A candidate may chose to highlight his or her religious values and views, or not; a voter may inquire about a candidate's religious values and views; and a candidate may answer as fully as he or she chooses, or not at all.
Charles Krauthammer, "An Overdose of Public Piety," December 14, 2007:
"Mitt Romney declares,
'Freedom and religion endure together, or perish alone.' Barack Obama opens his speech at his South Carolina Oprah rally with 'Giving all praise and honor to God. Look at the day that the Lord has made.' Mike Huckabee explains his surge in the polls thus: 'There's only one explanation for it, and it's not a human one. It's the same power that helped a little boy with two fish and five loaves feed a crowd of 5,000 people.'
"This campaign is knee-deep in religion, and it's only going to get worse. I'd thought that the limits of professed public piety had already been achieved during the Republican CNN/YouTube debate when some squirrelly looking guy held up a Bible and asked, 'Do you believe every word of this book?' -- and not one candidate dared reply: None of your damn business.
"Instead, Giuliani, Romney and Huckabee bent a knee and tried appeasement with various interpretations of scriptural literalism. The right answer, the only answer, is that the very question is offensive. The Constitution prohibits any religious test for office. And while that proscribes only government action, the law is also meant to be a teacher."
No, Mr. Krauthammer. That's NOT the only answer or the right answer. A candidate may chose to highlight his or her religious values and views, or not; a voter may inquire about a candidate's religious values and views and a candidate may answer as fully as he or she chooses, or not at all. Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney is right: "Perhaps the most important question to ask a person of faith who seeks a political office, is this: does he share these American values: the equality of human kind, the obligation to serve one another, and a steadfast commitment to liberty?" But the Constitution does not tell voters how to decide for whom to vote. Founder John Jay, one of the three authors of The Federalist Papers (AND biased against Catholics), opined, "Providence has given our people the choice of their rulers, and it is the duty, as well as privilege and interest, of a Christian nation to select and prefer Christians for their rulers." Mr. Krauthammer thinks otherwise. The Constitution permits voters to decide for whom to vote for whatever reason.
Mr. Krauthammer apparently appreciated that religion was a legitimate political consideration in 1984, when he wrote: "It seems to me equally inoffensive to make religion a political issue."
This month, Mr. Krauthammer insisted: "In this country, there is no special political standing that one derives from being a Christian leader like Mike Huckabee or a fervent believer like Mitt Romney."
But each voter will decide that for himself or herself and Mr. Krauthammer only for himself.
There is no religious qualification, but voters are entitled to take religious values and religious preference into consideration.
"[I]t is seriously overstepping the bounds of the civil religion for the President to announce, as Mr. Reagan did in [a] speech [to a Religious Broadcasters convention], that 'For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.'"
So wrote Mr. Krauthammer in "America's Holy War," published in the April 9, 1984 issue of New Republic, an article promoting Mr. Krauthammer's view that "the American civil religion...for two centuries...ha[d] supported, and elevated, the nation," but then was "jeopardized by ignorant armies of secularists and the sectarians who wish to abolish it....fight[ing]...so bitterly [perhaps] because it offers a way out of their holy war."
Mr. Krauthammer even criticized the United States Supreme Court for allowing and the United States Department of justice for supporting Christmas creche displays on public property.
Mr. Krauthammer: "In an amicus brief in the Pawtucket case, the Justice department argued that removing the Christmas creche 'mandates an artificial and undesirable sterility in public life, in which one important and enriching aspect of our history and culture [religion] is treated as illegitimate....We ask the Court to rule that the First Amendment does not mandate contrived exclusion if religion from public life.' Now really. Surely one can ban a municipal creche as a sectarian symbol (albeit of the majority sect) without being against religion. The event commemorated by the creche is outside of American history; the religious idea it symbolizes (the incarnation of the Divinity) is outside of American civil religion. Though Christmas is designated as a holiday to accommodate the practice of the majority of Americans, the municipal creche goes beyond accommodation to the (admittedly minor) promotion of one (admittedly major) sectarian religious vision."
People for the America Way was so pleased with Mr. Krauthammer that it awarded him its First Amendment Award in 1985.
