"I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, thus building a wall of separation between Church and State."
Those words written in 1804 by Thomas Jefferson to the Danbury Baptists established that the first amendment should guarantee the right to religion, but it must be separate from government. In 1811, James Madison further clarified this by stating "Practical distinction between Religion and Civil Government are essential to the purity of both, and as guaranteed by the Constitution of the United States".
These founding fathers of the American constitution had made it quite clear: While no one can be discriminated against based on their religious beliefs, neither should religion take precedence over civil rights, nor be the determination of what is best for Americans. Before I get deeper into this editorial it should be made clear: In no way is this article condemning religion or anyone's beliefs. However, this editorial is intended to show why there needs to be a separation of church and state when determining social policy.
For example, President Reagan did not publicly address the growing epidemic of AIDS until 1987, mainly to appease the religious conservatives in the Republican Party. According to the book "The Republican War on Science", Reagan's domestic policy advisor Gary Bauer, a powerhouse of the Religious Right, "recoiled at the notion of educating children about safe sex and condoms." As a result, AIDS spread among young people at a rate higher than it might otherwise have.
But it wasn't just in the U.S. that the Religious Right was able to help the spread of AIDS. When CARE received a $50 million dollar contract to fight AIDS in Africa and Asia by the Bush administration, the legendary organization was called "anti-American" and "promoted a pro-prostitution agenda." by Rick Santorum, a right-wing religious fanatic who lost his job in the mid-term election. The attacks from Right-Wing clergy continued until it was announced that the CARE contract was being phased out. In its place $200 million would now go to "faith-based groups", many of whom demand abstinence in third world nations, while opposing the distribution of condoms.
Another example is the Bush administration putting faith before facts in his attack on the use of stem cells for research. This assault was not based on science, but on pandering to pro-life activists who equated stem-cell research with the abortion debate. As a result, advances in treatments for Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer's and other ailments have been pushed back years. The Bush attack on stem cell research has even motivated former Republican first lady Nancy Reagan to take on the current White House.
Plus, don't forget the Taliban in Afghanistan who forced all women to wear burkas and took human rights back a thousand years all in the name of religion.
At this point many are probably asking: "that's interesting, but what does it have to do with gambling?"
That's a fair question. Note how each of the 4 senators and congressmen that pushed through the anti gambling bill voted on various issues. First look at Bill Frist, the Tennessee Congressman who snuck the bill into the Safe Port Act and essentially hoodwinked all those who opposed the legislation. The below statements are all from ontheissues.org:
* Voted NO on $100M to reduce teen pregnancy by education & contraceptives. (Mar 2005) * Voted YES on criminal penalty for harming unborn fetus during other crime. (Mar 2004) * Voted YES on banning partial birth abortions except for maternal life. (Mar 2003) * Voted YES on maintaining ban on Military Base Abortions. (Jun 2000) * Voted YES on banning partial birth abortions. (Oct 1999) * Voted YES on banning human cloning. (Feb 1998)
How interesting. Despite having a medical license, Frist seems to oppose anything that goes against his church's beliefs. It seems this "doctor" is more concerned about opposing his Presbyterian religion than he is about teen pregnancy. It's a mystery in this day and age that anyone could have a problem with sex education to teenagers.
And, of course, it was Frist, a well-respected doctor who on This Week with George Stephanopoulos, refused to condemn the canard that AIDS could be transmitted through sweat and tears.
He followed that up during the Teri Schiavo case by doing a medical analysis by remote control, telling congress "based on a review of the video footage which I spent an hour or so looking at last night in my office...She certainly seems to respond to visual stimuli."
Frist then denied he ever made the statement, telling Today show host Matt Lauer "I never said, "She responded". I said I reviewed the court videotapes - the same ones the other doctors reviewed - and I questioned: Is her diagnosis correct?" He must have forgotten that telling lies is a sin.
Frist, once considered a front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination in 2008, must have seen a bleak future for himself when he announced he would not be running for the office.
