While the financial markets of the world continue their psychotic moth-death-spiral-into-the flame performance, there are those who believe that the real solutions to our collective national and global problems can be find in heaven. That is the presumed domicile of the almighty, all-powerful, all knowing deity purported to have 100% control over everything on Earth, in the universe, and everywhere else, per the teachings of Judeo-Christian-Islamic scripture.
In the USA, as in every other enlightened nation on the planet, people are free to believe in and practice whatever religious institutions they wish, or none at all, as they see fit. This basic human freedom is supposed to ensure that people can publicly practice their religious beliefs without fear of government persecution. Put another way, even if you practice paganistic witchcraft and believe you can cast spells on others, the government will not come after you for practicing a not-so-mainstream faith.
However, freedom of religion does not give people the right to impose their favored religion on others. That is important because it is completely contrary to the basic concept of freedom of religion; If a powerful majority could impose their brand of religion, you would no longer be free to publicly practice your own anymore, would you?
This important protection is provided for in the first amendment of the Bill of Rights of the US Constitution, which states, in pertinent part, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion….“ Over the years, the US Supreme Court has legally defined this to mean that church and state are separated.
When the US president is sworn it, he/she takes an oath to “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States”. So it stands to reason that no one running for US president should be using any religion as an operative arm of government, since such a practice could be construed to be not only “respecting the establishment of religion”, but also uniting religion and government into a single entity for the purposes of governing the nation and its citizens.
Enter religiously right-wing republican Rick Perry, currently the governor of Texas who replaced GW Bush in 2000. He is positioning himself for a run for US president and may well announce those intentions sometime this weekend, at the end of a campaign swing through all of the early primary states. Although he holds many of the same political positions that his predecessor, GW Bush, did, in one specific way he is very different…and much more dangerous:
Perry believes that prayer, particularly organized prayer of many voices at once, is an effective method of fixing problems that truly are within the scope of government. And he as governor he has actually put this “religious arm of government” into practice more than once. In April of this year, he issued an official gubernatorial proclamation for three days of prayer for rain to end the drought in Texas. (Note: After the three day prayer-in, the drought actually got worse. Texas has since experienced the hottest summer on record, breaking hundreds of heat records over the past months!)
To add to this dubious practice by someone who wants to be president, he sponsored last Saturday’s National Prayer Event known as the “Response” in the 70000-seat Reliant Stadium in Houston. The pray-a-thon was attended by perhaps 30,000 Christians; no non-Christians were allowed to participate. The event was financed by the American Family Association, a Tupelo, Mississippi-based ultra-extreme-right-fundamentalist-religious-group that believes that the constitutional right to freedom of religion applies only to Christians!
Subsequent to the Saturday event, the Dow Jones tumbled over 630 points on Monday and today suffered another loss of 520 points. Pray at work, right?
Perry is just what the USA needs right now (not): a president who thinks he can simply pray away all our problems…and pray away all those dirty non-Christians who are interfering with small government, which works best when operated by scripture in a church and empowered by cheering believers assembled in a football stadium.
On the other hand, however, one does have to give Rick Perry credit for accomplishing something that no one thought was possible until now:
He actually made fellow GOP presidential hopeful Michele Bachmann look less extreme by comparison!