Questions Raised About Commitment to Democracy, Secret Deals to Bypass First Amendment
Los Angeles – The Atheist community learned with alarm of a secret meeting that presumed Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama held with self-proclaimed leaders of the US Christian community this week after apparently securing the nomination of his party in early June.
"Meeting with Christian groups and leaders in public is perfectly appropriate for political candidates," said Atheists United president Stuart Bechman, who went on:
"But meeting with religious leaders behind closed doors only raises serious suspicions about the candidate's commitment to defending the First Amendment and the separation of church and state. The timing of the meetings only make matters worse in that it appears like he is making a secret pact for their support in the upcoming election season.
"Atheists and all who cherish our rights of government neutrality towards religion call on all of the presidential candidates to take a strong stand in defending the First Amendment, and to avoid questions of complicity and quid-pro-quo special favors from religious leaders."
When John F. Kennedy was running as a candidate for the US presidency, he gave a speech to the Greater Houston Minsterial Association where he stated: "I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute."
He also said "I believe in an America where religious intolerance will someday end--where all men and all churches are treated as equal."
Kennedy praised those government officials "whose public acts are responsible to all groups and obligated to none". He stated that religion was a "private matter" and proudly defended his pledge to be guided by his conscience and his oath of office rather than by any church official: "I do not speak for my church on public matters--and the church does not speak for me."
Over the past eight years, that wall has become seriously eroded. The trust that the public has placed in our government to defend that wall has been severely undercut as our elected leaders have not only neglected, but seemingly proudly flaunted their assaults on that wall.
Mr. Obama has made "change in Washington" the cornerstone of his campaign. However, by holding secret sessions with religious leaders, Mr. Obama appears to be repeating the patterns of the current administration and impugning his credibility to uphold his oath of office.
If Mr. Obama truly wants to bring a change to Washington, we encourage him to reverse this ominous slide of religious pandering by our elected leaders and boldly and decisively make a commitment to redraw the line between religion and government.