Senator, What About The Separation of Church and State?

How it not a violation of law for a dozen or so black ministers to call a press conference today at Brown’s Island, and with Senator George Allen, both endorse the upcoming marriage amendment vote AND stand before the press and endorse Senator George Allen in his senate race against Jim Webb?

How blatant does this have to become before the tax-exempt status of these churches are at risk?

I follow some Virginia conservative blogs, and because of that I got wind of George Allen’s news conference this morning at Brown’s Island.

It was scheduled for 10:00AM and I got there early. I went out of curiosity, I had seen Allen in person only twice before and as this was to be a news event following a prayer breakfast, I was wondering if this was to be about the marriage amendment. There were four TV stations and half dozen reporters, but except for me; I was not able to identify a single individual citizen who was at the event.

Allen arrived with about a dozen or so ministers all with Vote “YES” brightly posted on their lapels. All except two of the ministers were black. After the introductions, George Allen spoke about his support for his four “F’s” and his support of family values and the need for this amendment.

As he ended his remarks, and not knowing if there was going to be an opportunity for questions, I called out from the midst of reporters, “Senator, what about the separation of church and state?”

Senator Allen turned to me and for some minutes professionally gave his talking points about how this wasn’t contradictory to separation of church and state, while I stood there stiffened by my rising sense of the right of freedom of speech. Two of the ministers stepped in and were more defensive and outraged.

The press was noticeably irritated at me. And although I stayed around for some time after Allen had left, not one reporter asked me who I was or what my issue was.

I stood on the edge of the circle of reporters after the event and overheard their questions and his response. At one point he threw out a few names of football players from his father’s former Redskins team. I caught the name of Jerry Smith, celebrated tight end back in the 70’s.

I smiled to myself as I had dated a young man in Philadelphia at the same time Jerry Smith was also dating him. Jerry later died of AIDS after living a duplicitous double life and never admitting he was gay.

I walked up to two of the ministers and told them I too was a Christian and we had a heated discussion where I was essentially told I would go to hell. I kept my cool and told them that with my God given mind, I could interpret the Bible by myself, keeping in mind the times and context in which it was written, and still not lose the essential message of love and non judgmental behavior. I said how could they explain to St. Peter that some orphans were not able to have the opportunity of loving caring parents because of their homophobia. I was told that I need to worry about St. Peter myself.

My sense was that using their pastoral advice, as justification, would hardly be a pass for me into the pearly gates.

And leaving I was wishing I had asked the question to George Allen that was really on mind.

“Senator Allen – I know your position on gay marriage, civil unions, gay adoption, even gays serving openly in the military. What I want to know is what is your vision for gays in Virginia in the future. Should they go through conversion therapy? Should they flee the state to places where their equality is guaranteed and where they are equally accepted? Or should they just slink further back into the closets of anonymity and personal pain?”

But I guess I was lucky to have gotten out my nine-word question at all.


Kelly said…
I would have loved to have been there to see it... and the fact that he stuck his foot in his mouth with the Jewish community and said religion should not be an issue... and now this with all the local ministers... someone needs to push these politicians a little more...
Ward Smythe said…
Could you please quote to me the section of the U.S. Constitution that contains the phrase "separation of church and state?"
Vivian J. Paige said…
Actually, there was a segment on Hardball tonight about this very topic. The IRS commissioner was there and he said that they are looking at churches specifically for this problem. Telling people to vote, being amendment advocates is one thing, endorsing a candidate is another. The video is on this page.

Did you get a list of the ministers?
As long as this was done outside of the church facility, there should be no tax problems. Ministers have free speech rights to endorse candidates and issues - their individual activities outside of church typically have no bearing.
As long as this was done outside of the church facility, there should be no tax problems. Ministers have free speech rights to endorse candidates and issues - their personal political activities outside of church typically have no bearing. Otherwise, folks like Del. Dwight Jones (D), a baptist preacher, wouldn't be able to hold office.
Bill Garnett said…
to Ward Smythe:

I understand that you are a conservative, and typically, as in interpretation of the Bible, you must take an inerrant view.

I, on the other hand, am able to use my common sense and understand intention. Find a “right to privacy” in the Constitution – it isn’t there in words you would find in a Google search – but the Supreme Court found it there.

I would suggest you read “Thomas Jefferson and the Wall of Separation Between Church and State” by Dreisbach.

And history taught our founders of how intrusion of church into civil state affairs had wrecked havoc all over Europe, and in our founding they intended a bright line be drawn.

I also direct your attention to Thomas Jefferson’s “A Bill for Establishing Religious Freedom” and particularly,

. . . that the impious presumption of legislators and rulers, civil as well as ecclesiastical, who, being themselves but fallible and uninspired men, have assumed dominion over the faith of others, setting up their own opinions and modes of thinking as the only true and infallible, and as such endeavoring to impose them on others, hath established and maintained false religions over the greatest part of the world and through all time

Our government is founded on reason and not belief, and the scientific and medical communities have determined that homosexuality is not a moral choice but is a state of being, and as for children raised by homosexual parents,

. . . all the social science research on same-sex parenting has reached the same, unequivocal conclusion: lesbian and gay couples raise children who are as healthy, happy and well-adjusted as those raised by heterosexual couples. Based on all the measures by which child development is analyzed, there is no meaningful distinction between children raised by same-sex couples and children raised by opposite-sex couples. Indeed, there are no scientifically valid social science studies establishing that children raised by an intact same sex couple are any differently adjusted as compared with those raised by an intact opposite-sex couple.” This is the conclusion of the National Association of Social Workers. It is the largest social work association in the world, with 153,000 members and chapters in every state as well as internationally.

How can homosexuals now be logically denied from the promise of equal rights -- “That all men are by nature equally free and independent and have certain inherent rights, of which, when they enter into a state of society, they cannot, by any compact, deprive or divest their posterity; namely, the enjoyment of life and liberty, with the means of acquiring and possessing property, and pursuing and obtaining happiness and safety.” As begins Virginia’s Bill of Rights. What part of “pursuing and obtaining happiness “ do you not understand? And how can you deny that if two people have an authentic and mutual and deep and abiding genuine love for each other, such that they wish to commit to each other and care and love each other “until death do they part”, that to deny them the rights of civil marriage equality is to deprive them of rights you take for granted?

Perhaps, as a civilized and enlightened people, it is time we extend these equality, rights, and benefits to gay and lesbian couples.

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