Tim Pawlenty is planning a campaign for the Republican presidential nomination, but he has a reputation for being boring. Yesterday, Tim Pawlenty tried to shake that reputation as he spoke at a meeting of right wing religious zealots in Iowa. Adding a little theocratic spice into the mix, Pawlenty told the audience that, “The Constitution was meant to protect people of faith from government, not to protect government from people of faith.”
Pawlenty’s vision for America, revealed in this statement, is one in which the federal government is placed under the control of Christian America, in order to enact Christian moral principles. Pawlenty and his supporters probably presume that, with the federal government under Christian influence, everything in the USA would be just swell.
Other Americans are not so confident. Some wonder just which version of Christianity would be granted control over the government. Would it be Catholic or Protestant? Pro-choice Chritian or Pro-life Christian? Pro-war Christian or anti-war Christian?
Others wonder what Tim Pawlenty would do with the many non-Christians in America. Would his Christian government tolerate their independence, or would it legislate Pawlenty’s form of Christianity?
Those who know the history of Christian theocracy understand the foolishness of the idea that religion could be protected from government without government being protected from religion. When Christians have been allowed to impose their religious views upon the government, they have used that power to restrict religious freedom – not just for non-Christians, but for other Christians as well.
People like Pawlenty forget the reign of terror under King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Spain, who first drove out the Muslims, then the Jews, and then turned their devices of torture against versions of Christianity that they decided were not sufficiently orthodox. They forget the generations of Christian-against-Christian civil war in England. They forget the executions and other various forms of violent punishment in the American colonies for not following the religious preferences of the government.
In all these instances, individual religious freedom was impossible because government had been taken over by Christians insistent upon imposing their views on everyone else. That same agenda was prevalent in the crowd that Pawlenty spoke to at the Iowa Faith & Freedom Coalition Presidential Forum yesterday. The Republican Christians gathered at that event are intent on making their religious values law for everybody in the United States. The organization is dedicated to placing the United States government “under God” rather than under the Constitution.
Gopal Krishna, who leads the Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition, made it clear that under his organization’s vision, religious freedom would only be for Christians – and not even all of them. “We are concerned that a country that was founded on European-style Christian moral values has now become a multicultural haven for every weird and kinky lifestyle,” he said. “Weird and kinky”, apparently, is everything other than European-style Christianity.
How could Americans trust their government to preserve their freedom of religion if the United States was no longer a multicultural haven, but was controlled by theocratic zealots like Gopal Krishna and Tim Pawlenty?
The Founding Fathers of the United States of America remembered the long history of theocratic atrocities in Europe and the colonies, and established the separation of church and state to prevent them from happening again in the new nation they created. The First Amendment of the Constitution provides for both individual religious freedom, and protection of the government from religious laws, forbidding the Congress from establishing religion in any way. The only time the Constitution mentions religion is to forbid the usage of government by religious groups to impose their beliefs upon others.
Tim Pawlenty demonstrated yesterday that he either doesn’t understand that freedom of religion depends on the preservation of government as a non-religious neutral ground, or that he would rather use religion for political advantage than retain true freedom of religion in the United States. Whether Pawlenty is crass or merely ignorant on the subject religious freedom, he lacks the judgment necessary to serve as a responsible President.