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Sarah Palin and the Religious Test for Public Office

I have had some reluctance to discuss Sarah Palin's religious beliefs in terms of the 2008 presidential election. The Constitution of the United States of America, after all, forbids any religious test for people seeking public office. I think that's a good idea.

However, it is essential that political candidates be fully scrutinized to determine their abilities and intentions for public policy. That scrutiny should include an examination of the willingness of candidates to uphold the Constitution and the separation of church and state that the Constitution protects. Furthermore, if a candidate for public office, such as the Vice Presidency, suggests shaping governmental policies according to the candidate's religious beliefs, then that needs to be examined as well.

The instant that a political candidate like Sarah Palin suggests that the government will be run in accordance with religious principles, the religious principles of the candidate become a matter of political relevance. To scrutinize those religious principles is not making a religious test for public office, because the subject of the scrutiny is political and not religious. The candidate's private religious beliefs are not at issue. It is the way that the candidate's religious views would be imposed upon the secular government that is at issue.

Republicans Support Religious Government for America

The Republican Party has rededicated itself to using the power of government to selectively promote certain religious agendas. Anti-sex legislation, such as abstinence-only education, restriction of contraceptives, and narrowing of abortion rights, are promoted through government-church partnerships. The Republican White House sends tremendous amounts of money into non-progressive Christian churches that run "faith-based initiatives". Republicans in Congress, the judiciary and the Executive Branch use their power to expand publicly funded Christian monuments and observances.

The Republican Party 2008 platform asserts "the Judeo-Christian heritage of our country", although the heritage of the USA is actually remarkably secular. The GOP platform also claims that there is a "right to apply religious values to public policy". With just this one statement, the Republican Party makes it necessary to understand the religious agendas of its political candidates. If these candidates intend to apply their religious beliefs to the public policy that all Americans, with many different religious backgrounds, must live under, it will be politically fatal to ignore what those religious beliefs are.

Sarah Palin Has Religious Plans for the White House and America

Sarah Palin comes from a fundamentalist religious background that teaches the belief that religion and politics cannot be separate, because God is interested in human political affairs, and uses his divine power to shape human governments. Palin's churches teach that governments are like puppets, being manipulated in order to play out a drama that is controlled by God. Palin has been taught by her churches to look for the hand of God in current events, and to regard politicians as the servants of God, and not the servants of their human constituents.

A video released by the Wasilla Assemblies of God church at about the same time as the announcement of Sarah Palin as the Republican candidate for Vice President declares that the Wasilla "Masters Commission is one of the keys in God's plan for Alaska, the United States and the entire world". The Wasilla Masters Commission is a project of the Wasilla Assemblies of God church that teaches teenagers to engage of acts of prophecy - foretelling the future in religious terms, including political events. Sarah Palin has attended the Wasilla Assemblies of God church for years, and continues to do so, although she is also a member of the Wasilla Bible Church.

Palin apologists claim that Sarah Palin is no longer associated with the Wasilla Assemblies of God church, but that's not true. Just a few weeks ago, Sarah Palin not only attended the church, but gave a political of sorts before the church, making declarations about the will of God in the political sphere. Palin told the church that a new fossil fuel pipeline in Alaska is the will of God: "I can do my part in doing things like working really really hard to get a natural gas pipeline, about a $30 billion project that's going to create a lot of jobs for Alaskans, and we'll have a lot of energy flowing through here. And pray about that also. I think God's will has to be done in unifying people and companies to get that gas line built, so pray for that."

In the same speech, Sarah Palin announced her religious belief that the war in Iraq is a part of "God's plan", and prayed that the task that God had sent American soldiers to fulfill be accomplished. Sarah Palin believes that the USA is fighting a new crusade in the Middle East - a holy war in the name of God.

When Sarah Palin, after two weeks of seclusion during which Sarah Palin wasn't allowed to talk to reporters, finally was interviewed by ABC News personality Charles Gibson, she made further references to what she thinks God's plan is for the United States. Explaining her earlier statements about the political affiliation of God, Palin reaffirmed, "I believe that there is a plan for this world."

The Plan of God is To Burn Non-Christians In Punishment

What is the plan of God that Sarah Palin keeps referring to? Well, it's a big plan, and I don't have the time to describe it all, but there is one part of that plan that ought to cause a great deal of concern among Americans who believe that the USA ought to remain a compassionate, enlightened, liberated society. The Assemblies of God church in Wasilla that Sarah Palin attends ascribes to the statement of belief that "A Final Judgment Will Take Place for those who have rejected Christ. They will be judged for their sin and consigned to eternal punishment in a punishing lake of fire."

Non-Christians will be burned in a lake of fire because they refuse to convert to Christianity. That's the ultimate end of God's plan that Sarah Palin keeps referring to. That Sarah Palin believes in this plan is indicated by the repetition through which she refers to the plan, and to newly emerging prophecies that are supposed to reveal how political leaders can help the plan along, when talking with other followers of the Assemblies of God ideology.

Some people, especially enlightened Christians who believe that the Bible is written as a metaphor for a way to teach the proper way of living, might suppose that this plan by God to throw nonChristians into a lake of fire is just an allegory for redemption and repentance. However, that interpretation is not what the Assemblies of God teaches. They teach a literal interpretation - that it is literally the ultimate goal of the plan of God to burn nonChristians in a lake of fire.

