Government officials issue proclamations as the political winds demand. Although the proclamations carry no weight of law, they do bear the imprimatur of the government entity that issues them. Most are harmless gestures of goodwill that go largely unnoticed.
But then inevitably there are proclamations that catch the public's attention and spark a little media glare. Religious proclamations can often be those types.
For example, this week Washington State Gov. Chris Gregoire (D) declared Oct. 21-27 "Christian Heritage Week."
Apparently a number of Religious Right groups push the proclamation. One of them, a Virginia-based group called Christian Heritage Ministries, works to persuade governors across the nation to take action. A spokeswoman for the group, Laura Lee Roznowski, told The Olympian newspaper that Christian Heritage Week would show how Christianity has shaped America's history.
"Our forefathers came here with Christian principles," she said. "You cannot take Christianity out of America.... Unfortunately, there's just been a slow undoing of the ability to just proclaim that this is the truth."
About 300 people showed up at a Christian Heritage Week celebration at Washington State's capitol building to kick off the celebration.
Rick Forcier, the leader of the Christian Coalition of Washington, was among the gathering. He told The Olympian that Gregorie's proclamation was a victory for those who don't believe the nation's Founding Fathers crafted a Constitution mandating church-state separation.
A Christian Heritage Week of Washington Web site lauds Gregoire's proclamation and states, "As Christians and citizens of the State of Washington, we are pleased to have the opportunity to formally present some of the 'organic utterances' of our Founding Fathers through oral, music, video and live drama presentations in many state government buildings during Christian Heritage Week.
"Our Goal," the statement continues, "is to bring awareness to adults and students throughout Washington that our nation is irrefutably rooted in biblical principles."
Government officials should resist the urge to pander and refrain from issuing religious proclamations, but the one Gregoire has put forth is especially egregious. Obviously Christians played an important role in the history of America, but it is wrong to suggest the government is based on biblical law. This proclamation clearly is meant to promote the Religious Right canard that the United States is an officially Christian nation.
The nation's Founding Fathers did not create a Christian theocracy, regardless of the revisionist history that the Christian Heritage Week supporters will purport. Instead, James Madison, often dubbed the "Father of the Constitution," wrote on many occasions of the importance of church-state separation.
In 1822, for example, he wrote, "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 that religion flourishes in greater purity, without than with the aid of government."
Gov. Gregoire would do better to encourage citizens to read the First Amendment and the words of Madison and Thomas Jefferson, instead of the ramblings of misinformation from the likes of the Christian Heritage Week of Washington.