Who will blink first? Conservative Americans of faith or the secular left?
Noah Feldman believes he has the answer.
A law professor at New York University, Feldman has written a book examining one of the most divisive issues of our time — the role of religion in public life. This schism is at the heart of the culture war being waged daily by the secular progressive movement — left-wing politicians, the Hollywood elite, the mainstream media and most university educators — and the rest of America, which is predominantly Christian and believes Judeo-Christian principles have a role to play in guiding the country.
The dispute over the role of religion in public life was at the heart of the 2004 presidential election, with George W. Bush's "values voters" prevailing over John Kerry's "secular sect."
The secular left's war on Christmas and its campaign to prevent conservative judges from being confirmed for the Supreme Court are recent examples of how religion and values are unraveling the fabric of our nation.
Who would have thought that in 21st century America liberals would argue that Samuel Alito was not fit to serve on the Supreme Court because he is a devout Catholic? No such arguments were made against Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a far-left ideologue and former lawyer for the American Civil Liberties Union, a blatantly anti-Christian organization.
The church-state divide must be repaired or it could permanently tear apart the nation, Feldman argues in his new book, "Divided By God: America's Church-State Problem — And What We Should Do About It."
Who will blink first? Conservative Americans of faith or the secular left? The battle lines have been drawn and neither side appears willing to give even an inch.
Feldman argues there is a middle path, which he sums up this way: "We should permit and tolerate symbolic invocation of religious values and inclusive displays of religion while rigorously protecting the financial and organizational separation of religious institutions from institutions of government."
Did you get all that? Feldman is a law professor, after all. Plain English is not something they teach in law school. I believe what Feldman is advocating is for the secular left to abandon its holy war against Christian symbols in the public square, such as Nativity scenes, displays of the Ten Commandments and crosses on public property, in return for a guarantee of the preservation of the institutional separation of church and state. That means a complete ban on government funding of religious institutions and activities.
"We want to acknowledge the centrality of religion to many citizens' values while keeping religion and government in some important sense distinct," Feldman writes.
Throughout much of his book, Feldman lays out a convincing argument that Judeo-Christian symbols and customs have been part of the American culture for 230 years. And while this country is predominantly Christian (85 percent), the majority has never moved to make Christianity the state religion.
Despite the demonization of people of faith by the far left and its mainstream media allies, generations of Americans grew up singing Christmas carols in school and didn't turn into religious fanatics who oppressed minority faiths or atheists.
Contrast that with militant atheists like Michael Newdow who want "under God" removed from the Pledge of Allegiance and "In God We Trust" stricken from U.S currency. Who does Newdow represent except his own selfish desire to impose his will on the majority?
Feldman concedes that his proposal for reconciliation may not appeal to either side at first blush. What would the ACLU do with its time if it wasn't suing school districts, communities and The Boy Scouts of America? The ACLU manipulates laws to enrich itself every time it sues. And why would religious institutions give up government funding like voucher programs for private religious schools or grants to charities connected to religious organizations?
Compromise involves some concession from each side. The continuation of the current split will only divide the nation further, Feldman argues. There was a time when the issue of slavery divided the United States to such a degree that a bloody Civil War was the only way to resolve the dispute. Is that where we're headed? Will it take armed conflict to unify the country on the church-state divide?
"Secularists must accept the fact that religious values form an important source of political beliefs and identities for the majority of Americans, while evangelicals need to acknowledge that separating the institutions of government from those of religion is essential for avoiding outright political-religious conflict," Feldman writes.
Reconciliation or division? Which side is willing to make the first move to unify the nation?
Tony Phyrillas is a leading conservative political columnist and blogger based in Pennsylvania. He is a veteran journalist with 25 years experience as a reporter, editor and columnist for several newspapers. Phyrillas received recognition for column writing in 2010 from the Associated Press Managing Editors, in 2007 from Suburban Newspapers of America and in 2006 from the Society of Professional Journalists, Keystone Chapter. A graduate of Penn State University, Phyrillas is the city editor and political columnist for The Mercury, a two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning daily newspaper in Pottstown, Pa. In addition to The Mercury website (www.pottsmerc.com), his columns are featured on more than a dozen political websites and blogs. Phyrillas is a frequent guest (and occasional host) on talk radio and has been a panelist on the "Journalists Roundtable" public affairs TV program on the Pennsylvania Cable Network (PCN). Phyrillas was named one of the '10 Leading Greek-American Bloggers in the World' in 2007 by Odyssey: The World of Greece magazine. BlogNetNews.com ranked Phyrillas the Most Influential Political Blogger in Pennsylvania for three consecutive years (2007-2010). You can follow Phyrillas on Twitter @TonyPhyrillas