“While Ann Coulter has freedom of speech, news outlets should exercise their freedom to use better judgment,” said NJDC Executive Director Ira N. Forman. “Just as media outlets don’t invite those who believe that Martians walk the earth to frequently comment on science stories, it’s time they stop inviting Ann Coulter to comment on politics.”
Media Matters for America has a complete transcript of Coulter’s comments — and video — available here.
Similarly, Justice Antonin Scalia turned history on its head several years ago when he attended an Orthodox synagogue in New York and claimed that the Founders intended for their Christianity to play a part in government. Scalia then went so far as to suggest that the reason Hitler was able to initiate the Holocaust was because of German separation of church and state.
The Associated Press reported on November 23, 2004, “In the synagogue that is home to America’s oldest Jewish congregation, he [Scalia] noted that in Europe, religion-neutral leaders almost never publicly use the word ‘God.’”
“Did it turn out that,” Scalia asked rhetorically, “by reason of the separation of church and state, the Jews were safer in Europe than they were in the United States of America?” He then answered himself, saying, “I don’t think so.”
Justice Scalia and Ann Coulter may well benefit from looking back at the photographs that came out of Germany that were all over the newspapers and news magazines at war’s end. The photos that can be seen, for instance, at www.nobeliefs.com/nazis.htm of the Catholic Bishops giving the collective Nazi salute. The annual April 20th celebration, declared by Pope Pius XII, of Hitler’s birthday. The belt buckles of the German army, which declared “Gott Mit Uns” (”God is with us”). The pictures of the 1933 investiture of Bishop Ludwig Müller, the official Bishop of the 1000-Years-Of-Peace Nazi Reich. That last photo should be the most problematic for Ann Coulter and Justice Scalia, because Hitler had done exactly what Scalia is recommending - he merged church and state.
Which brings up one of the main reasons - almost always overlooked by modern-day commentators, both left and right - that the Founders and Framers were so careful to separate church and state: They didn’t want religion to be corrupted by government.
Many of the Founders were people of faith, and even the Deists like Franklin, Washington, and Jefferson were deeply touched by what Franklin called “The Mystery.” And they’d seen how badly religious bodies became corrupted when churches acquired power through affiliation with or participation in government.
The Puritans, for example, passed a law in Plymouth Colony in 1658 that said, “No Quaker Rantor or any other such corrupt person shall be a freeman in this Corporation [the state of Massachusetts].” Puritans banned Quakers from Massachusetts under pain of death, and, as Norman Cousins notes in his book about the faith of the Founders, In God We Trust, “And when Quakers persisted in returning [to Massachusetts] in defiance of law, and in practicing their religious faith, the Puritans made good the threat of death; Quaker women were burned at the stake.”
Quakers were also officially banned from Virginia prior to the introduction of the First Amendment to our Constitution. Cousins notes: “Quakers who fled from England were warned against landing on Virginia shores. In fact, the captains of sailing ships were put on notice that they would be severely fined. Any Quaker who was discovered inside the state was fined without bail.”
Throughout most of the 1700s in Virginia, a citizen could be imprisoned for life for saying that there was no god, or that the Bible wasn’t inerrant. “Little wonder,” notes Cousins, “that Virginians like Washington, Jefferson, and Madison believed the situation to be intolerable.”
Even the oppressed Quakers got into the act in the 1700s. They finally found a haven in Pennsylvania, where they infiltrated government and promptly passed a law that levied harsh fines on any person who didn’t show up for church on Sunday or couldn’t “prove” that s/he was home reading scripture on that holy day.
Certainly the Founders wanted to protect government from being hijacked by the religious, as I noted in a previous article that quotes Jefferson on this topic. But several of them were even more concerned that the churches themselves would be corrupted by the lure of government’s easy access to money and power.
Religious leaders in the Founders’ day, in defense of church/state cooperation, pointed out that for centuries kings and queens in England had said that if the state didn’t support the church, the church would eventually wither and die.
James Madison flatly rejected this argument, noting in a July 10, 1822 letter to Edward Livingston: “We are teaching the world the great truth, that Governments do better without kings and nobles than with them. The merit will be doubled by the other lesson: the Religion flourishes in greater purity without, than with the aid of Government.”
He added in that same letter, “I have no doubt that every new example will succeed, as every past one has done, in showing that religion and Government will both exist in greater purity the less they are mixed together.”