Eastern Education: What Americans Could Learn from Poland’s Growing Church-State Separation Movement

Maybe we should buy the Religious Right a ticket to Poland so they could learn a thing or two about real reform.

At a time when the Religious Right wants to put church and state together like peanut butter and jelly, there is a growing movement for church-state separation in a Catholic-dominated Eastern European country.

In Poland’s recent parliamentary election, Palikot’s Movement, a new Polish party that favors legalizing gay marriage and more liberal abortion laws in addition to church-state separation, finished in third place with 10.02 percent of the vote. This means that the party will have 40 seats in Poland’s 460-member parliament, including one for Poland’s first transsexual lawmaker and one for its first openly gay lawmaker.

It will also mean that Palikot’s Movement may be able to advance its church-state separation agenda. According to a recent report by the Associated Press, party leader Janusz Palikot said he will seek the removal of a Christian cross that hangs in the assembly hall of the Sejm, Poland’s lower house. He also said he hopes to end laws that make it a crime to insult a person’s religion.

The church is “absolutely too powerful,” Palikot said.

“It's only an illusion that Poland is so extremely Catholic. We want to remove religion from the public spaces,” he said.

Meanwhile, back in the United States the Family Research Council and its allies just wrapped up the annual “Values Voter Summit,” which is a chance for people who represent a narrow (and narrow-minded) portion of the fundamentalist Christian voting bloc to come together and figure out ways to bring church and state closer. About 3,000 people attended this year, as did almost all of the major GOP presidential candidates along with House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.).

If you read Rob Boston’s excellent recap of the Summit yesterday, you know that retired Army Gen. William Boykin made the ridiculous assertion that parts of the Constitution are based on the Bible. The Constitution, he said, is based on sermons delivered during the colonial era, and he suggested that the Bible is somehow incorporated into the Constitution. He did not specify which parts, exactly, are based on the Bible because there aren’t any.

Boykin also said America’s churches have been silenced and face persecution. Not sure what led him to form that opinion, but the attendees at the Summit nodded right along with Boykin like bobble-head dolls.

Just as the Religious Right and the Tea Party have gained power thanks to disapproval of the Obama administration and the general state of the economy, reports indicate that part of the growth in popularity of Palikot’s Movement stems from increasing dissatisfaction among Poles with the establishment.

Palikot’s Movement sounds a lot like an alternative-universe version of the Tea Party, but instead of running around in colonial garb and demonizing the opposition, the new Polish party is trying to bring about positive change that includes separating church and state.

In a time marked by global uncertainty, it’s refreshing to see a country like Poland looking to a future of liberal progressivism to make things better rather than clinging to some rose-tinted, misguided idea of what the “good old days” used to be like, as the Religious Right is doing.

Maybe we should buy the Religious Right a ticket to Poland so they could learn a thing or two about real reform.