But we are going to take to task presidential candidate Rick Santorum for his views on church-state separation. We do so because this separation that the former Pennsylvania senator would weaken or dismantle altogether goes to the very survivability of Judaism in America — and to all other minority faiths.
Jews know well the tyranny that comes when a country favors one religion over another. Likely, we would not have immigrated to the United States — at least, not in the numbers we did — were it not for the freedom of religion guaranteed by our Constitution.
That freedom is fixed in the First Amendment. Here’s the exact wording:
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
We believe those words create a solid firewall between pulpits and the public realm. Your taxes shouldn’t go to faith-based initiatives; you should be free to marry whomever you wish; you may end a pregnancy (especially in cases of rape and incest); your kids may study in public schools without fear of religious indoctrination.
To put it succinctly, the Constitution gives us rights, and those rights are not subject to an up or down vote.
Does Santorum feel that way? We’re not so sure.
Addressing the First Amendment during a speech at a Christian day school in Kalamazoo, Mich., Santorum said religion “is to be freed from the dictates of government. But (emphasis added) the government is not to be free of the influence of faith and people of faith.”
That statement is broad enough to be dangerous to every religious minority in America, because people “influence” their government — by the vote.
Santorum’s implication is that the people may vote away other people’s rights (or elect representatives who will do it for them) because they don’t jive with their religious beliefs.
“I don’t believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute,’’ Santorum told ABC News. “The idea that the church can have no influence or no involvement in the operation of the state is absolutely antithetical to the objectives and vision of our country.’’
This said, where would he draw the line? If church-state separation isn’t absolute, then everything is on the table, including the religious protections afforded Jews and other faiths.
The door Santorum would open is, to use his own words, “antithetical to the objectives and vision of our country.’’
Bad things can happen in a great country. Black people were once considered property; women were vassals of their husbands; public universities set quotas on how many Jews were admitted; Japanese Americans were rounded up and sent to detention camps.
America is a land where anything is possible. Usually that’s for the better, but it can be for the worse. All it takes for an erosion of our rights to occur is for good men and women to do nothing.