God and Uncle Sam
During the State of the Union address, George Bush made numerous, albeit vague, references to God:
The liberty we prize is not America's gift to the world, it is God's gift to humanity. …We do not know — we do not claim to know all the ways of Providence, yet we can trust in them, placing our confidence in the loving God behind all of life, and all of history. May He guide us now. And may God continue to bless the United States of America.
During his remarks for those who died on the space shuttle Columbia, Mr. Bush again made references to God. First, to the families of those who died:
In time, you will find comfort and the grace to see you through. And in God's own time, we can pray that the day of your reunion will come.
Second, he concluded his remarks with these words: "May God bless you all."
Lest anyone be led to believe that the American government is anything other than hostile to actual religion, actually exercised, the February 8, 2003 edition of the Washington Times reports the following item of interest:
A Vietnam combat veteran was fired from his job as an honor guardsman at a New Jersey veterans cemetery after he said the phrase "God bless you and this family" during a burial service last fall.
As the Times continues, the veteran, Patrick Cubbage of Philadelphia, spoke the words because they were contained in a Defense Department pamphlet: the Flag Presentation Protocol.
Despite that fact, the Times adds,
After other honor guards objected to the religious blessing, a supervisor told Mr. Cubbage in mid-October that he no longer could say the blessing unless the deceased's family formally requested it…Mr. Cubbage followed his supervisors' orders and stopped saying the blessing until Oct. 31, when at the request of a deceased veteran's relative, he offered the blessing at a graveside presentation. He was fired that day.
What's going on here?
First, the federal government remains as hostile to genuine religion as it has been since Bill Clinton and Janet Reno were in power.
Second, Mr. Bush enjoys the best of both worlds. The secular state continues to be secular, and none of the left wing, anti-religious progressive types are offended.
Mr. Bush himself, of course, invokes the Divinity at the appropriate opportunities. In doing so, he runs against himself. Voters can say "the rest of that faceless bureaucracy may hate religion, but he doesn't."
And yet Mr. Bush does nothing to reverse the federal bureaucratic hatred of all things religious — unless it is to take over religious charities through "faith-based initiatives!"
Politics, after all, is about power. It is, therefore, also about hypocrisy.
Mr. Cubbage has been fired, while Mr. Bush will continue to invoke the blessings of God on whatever cause happens to be popular with the voters and the donors (so long as the voters and donors being courted are God-fearing).
A final note: this is not to advocate that Mr. Bush should do anything positive, i.e., constructive, in the field of religion, unless he wishes to privately found his own church and quit the presidency to serve as minister.
As the First Amendment to the Constitution provides: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof."
Mr. Bush, like any president (despite their pretensions to be Caesars), is nothing more than the executive officer of the federal government, assigned to carry out the laws made by the Congress. Hypocrisy with respect to the exercise of religious beliefs is one thing. Repeating the reign of Henry VIII in the United States would be something else entirely.
February 11, 2003
Mr. Dieteman [send him mail] is an attorney in Erie, Pennsylvania, and a PhD candidate in philosophy at The Catholic University of America.
© 2003 David Dieteman