America’s policy of church-state separation was pioneered by leaders like Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, but Texas Gov. Rick Perry apparently believes it may be the work of Satan.
During a September conference call as part of Religious Right preacher Rick Scarborough’s “40 Days to Save America,” Perry unleashed 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,” asserted 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.”
The Texas governor asserted that those who “preach tolerance and diversity” often “engage in oppression and bullying tactics.”
Appearing on Texas Public Radio’s “Texas Matters,” AU Senior Policy Analyst Rob Boston attempted to set Perry straight.
“The principle of separation of church and state is a principle that was devised in part by men like James Madison, Thomas Jefferson, George Washington – [it] goes back to the founding period,” Boston said. “Both Jefferson and Madison spoke in their writings of the phrase ‘separation of church and state’….
“But the point is that they believed that religious freedom could only flourish if we had this separation,” Boston continued. “They were not trying to be hostile toward religion or to shut religion down, but they truly believed that in the United States we wouldn’t make the same mistake that had been made in European nations where religion and government were joined together and there was violence and war and conflict as a result.”
Added Boston, “It is sometimes difficult to respond to some of the arguments that are used against separation of church and state because they are so incoherent; claims that separation of church and state is satanic, for example. You hear that from some folks on the Religious Right…. I would ask those folks to consider this: When they argue that there should be no separation of church and state, what is the alternative? Some kind of merger of religion and government? Which religion? We have thousands of varieties of religion in the United States.
“Rick Perry would probably not be very happy if the Christianity that the government chose to align itself with was of the liberal variety,” Boston concluded. “He’s talking about fundamentalism and conservative Christianity merging with the state.”
Dallas Morning News columnist Jacquielynn Floyd said Texans are used to strange outbursts from Perry but that this one might have gone too far.
“[O]ur governor’s own crazy-talk brand of religious extremism is starting to sound not just uninformed, but slightly paranoid with its apocalyptic themes of spiritual warfare against Satan’s lies and families being ‘under siege,’” Floyd wrote. “If a guy with horns and a pitchfork rings the doorbell, don’t answer it!”
She added, “As I said, we Texans don’t really care that much what the rest of the world thinks – our hide is as tough as armadillo armor – but the governor is starting to, well, test the limits of our tolerance. For heaven’s sake, give us a break.”