But President Reagan was not bound by Mr. Krauthammer's ideas about an American civil religion or prohibited by the Constitution from acknowledging Jesus Christ as the Son of God before, during or after his presidency. The First Amendment prohibits the establishment of any national religion and protects the free exercise of religion.
Mr. Krauthamnmer is Jewish, not Christian. But the facts are that America's Founders overwhelmingly were Christians and the Lord in whose name the Constitution is dated is Jesus Christ.
In 1791, Congress selected the site to be the capital of the United States. George Washington commissioned Pierre L'Enfant to design an overall plan for the future seat of government. That plan included a church "intended for national purposes, such as public prayer, thanksgiving, funeral orations, etc., and assigned to the special use of no particular Sect of denomination, but equally open to all." The Founders and Framers favored governmental neutrality among denominations, but they never expected government to be barred from supporting religion generally or presidents to refrain from mentioning God or Jesus to please secular extremists or believers in God who do not believe that Jesus is the Son of God.
Mr. Krauthammer probably also would have been upset with President John Quincey Adams (who publicly professed his Christian faith and linked Jesus and America.
John Quincey Adams, July 4, 1837:
"Why is it that, next to the birthday of the Savior of the World, your most joyous and most venerated festival returns on this day.
"Is it not that, in the chain of human events, the birthday of the nation is indissolubly linked with the birthday of the Savior? That it forms a leading event in the Progress of the Gospel dispensation?
"Is it not that the Declaration of Independence first organized the social compact on the foundation of the Redeemer's mission upon earth?
"That it laid the cornerstone of human government upon the first precepts of Christianity and gave to the world the first irrevocable pledge of the fulfillment of the prophecies announced directly from Heaven at the birth of the Savior and predicted by the greatest of the Hebrew prophets 600 years before."
Mr. Krauthammer was affronted that Representative Marjorie Holt referred to America as "a Christian nation" during a debate on prayer in public schools, but America's greatest Chief Justice, John Marshall had declared in 1833: "The American population is entirely Christian, and with us Christianity and Religion are identified. It would be strange indeed, if with such a people, our institutions did not presuppose Christianity, and did not often refer to it, and exhibit relations to it."
These days America is involved simultaneously in a worldwide War on Terror and a War on Religion ("America's Holy War," to Mr. Krauthammer) at home.
Mitt Romney eloquently and passionately championed America's religious heritage in his magnificent "Faith in America" speech.
"We separate church and state affairs in this country, and for good reason. No religion should dictate to the state nor should the state interfere with the free practice of religion. But in recent years, the notion of the separation of church and state has been taken by some well beyond its original meaning. They seek to remove from the public domain any acknowledgment of God. Religion is seen as merely a private affair with no place in public life. It is as if they are intent on establishing a new religion in America – the religion of secularism. They are wrong.
"The founders proscribed the establishment of a state religion, but they did not countenance the elimination of religion from the public square. We are a nation 'Under God' and in God, we do indeed trust.
"We should acknowledge the Creator as did the Founders – in ceremony and word. He should remain on our currency, in our pledge, in the teaching of our history, and during the holiday season, nativity scenes and menorahs should be welcome in our public places. Our greatness would not long endure without judges who respect the foundation of faith upon which our constitution rests. I will take care to separate the affairs of government from any religion, but I will not separate us from 'the God who gave us liberty.'
"Nor would I separate us from our religious heritage...."
In the same speech, Mr. Romney also stated: "There is one fundamental question about which I often am asked. What do I believe about Jesus Christ? I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and the Savior of mankind."
The late President Reagan would not have had a problem with Mr. Romney or his belief in Jesus.
Likewise, President Reagan would not have had any problem with the appearance of crosses in Christmas commercials for two current Republican presidential hopefuls, Senator John McCain and former Governor Mike Huckabee. The Constitutional provides for an institutional separation of church and state, but not absolute separation of church and state. Political candidates are free to speak of their religion, regardless of their particular religious preference, just as atheists are free to say there is no God and agnostics are free to say they don't believe or disbelieve.
