The Separation of Church and State

Back to basics: Raskin reminds us of what we’re fighting for

  Rob Boston

Sometimes you just need to return to some bedrock principles. That happened yesterday for attendees of the Summit for Religious Freedom (SRF), who were treated to a powerful address courtesy of U.S. Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.).

The four-term congressman, who after his election quickly became one of the most articulate defenders of constitutional values, hailed SRF attendees as “secularists and constitutional patriots.” He also thanked the crowd for the warm welcome he received, noting that while a book he wrote has been banned in both Russia and Texas, “I’m making it with Americans United!”

Raskin went on to salute “that great American invention – the separation of church and state” and hailed America’s founders who “wanted to rebel against centuries of fusion of church and state.”

A secular constitution

Founders like Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and others, Raskin reminded the crowd, created a secular Constitution that does not mention God. That document, he added, contains a guarantee of religious freedom and a provision, found in Article VI, that says no one can be subjected to a religious test as a qualification of holding public office.

Christian Nationalists threaten all of that – and more, Raskin reminded attendees. He blasted the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection, reminding people that it was an attempted coup and that its aim was “to overthrow our constitutional democracy.” It’s not a metaphor or hyperbolic, Raskin said – it’s reality.

“They want to turn the Ten Commandments into law, Raskin said. And to those who insist that the Ten Commandments are the basis of U.S. law, Raskin had a simple reply: “Tell that to James Madison and Thomas Jefferson.”

Despite the challenges of the times, Raskin urged attendees to remain firm and keep fighting. “We have heroes on our side,” he said. “And we’ve got the Constitution and the Bill of Rights on our side.”

A word from Thomas Paine

Raskin left the crowd with some words by Tom Paine, the pamphleteer whose words stirred hearts during the American Revolution. In “The American Crisis,” Paine observed, “These are the times that try men’s souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph.”

Concluded Raskin, “Let’s make that victory ours, Americans United for Separation of Church and State!”

It was the message we needed to hear – at the very time we needed to hear it.

Photo by Chris Line

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