This extreme and frightening position was established a generation ago, when Sarah Palin was a teenage beleiver, by the Assemblies of God Committee To Study Eternal Punishment. Yes, that's the real name of the group, the Committee to Study Eternal Punishment. That Committee wrote an official position paper that was then agreed to by all Assemblies of God Churches.

That Assemblies of God official position paper on eternal punishment states that homosexuals and nonChristians are the moral equivalent of murderers. It states that anyone who is not a Christian is among the "actively evil and worthless".

"Those who share Satan's punishment are further referred to as the "wicked" (Matthew 13:49,50). This is a general term for all who are actively evil and worthless. They include the cowardly (cowardly because of lack of faith), the unbelieving, the vile (the disgusting, detestable), murderers, sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts (those who use enchantments, harmful drugs), idolaters, and all liars (Revelation 21:8)."

So, the Assemblies of God has taught believers like Sarah Palin that non-Christians and homosexuals deserve unending torture. This torture, in God's lake of fire, is not supposed to be some kind of temporary phase. When they say that the lake of fire is eternal, they mean that it will last forever, and that once a person is thrown into it, there will be no escape.

"This fire is not only to be eternal, but is also said to be of such a nature that it can never be quenched (Mark 9:43). This clearly indicates that there can be no possible end to the fire or the punishment. The punishment is as eternal as the fire. If the fire brought an annihilation of the wicked, there would be no reason for the fire being eternal."

Part of this supposed God's plan that Sarah Palin keeps referring to has Jesus standing, watching in pleasure as nonChristians burn in agony. "These will be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the angels and Christ," states the Assemblies of God official position paper on eternal punishment.

This never-ending punishment is not intended as a form of purgatory or a kind of cleansing of the souls of the wicked. It isn't divine therapy. It isn't intended to convert nonChristians into Christians. It is merely a form of sadistic vengeance, pain delivered by God to people who fail to obey and convert to Christianity. The Assemblies of God official position paper explains,

"The punishment will be as eternal as the eternal life. This leaves no room for any later restoration of the wicked."

"None of these passages indicates any promise of rehabilitation or restoration once the final judgment is pronounced. No sanctifying agent is revealed in connection with the lake of fire or Gehenna... It is looked at as punitive, not purifying. There will be no second chance."

This torture is the ultimate plan of God that Sarah Palin keeps talking about. She believes it's a good thing that homosexuals and nonChristians will be burned.

God's Plan of Torture for Christians and Homosexuals Applied

It's essential to remember that Sarah Palin has repeatedly referred to the plan of God as something that shapes her political decisions as the Governor of Alaska and would continue to shape her political decisions if elected Vice President. If Sarah Palin became President, an event which is not unlikely given the elderly state of John McCain, then it's safe to presume that President Palin would make decisions based upon her Assemblies of God understanding of the sacred plan of God.

It isn't that Sarah Palin would actually write an executive order declaring that all homosexuals and non-Christians be rounded up and burned. I don't think Sarah Palin would do that. However, the idea that the divine ruler of the universe, the being who defines what is good and what is not good, would torture people because of their sexual orientation and religion, shapes Sarah Palin's current political agenda.

Sarah Palin shows disdain for the idea that homosexual Americans are entitled to equal rights. Palin also supports, as the Republican Party platform does, discrimination in hiring against non Christians. Palin wants to have public schools teacher fundamentalist Christianity in the place of science.

Then there's the issue of torture. John McCain has supported George W. Bush's decision to torture prisoners. McCain voted for the Military Commissions Act, which legalized torture. Sarah Palin has not spoken out against this torture. As on most policy issues, Sarah Palin has remained silent on the issue, implicitly giving her support to John McCain's pro-torture position - and why not? If Sarah Palin believes that God can righteously torture people because of their religious beliefs, and that Jesus would stand by and watch this torture with pleasure, then why would Palin oppose torture herself?

On a broader scale, there is reason to be concerned that Sarah Palin views foreign policy in terms of a divine plan for human history, approved by God, and leading to worldwide holy war. Palin has stated that she is willing to bring the United States into open warfare against Russia over the small issue of South Ossetia. However, Palin seems not to understand much about Russia other than that the Siberian part of the larger nation of Russia is geographically close to Alaska.

The Assemblies of God believes that God is determining the course of the nation of Israel on the world stage. The Fundamental Truths of the church's idea of God's plan includes "The Millennial Reign of Christ when Jesus returns with His saints at His second coming and begins His benevolent rule over earth for 1,000 years. This millennial reign will bring the salvation of national Israel." Is it any wonder that when Charles Gibson asked, over and over again, for Sarah Palin to give specifics about her foreign policy toward Israel, Sarah Palin would only respond with the short answer that the United States must never second guess the government of Israel?

We Need A Plan For Us, Not For God

The United States has suffered greatly under President George W. Bush, who believes that he was chosen by God to lead the United States. After eight years of that disaster, the last choice we should make is to continue the faith-based calamity under the shadow of a President Palin.

America needs a President who can come up with a plan for America that is based on the needs of Americans. We do not need a President who will lead according to the conceit that she is working to bring about a plan from God.

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