It is the secular extremists who are upset by public religious references and the religious should not allow themselves to be intimidated by them. The First Amendment guarantees the free exercise of religion.
Mr. Krauthammer himself noted in his article that "[a] debate over the relationship between religion and government is about the meaning of our national existence" and "the goal of the secularists is not simply to extirpate Christian symbolism from American public life" but to keep religion private and fight "[a]ny public manifestation..., from school prayer (even a moment of silence), because of its religious connotations) to the national motto...."
Secular extremists continue to challenge any sign of religious expression in the so-called public square, but today there is good news from John Hays, the President of Southwestern Oklahoma State University regarding Christmas and Christmas decorations at the university, thanks to Liberty Counsel's vigilence.
"The university does not have a policy that bans the word ‘Christmas’ or Christmas decorations. However, some supervisors or department leaders within the university who meant well may have suggested to employees that caution should be taken with respect to Christmas decorations. One thing led to another and the result was that some mistakenly assumed that Christmas decorations were being prohibited. I have met with various staff members to get to the bottom of the matter and have also had a pleasant discussion with Mathew Staver, Founder of Liberty Counsel.
"The university will continue to follow the law and to respect the right of all its staff members. Thus, the university will follow the general principles set forth by the courts regarding the display of religious symbols and/or Nativity scenes.... In applying this general rule to the university, if a Nativity or other religious symbol of the holiday is displayed in a place open to the general public (like a lobby), the university will include secular symbols of the holiday in the nearby context. However, employees in their cubicles or offices may personally display a Nativity or other religious symbol of the holiday. In such a setting, the employee need not include secular symbols of the holiday. Employees have always been and continue to be permitted to greet one another with the greeting ‘Merry Christmas’ or ‘Happy Holidays.’ The decision is up to each employee."
"Dr. Hays deserves a big 'Thank You and Merry Christmas.' His leadership in resolving the controversy over Christmas and the general guidelines he has set forth regarding the appropriate way a state school and its employees may acknowledge and celebrate Christmas serves as an example for others to follow. Christmas is a wonderful time of the year and it can and should be enjoyed by all."
Michael J. Gaynor has been practicing law in New York since 1973. A former partner at Fulton, Duncombe & Rowe and Gaynor & Bass, he is a solo practitioner admitted to practice in New York state and federal courts and an Association of the Bar of the City of New York member.
Gaynor graduated magna cum laude, with Honors in Social Science, from Hofstra University's New College, and received his J.D. degree from St. John's Law School, where he won the American Jurisprudence Award in Evidence and served as an editor of the Law Review and the St. Thomas More Institute for Legal Research. He wrote on the Pentagon Papers case for the Review and obscenity law for The Catholic Lawyer and edited the Law Review's commentary on significant developments in New York law.
The day after graduating, Gaynor joined the Fulton firm, where he focused on litigation and corporate law. In 1997 Gaynor and Emily Bass formed Gaynor & Bass and then conducted a general legal practice, emphasizing litigation, and represented corporations, individuals and a New York City labor union. Notably, Gaynor & Bass prevailed in the Second Circuit in a seminal copyright infringement case, Tasini v. New York Times, against newspaper and magazine publishers and Lexis-Nexis. The U.S. Supreme Court affirmed, 7 to 2, holding that the copyrights of freelance writers had been infringed when their work was put online without permission or compensation.
Gaynor currently contributes regularly to www.MichNews.com, www.RenewAmerica.com, www.WebCommentary.com, www.PostChronicle.com and www.therealitycheck.org and has contributed to many other websites. He has written extensively on political and religious issues, notably the Terry Schiavo case, the Duke "no rape" case, ACORN and canon law, and appeared as a guest on television and radio. He was acknowledged in Until Proven Innocent, by Stuart Taylor and KC Johnson, and Culture of Corruption, by Michelle Malkin. He appeared on "Your World With Cavuto" to promote an eBay boycott that he initiated and "The World Over With Raymond Arroyo" (EWTN) to discuss the legal implications of the Schiavo case. On October 22, 2008, Gaynor was the first to report that The New York Times had killed an Obama/ACORN expose on which a Times reporter had been working with ACORN whistleblower Anita MonCrief.