Jimmy Carter is not irrelevant

News & Politics
This post originally appeared on LadyJayne's Blog

Former counsel to Ronald Reagan during the Iran-Contra scandal who for ten years served as Air Force Judge Advocate, Mikey Weinstein, founder of a group called Military Religious Freedom Foundation said "We have a Christian Taliban within our U.S. military," and that "this administration has turned the Department of Defense into a faith-based initiative." Arguably, this administration has turned government itself into a faith-based initiative.

There are some like former President Jimmy Carter who lament that the separation of church and state has been compromised, that this executive branch endorses religious coercion, and who consider the Bush White House responsible for the blurring of boundaries not merely between the various branches of government, but between church and state.

Mr. Carter has expressed righteous indignation at the White House's Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives which has, in 2005, awarded more than $2 billion in federal funding to religious groups even, as he says, "those that channel those funds exclusively to their own particular group of believers in a particular religion." The former president insists, too, that "As a traditional Baptist, I've always believed in separation of church and state and honored that premise when I was president, and so have all other presidents, I might say, except this one." (AP) It must be remembered, however, that our current president claims to be serving the Almighty not the people and, indeed, any president making such a messianic claim poses a threat not merely to the concept of statehood, but to the separation of powers.

If we consider the military as a microcosm of what is going on in the country, and see religious coercion as symptomatic of an egregious, and growing, intolerance of conceptual diversity, it becomes evident that not only are we quickly approaching the winter of our disbelief, but that skepticism about a higher power is itself a form of political dissent.

One has only to look at recent bestsellers like Christopher Hitchens' "God Is Not Great" to get a sense of the groundswell of revolt fomenting in response to more than a decade of faith-based initiatives in government prompted by the likes of neo-conservative Christian extremists including former attorney-general, John Ashcroft, who reportedly conducted Bible study groups in Congress.

The numbers of those who express confidence in secular leadership, and in the President, have reached record lows, yet Americans who say they believe in God prevail by a 92 to 6 margin. And, while more say they would vote for a homosexual for president before they'd vote for an atheist, the outspoken expression of disbelief, in the U.S. military, may be as much an act of resistance to religious coercion, and an affirmation of constitutional entitlement, as it is an expression of disbelief. . Religious proselytizing can only lead to an environment of increased cynicism, and greater distrust of leadership.

In a world where one is inclined to inspect a head of lettuce for signs of foul play, it should come as little surprise that nearly half of our troops find themselves at official gatherings, at least monthly, that advertise themselves as being secular, but that open with a psalm or some form of prayer. Nonstop media coverage of the sudden demise of Rev. Jerry Falwell shows what a muscular grip the "moral majority" has on America's psyche. Not surprisingly, too, in this bifurcated culture, while we have renowned journalists speaking out against blind faith, three out of ten Republican presidential candidates, at a recent convention, gleefully declared that they don't believe in evolution.

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