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Thursday, September 13, 2012 | return to: views, opinions


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Election 2012 – Invoking God and Jewish values: God and faith an integral part of American politic

by jeff jacoby

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When I learned during the Democratic Convention that the party, breaking with past practice, had dropped the word “God” from the platform, I dispatched a message via Twitter: “God is mentioned in the 2004 Demo-cratic platform 7 times. In the 2008 platform, once. In the 2012 platform, 0 times.”

Within mom-ents, that tweet had taken off. To my surprise, it was retweeted hundreds of times — an early indication of the backlash about to engulf Democrats in Charlotte over their platform’s language on God and Jerusalem. (The platform was later amended to restore the deleted language.)

Vjcacoby_with_nameWhat really startled me, however, was the surge of responses I received from people who were glad to see God go unnamed in the Democratic platform. They didn’t say they don’t believe in God, though that may be true. Rather, they claimed that in the United States, politics and religion should have nothing to do with each other. Tweet after tweet seemed to take it for granted that references to God don’t belong in American public life:

“Democrats are getting the idea: Politics are politics and religion is religion.”

“Is ‘God’ a political issue now? Separa-tion of church and state means nothing to you?”

“Good … church and state should be separate. Neither party should mention anything regarding religion.”

“The Founding Fathers would approve.”

In reality, the founders would have been the last to suggest that appeals to God and religion have no business in political affairs. Far from asserting that America’s democratic system should be God-free, they regularly asserted the opposite.

“Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports,” George Washington reminded Americans in his Farewell Address. “The mere politician, equally with the pious man, ought to respect and to cherish them.”

Years earlier, writing in Federalist No. 37 about the astonishing harmony reached at the Constitutional Convention, James Madison concluded that the delegates must have been guided by God. “It is impossible,” he observed, “for the man of pious reflection not to perceive in it a finger of that Almighty hand which has been so frequently and signally extended to our relief in the critical stages of the revolution.”

When Madison and the first Congress later crafted the Bill of Rights, it was natural that the Establishment Clause be immediately followed by the Free Exercise Clause. Separation of church and state meant only that government was not to dictate any specific creed, or empower one sect over another. But Madison and the founders took it for granted that American democracy would be enriched by religion and its teachings.

Nothing is more normal than the invocation of God in our public life. “In God We Trust” appears on all U.S. currency. The Almighty is acknowledged in every state constitution. Every president adds, “So help me God” on taking the oath of office, and each has mentioned God in his inaugural address. Religious language in politics is as American as a Fourth of July parade.

And as bipartisan. Even before the G-word was restored at the convention, the Democrats’ platform had included a respectful plank about faith. Many who took to the podium in Charlotte made a point of mentioning religion.

Religious Americans these days may be more likely to vote Republican, but no ideology has a monopoly on the moral authority religion can supply. From abolition to the antiwar movement, religion has played an indispensable role in liberalism’s great causes too.

Would those who tweet their support for a wall between political and religious expression have made the same demand of the Rev. Martin Luther King, and the clergy who stood with him in the fight for racial equality? Would they want left-of-center “God-talk” silenced in the debates over budget cuts or gay marriage or immigration? Should Matthew 25:40 really be off-limits when Democrats talk about the poor?

In America, politics and religion are not strangers. Here faith and freedom go together, as we aspire, however imperfectly, to be one nation under God, with liberty and justice for all.

 

Jeff Jacoby is a columnist for the Boston Globe, where this piece first appeared. His website is http://www.JeffJacoby.com.


Comments

Posted by Dan Spitzer
09/13/2012  at  03:49 PM
Mr. Jacoby, Whatever Happened to the Constitution's Call for...

separation of Church and State? Why should anything that smacks of ANYONE’S religious beliefs appear at the convention of one of our two primary political parties?

