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Produced & Maintained by Idaho Mountain Express, Box 1013, Ketchum, ID 83340-1013 
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Copyright © 2002 Express Publishing Inc.
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For the week of June 5 - 11, 2002

  Opinion Column

Praise the Lord, 
now vote Republican

Commentary by PAT MURPHY

For weeks after Sept. 11, furious American politicians and commentators argued aloud about the correctness of governments such as Saudi Arabia providing direct support of Islamic religions that produced fanatics.

Now, in the name of religion, a bloc of U.S. congressmen have fashioned legislation that would open the door for churches, synagogues and mosques to become politically active with the blessing of the government and thereby become tools of party politics.

This is mostly the dream, not surprisingly, of ultraconservative Republicans who yearn for a theocracy in which Christian churches are vineyards for harvesting votes, with clergymen extolling worshippers to vote for so-and-so, and government in Washington imposing moral codes transcribed from the Bible.

Although one cannot imagine American worshippers resorting to barbaric behavior in the name of God—notwithstanding killings of doctors and torching of abortion clinics by fanatical anti-abortionists—the role of religion as an arm of politics and government is precisely what has led to so much discord and violence now sweeping the world.

The most prominent bill, drafted by North Carolina Republican congressman Walter B. Jones and supported by 113 Republicans and three Democrats, would allow religious groups to engage in virtually unlimited political activities, including endorsing candidates and lobbying, without losing their tax exempt status as long as they limited political-related expenditures to a statutory ceiling.

One of the guiding hands in this movement is the Rev. Lou Sheldon, the California-based Traditional Values leader and one of Christianity’s most unabashedly intolerant figures.

One can almost read the minds of Republican backers of this legislation if it passes: use religious groups and their clergy to endorse GOP candidates for Congress and thereby control both congressional houses, plus ensure President Bush’s second term.

Thereafter, a second Bush—Jeb, the governor of Florida—would become the next dynastic presidential candidate of the GOP and its religious mouthpieces for eight years, followed by Jeb’s glamorous son, another George, for eight years. A succession of Bushes and GOP control of the Senate and House would ensure a U.S. Supreme Court packed with religious conservative judges.

Meanwhile, the current attorney general, John Ashcroft, would be elevated by one of the Bushes to chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, where he could lead the Christian transformation of legal doctrine.

All the while, worshippers attending services might face the spectacle of clergymen, who’ve become captives of donations and promises from politicians, promoting political candidates rather than expiating sin.

And wouldn’t religions become convenient loopholes through which politicians could collect campaign funds?

But voices of sanity within the Republican Party are opposed to this dangerous venture to make politicians and churches partisan partners in shaping government.

As House Ways and Means committee member Rep. Mark Foley, R-Fla., pointed out, endowing religions with the right to be politically active will invite increased government oversight of their activities.

"They might wish they’d never opened this Pandora’s box," Foley said.


The Idaho Mountain Express is distributed free to residents and guests throughout the Sun Valley, Idaho resort area community. Subscribers to the Idaho Mountain Express will read these stories and others in this week's issue.