagan, who considers
himself a conservative, is
spearheading the most dangerous
drive against the guarantees of
individual freedom laid out in the
United States Constitution and
the Bill of Rights since the Sedi-
tion Act of 1918. Under that act,
in my New England home town, I
saw a man arrested for daring to
read the Declaration of Indepen-
dence aloud to a street meeting.
The Sedition Act, however, was
enacted in an atmosphere of war-
time hysteria and did not long
survive the return of a more or-

L

There has never been an abso-
lute separation of politics and
religion but the success of democ-
racy is largely measureable by the
degree to which they have been
kept separate. Politicians have
brazenly exploited religion to jus-
tify positions they have taken and
religious influences have often
been a significant factor in the
political arena, both for good and
for evil. It is not necessary to re-
mind Jews of the extent to which
anti-religious prejudices have
been used, even in the recent past,
to advance political objectives.
No candidate for the Presidency
in many decades has brought reli-
gious issues into the political
arena to the extent Reagan is
doing in this campaign at the risk
of polarizing the country on reli-
gious lines. Candidates, of course,
invariably make their pitch to the
religious elements in the
There has never been many
country and make many prom-
ises. None, however, has gone as
an absolute
far in recent years as Reagan in
separation of politics advancing specific proposals that
would lower the wall of separation
and religion but the
between church and state. He is
success of democracy the first to challenge the Con-
stitution and the Bill of Rights on
is largely
this issue.
The President threw down the
measureable by the
gauntlet to the Constitutional de-
degree to which they
fenders in his Dallas speech to
fundamentalist Christian
have been kept
preachers by accusing advocates
separate.
of church-state separation of
being "intolerant of religion." His
action, said the New York Times
editorially, was "an abuse of high
dered existence. It was basically,
office for a President to so insult
a measure designed to curb free-
the motives of citizens protected
dom of speech and expression and
by the Bill of Rights and the Con-
suppress opposition to govern-
stitutions he is sworn to main-
ment policies. It was repressive
tain." His trespass into the moral
and a derogation of the civil and
realm, it added, was "a blatant at-
political rights of American citi-
tempt to divide America."
zens.
The concerns the President
What is going on now is more
aroused among many American
dangerous, more pervasive and
Jews by dragging religious issues
less identifiable as an encroach-
into the campaign were faithfully
ment of our personal liberties be-
reflected by the American Jewish
cause it is being falsely presented
Committee warning that freedom
to us as an extension of liberties
and tolerance of all religions
which have been long denied. Re-
"would be seriously threatened if
turning "religion to the schools'
the state became actively in-
with the right of prayer, we are
volved in religion in ways that
told, would be an extension of our
Mr. Reagan and his supporters
freedom when, in fact, it would
advocate."
make religion a function of the
Shortly before the Dallas con-
state and impose religious prac-
vention, Sen. Paul Laxalt, chair-
tices on those who do not necessar-
man of the Reagan-Bush cam-
ily hold with them.
paign committee, sent a letter to
Support of parochial schools
45,000 Evangelical ministers
through tutition credit
whom he addressed as "Dear
allowances would be divisive. It
Christian Leader," asking them
would segregate our youth in ac-
for active support of the re-
cordance with their religious af-
election campaign. In it, Ronald
filiation and thus undermine the
Reagan claimed `God's authority"
unifying effect of the public school
and sought to make his personal
system in which youth of all reli-
beliefs the law of the land. He is
gions mingle.
claiming divine right by trampl-
And the "right to life" which
ing on the human and civil rights
Reagan so warmly advocates as
of every American who holds dif-
part of his religious revival means
fering views.
to deprive women of the right to
freedom of choice. Reagan's pro-
Hadassah gets grant
gram, says conservative colum-
nist William Safire, would make
to record archives
the Republican Party the "Chris-
San Francisco (JTA) — The Na-
tian Republican Party." If suc-
tional Endowment for the
cessful, however, it would mean
Hurranities, a federal agency, has
that the "One nation under God,
renewed a grant of more than
indivisible . . ." of the oath of alle-
$70,000 to Hadassah to organize
giance would become "One Chris-
and record its historic archives.
tian nation under God . . ."

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4

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