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Posted by Ray Soller
09/14/2012  at  09:38 AM
Invoking the G-Word

Regardless of how one feels about the supposedly zealous manner in which the “G-word” is bandied about, that’s no excuse for parading fiction as if it were fact.
The statement that “Every president adds ‘So help me God’ on taking the oath of office, and each has mentioned God in his inaugural address” is false on two counts.
First, the historical record shows that most presidents, starting with George Washington, are not known to have added a non-biblical, extra-constitutional codicil to the presidential oath as prescribed by the United States Constitution. It is true, however, that we have to wait for the early part of the twentieth century before an elected president is reliably known to have acted without constitutional authority when committing to “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.” (Please remember, the Constitution doesn’t use the G-word at all.)  Furthermore, it’s only since FDR’s 1933 inaugural ceremony that every modern president has followed suit. (It’s only on Sunday, January 20, 1957, on the eve of President Eisenhower’s inauguration, that this fiction about “every president” first appeared.)
Second, there is a striking exception to presidents who have referred to the Almighty in their inaugural address. That notable exception is George Washington’s second inaugural address.  Here it is in its entirety:
“Fellow Citizens:

  I AM again called upon by the voice of my country to execute the functions of its Chief Magistrate. When the occasion proper for it shall arrive, I shall endeavor to express the high sense I entertain of this distinguished honor, and of the confidence which has been reposed in me by the people of united America.  1
  Previous to the execution of any official act of the President the Constitution requires an oath of office. This oath I am now about to take, and in your presence: That if it shall be found during my administration of the Government I have in any instance violated willingly or knowingly the injunctions thereof, I may (besides incurring constitutional punishment) be subject to the upbraidings of all who are now witnesses of the present solemn ceremony.”

In Washington’s case, you should be aware, he was extraordinarily circumspect as to mentioning the “G-word” when speaking of religious matters. Now that’s something worth tweeting about!

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Posted by Dan Spitzer
09/14/2012  at  11:11 AM
For Those Unfamiliar with Jeff Jacoby, He is Just Another Rightwing...

ideologue who sometimes expresses views so conservative they put Ron Santorum to shame…

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Posted by Frank
09/14/2012  at  10:07 PM
These two columns entirely avoid

These two columns entirely avoid what the Democratic convention vote was really about:  Jerusalem being the capital of Israel. 


With White House approval, the Democrats removed the reference to Jerusalem being Israel’s capital from their platform, which prior Democratic platforms had recognized.
 

Democratic die-hard Alan Dershowitz claimed, “I think extremists within the base may very well move the Democratic party away from its pro-Israel position.”  But that was belied by the facts.  The Democrats not only admit to carefully drafting their platform to conform with Obama’s policies, but when they cynically decided to reverse it at their Convention, the reversal clearly failed to receive the necessary two-third vote.

Three times the “Chair”, Villaraigosa, put it to a voice vote, and each time fully one-half of the delegates voted “NO”.  Having no idea what to do, he finally ignored reality, and read his Teleprompter: “In my opinion the Chair two-third’s voted in the affirmative.”  He was roundly booed.  He ignored the rules requiring a recorded vote, which obviously would have failed. 

You can watch the disaster replayed on TV by Al-Jazeera: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zoPrBnrWvrE

This was a last minute desperate move by Obama to try to hold onto the pro-Israel (Jewish) vote for just a couple of months before he is free to fully attack Israel, entirely unfettered (with “more flexibility”).  Anyone watching this understands what the Democrat delegates really believe:  fully half of them displayed their virulent animosity to Israel.  The Democrat party has become the party of the Jew-haters, who control the party.  Jews are welcome for their money and votes, but not if they truly support Israel. 

If Obama is re-elected, American Jews will be of no further use to him, and he will be finally free to entirely abandon any American political, military or diplomatic support of Israel, and allow Iran its nukes.

 

Jewish American Democrats (who are not in denial and support Israel), in the most important vote in their lives, are left with a stark choice: 

Your political party or your people.

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Posted by Dan Spitzer
09/16/2012  at  12:17 AM
Frank, Do You Have a Gaseous Diet?

I mean, every time you post you repeat yourself…

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