Monday, July 10, 2006

Separation of Church and State (Commie Plot?)

Republicans are super-weird people. If my chance I have any Republican readers, I do apologize for being so blunt, but truly dudes. You're super-weird. Or at least you share a party with some who are.

The cause of the Balabusta discussing Republicans, is that a few nights ago, she and the fella attended a party at the home of friends where she ended up talking to a couple of Republicans over Guinness and cheese and crackers for about an hour. It began when they started discussing the persecution of Christians in the United States, and ended, at least for me, when they started talking about the feasibility of the Chinese landing troops on American soil. (I slid out at that point and joined the group talking about Batman movies.)

Sections of the conversation were quite civilized, although somewhat hindered by the fact that I like to know what the hell I am talking about before mouthing off about specific topics. Sections were weirder. Three things stood out in particular:

1. The tendency to tell me, when I said that something was not true--for example, that you cannot be forced to let your kids sit through any form of sex ed, at least here in California--that whatever it was was the case in New York. At one point, one of the Republicans apologized for referencing New York so often, but 'everything comes out of there and spreads'. I was almost tempted to say "Yes, my grandparents, for example'. Alas, I was too entertained by the fact I didn't really think he quite understood the subtext he was invoking to get a good hot fight going there.

2. A weird moment when the other Republican started trying, I think, to assure me that I would get the picture someday. The phrase she insisted on was that "If you are not a Democrat at twenty you have no heart, and if you aren't a Republican at forty you have no brain." She paused. "I just went straight for the brain," she said. I think I was expected to applaud. I believe the real phrase is: "If you are not a communist at twenty you have no heart, and if you are still one at thirty, you have no head." Also, I can't imagine making a sweeping statement like that about Republicans in a social conversation with one, and was greatly intrigued that she apparently did not think that she was insulting me, or that I should mind if she was. ("Hey, I just met you, but I think you're a moron. Let's hang out.")

3. Then we got to the separation of church and state exchange. This happens when a Republican asks you if 'separation of church and state' is in the Constition. This is a trick question, although I'm not sure it's meant to be. They mean NO, because those words do not appear. However, some people who know perfectly well the words don't appear will say YES, meaning the establishment clause establishes the concept. Anyway, I've been put through this one so often that I can't even be bothered anymore, so I said "No, that phrase does not appear," which led to the canned response about how no one knows that. (Anyone who's had to have a long conversation with a Republican at a cocktail party lately knows that.)

"Do you know what it comes from?" comes the next question. Now I've been told by Republicans before, but I couldn't remember for the life of me what it was supposed to be, and while I was trying to recall, he announced that it's from the Communist Manifesto.

"Oh my," I said. "Reeeeeellly?" And the conversation wheeled away to the evils of something else--Bill Clinton, or clean needles, or some damn thing.

Anyway, this is the third or fourth time I've been through this shtick, and my bullshit detector has always gone off big-time each time I hear about separation of church and state being a Commie import. For one thing, it has the ring of something thought up by someone who really, really, wishes that the establishment clause be made to go away, or at least hit really hard with a hammer until it got woozy.

So I looked it up. (Yes, I'm a moron for not having just known the source. And yes, let this be a warning to people who hear stuff that suits their political ideology and don't look it the hell up on the Internet.)

OK. Here we go. Please feel free to pass the word along, regardless of your party affiliation. This is what I've found:

Briefly, the phrase appears to enter the common American political usage through a majority opinion authored by Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black in the case of Everson vs. Board of Education (1947, the year the Balabusta's father was born.) Black wrote:

"Neither a state nor the Federal government can, openly or secretly, participate in the affairs of any religious organizations or groups and vice versa. In the words of Jefferson, the clause against the establishment of religion by law was intended to erect 'a wall of separation between Church and State'."

Jefferson? Oh, yeah, the phrase ORIGINALLY comes from an 1802 letter of Thomas Jefferson's to a committee of Baptist leaders in Connecticut. Communist Manifesto...BLEEEEEEEEP.

Now, the exact meaning and context of both Jefferson's letter and Black's opinion can be argued till the cows come home. That is not the point. The point is that it is an American concept of honorable age and precedent. And the Communist Manifesto thing is bull.

Where does the version I keep hearing come from? According to Snopes, Article 124 of the 1936 Constitution of the USSR states that 'the church is separated from the state, and the school from the church'. In Russian of course. I'm guessing that's the only connection here. But Communists are always a good scare tactic.

And this from a woman trying to get a job at a Catholic school. ;) God bless Google and the United States of America.


Sultan Knish said...

They were actually mangling a Churchill quote about being a socialist at 30.

Balabusta in Blue Jeans said...

Ah. Yes. Thanks, that would be it.

Sultan Knish said...

yes and the entire discussion over seperation of church and state runs into the fact that the very concepts being discussed took on a different form then than they do now

the founders were concerned primarily with a state church which liberals tend to ignore in their argument while conservatives ignore the fact that by the lights of the baptists and evangelical christians and catholics pushing the issues today many of the founders were borderline deists and would have had no use for their brand of christianity

all told it's one of those meaningless debates that goes nowhere because both sides are just trying to use the constitution as a prop for their agenda without actually reading it in the context of the time

Irviner Chasid said...

I don't know where its from, but I heard a quote from a comedian that says, "All americans are democrats untill they get mugged, and they get mugged the day they first pay taxes"

parcequilfaut said...

Thank G-d my father is a lawyer who majored in American history.
He'll argue the extent of the establishment clause with you until the cows come home, but he doesn't resort to calling folks Commies.