Monday, December 12, 2011


What Perry gets wrong about religion in America

By Bishop Gene Robinson

GOP presidential candidate Rick Perry talks about his faith and America in a new political ad Rick Perry would be pathetic, if he weren’t so infuriating. In an effort to revive a sinking political campaign, Gov. Perry has reached a new low in promoting himself in a recent commercial.

The governor begins this 30 second spot with “I’m not ashamed to admit that I’m a Christian.” He goes on to say things that Christians should be ashamed of him for.

“You don’t need to be in the pew every Sunday to know there’s something wrong in this country when gays can serve openly in the military but our kids can’t openly celebrate Christmas or pray in school.”

It is breathtaking (and not in a good way) when someone who aspires to be the Commander in Chief denigrates the soldiers he means to command. Just like all the other soldiers in our military, our gay and lesbian soldiers are dodging bullets and IED’s to preserve our rights as Americans. The right of all Americans to represent their country in our military is now the law of the land, a law that Gov. Perry apparently disagrees with and presumably would work to change if elected president.

The blood of gay and lesbian soldiers flows as readily and as redly as that of other young Americans fighting in Afghanistan, yet Gov. Perry feels free to use them as political cannon fodder for his campaign. In an attempt to garner conservative Christian votes, he would stigmatize these brave young men and women who are, as we speak, risking their lives on our behalf. If this is patriotism, count me out!

Gov. Perry also apparently disagrees with the separation of church and state, a constitutional separation which not only creates freedom of religion, but freedom from religion. He’s also got his facts wrong. No child is precluded from praying in school. Any American, young or old, can pray anywhere he or she wants to. What numerous rulings by the Supreme Court prohibit, based on the Constitution, is the establishment of religion. No teacher can pray to a Christian God and force their students to participate in or listen to such a prayer, as if the Christian understanding of God is the good and only “right” way to think of God.

Christians - or at least many of us - value the separation of church and state and see no harm in drawing these careful lines of separation for the good of a diverse nation. We don’t need the enforcement of the state in making our case for a loving God. We offer numerous and ample opportunities for public prayer in our churches and religious gatherings. We don’t need them or want them in school. Besides, we learned long ago that allegiance to God can’t be a forced march.

Christians everywhere should be alarmed that a candidate for our nation’s highest office would play fast and loose with both the Constitution and our men and women in uniform. It would be simply pathetic that Gov. Perry would do so in an effort to entice conservative voters, if it weren’t such an abuse of religion and a violation of the Constitution.

Gov. Perry is right about one thing. There is something wrong in America. But surely it begins with disloyalty to our brave troops in the field and violation of the hard-won separation between church and state which protects all Americans.

The Rt. Rev. V. Gene Robinson, is the Episcopal Bishop of New Hampshire and Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress, Washington, DC. He was the first openly gay bishop in the Episcopal Church in America.

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