Texas Gov. Rick Perry is not one to shy away from hyperbole, having declared recently that church-state separation is the work of Satan.
During a conference call this week as part of radical pastor Rick Scarborough’s “40 Days to Save America,” which seeks to rally Religious Right voters, Perry went on a lengthy rant about the evils of keeping religion and government apart.
“This separation of church and state, which has been driven by the secularists to remove those people of faith from the public arena, there is nothing farther from the truth,” growled Perry. “When you think about our founding fathers, they created this country, our Constitution, the foundation of America upon Judeo-Christian values, biblical values and this narrative that has been going on, particularly since the ’60s, that somehow or another there’s this steel wall, this iron curtain or whatever you want to call it, between the church and people of faith and this separation of church and state is just false on its face.
“The idea that we should be sent to the sidelines, I would suggest to you, is very driven by those who are not truthful,” the governor continued. “Satan runs across the world with his doubt and with his untruths and what have you and one of the untruths out there is driven – is that people of faith should not be involved in the public arena.
Perry went on to implore listeners who “truly are Christian warriors, Christian soldiers” to stand up to “activist courts” and “President Obama and his cronies” whom he said are making “efforts to remove any trace of religion from American life.” He also called for a fight against the “growing tide of secularism and atheism.”
(A transcript of Perry’s entire diatribe as well as the audio is available at Right Wing Watch, which gets a Texas-sized h/t for breaking this story.)
Americans United is well aware that Gov. Perry is no friend of the First Amendment, given his day-long prayer rally held in a Houston stadium last August that featured only fundamentalist Christians. But even for Perry, these latest comments were over the top.
Americans United, for one, does not seek, and has never sought, to restrict religious beliefs and practice in the United States. All we want is for religion to be kept out of the government (and government to be kept out of religion) because that’s what the U.S. Constitution requires. Our founders did not base our government of “biblical values,” as Perry claims, but on the values of freedom and equality. You can be a good American regardless of your views about religion.
Asking people to respect the Constitution’s mandates hardly seems like the work of the Devil. It seems like the work of good citizens.
Such extreme rhetoric as Perry’s cannot simply be dismissed as election-season boilerplate. Sure he’s hoping that Obama will lose in November, but as a state governor, Perry’s words carry weight and could be seen by some as a call to action.
While there may not yet be a mass effort in Texas to blatantly violate the First Amendment, Perry’s words are troubling given that a group of Texas high school cheerleaders may soon sue a school district over the right to hold up giant signs with Bible verses at football games.
In his remarks, Perry said those that “preach tolerance and diversity” often “engage in oppression and bullying tactics.” If preaching tolerance and diversity makes someone a “bully,” I shudder to think what spewing hate makes Perry.