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Tuesday, January 1, 2013

"Governor brings religion into the public sphere"

KS governor Sam Brownback. Photo credit: Brent Wistrom, The Wichita Eagle
Fearing terms is odd. But in terms of terms to fear
I'd suggest "public square" and "public sphere."
When it comes to church and state separation
these words are oft used for equivocation
of an individual's right to express a thought
and a government's ideological onslaught,
to swap the former for the latter.

The "public square" or "public sphere," you see
can refer to a literal town square or public access TV
or to the podium where a governor stands
issuing edicts and waving his hands.
It's not a difference of ideas transmitted
but the weight of actual law permitted
to enforce their content that matters.

A religious politician is no pioneer.
All people are religious in the public sphere
if they are religious, that is, and openly so.
No laws prohibit prayer in school, and no
rules forbid statements of faith in the street.
But you won't hear this from theocrats you meet
who confuse gov't endorsement with speech.

They say God has been forbidden from class
if the teacher can't make you get off of your ass
and pray to a god you might not believe in
or a different version than you were conceiving.
Your personal faith, though, is perfectly kosher.
It's mandated worship that we should be so sure
to avoid, for that's overreach.

Likewise, pols wanting laws made at God's behest
would do well to consider the lemon test:
legislation must have a secular reason.
This means that those who contemplate seizing
the power of office to make us obey
their faith fall afoul of what their own laws say;
their job is to govern, not preach.

I know when it comes to private and public
it's hard to determine the best way to stick
to church/state separation. But really, these
efforts to conflate, trick, and tease
make it harder. Jurisprudence and God
must be distinguished. Brownback has trod
on a freedom that we now must teach.

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