Next is Jon Kyl, the Senator from Arizona who is also Presbyterian and claimed that he was no fan of gambling and that it was ungodly.
Again from ontheissues.org:
* Voted YES on constitutional ban of same-sex marriage. (Jun 2006) * Voted NO on adding sexual orientation to definition of hate crimes. (Jun 2002) * Voted NO on expanding hate crimes to include sexual orientation. (Jun 2000) * Voted YES on prohibiting same-sex marriage. (Sep 1996) * Voted NO on prohibiting job discrimination by sexual orientation. (Sep 1996) * Voted YES on increasing penalties for drug offences. (Nov 1999) * Voted YES on spending international development funds on drug control. (Jul 1996) * Voted YES on $75M for abstinence education. (Jul 1996) * Voted YES on giving federal aid only to schools allowing voluntary prayer. (Mar 1994) * Voted YES on killing restrictions on violent videos to minors. (May 1999) * Rated 100% by the Christian Coalition: a pro-family voting record. (Dec 2003) * Voted YES on prohibiting same-sex basic training. (Jun 1998)
Once again, the voting pattern is to support his Presbyterian beliefs on every issue. He voted no to job discrimination by sexual orientation for crying out loud. So if you are gay there is no problem with your boss passing you over for a promotion. Unreal!
Next up is Bob Goodlatte who added his name to Kyl's original bill and actually was largely responsible for the current ban on funding to casinos and sportsbooks. Without going into as much detail, suffice to say he is on the same page as Kyl and Frist regarding everything from same sex marriage, to abortion and he wants schools to have mandatory prayer. As well, any school that doesn't have prayer would be cut off from federal funding. No doubt that prayer would support his Christian Science background. It's safe to say they won't be reading any Muslim, Hindu or Buddhist text in the prayer's, regardless of the religious makeup of the community where the school is.
In all fairness, the one candidate not mentioned was the Democratic senator from Iowa, James Leach, who was voted out in the last election. His policies were a combination of pro church and anti church stance. Lastly, the President of the United States. Bush claimed that his presidency is a mission from God and all the decisions he makes were for the glory of God. God told him to attack Iraq. Bush is also great at making controversial decisions based solely on religion and passing it off as being objective.
For example, he said he would allow stem cell research but only on existing lines because he was concerned about where it may lead in the future if it is allowed to progress too far. He claims he has no interest on revisiting Roe vs. Wade, but he is concerned about the rights of the unborn child and thus wants to encourage women not to have abortions but rather to consider adoption, or better yet abstain until ready to have a child. Of course, for those who do carry the child, he is not in favour of offering them more government support. In fact, Bush made his whole presidency appear that he was not radical in any form and instead was just following what others in government laid out for him. At the United Nations when making his statement as to why the world had to attack Iraq, Bush forced Colin Powell to show conceptual drawings of trucks that could possibly have nuclear weapons on them. They didn't, but they could have. Colin Powell eventually quit, with the above display being a primary reason.
And, of course, with the online gambling ban, it wasn't his fault either. Heck, the Senate and Congress passed the Safe Port bill and he was obligated to sign it. It wasn't his fault that the amendment regarding gambling had absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with port security or the fact that it supported his anti gambling beliefs.
Again, it must be made clear: Anyone has the right to believe what they want, but a separation of church and state is a must or else policies become based on your beliefs, rather than what is in the best interest of the country. This bill to ban online gambling had nothing whatsoever to do with concern for youth betting or lack of regulation, and everything to do with imposing religious beliefs. The senators couldn't go after the lotteries, race tracks or church bingos because they had large lobby groups, and of course states rely on the hidden tax - i.e. lottery revenue. So instead, Bush and the others in congress decided to go after the easy target, i.e. offshore gambling concerns. Who cares if Antigua or Costa Rica is upset with the United States? Hell, the United States believes in Manifest Destiny so it is their right to coerce those in the Western Hemisphere to adhere to anything they believe, despite the fact that these countries rely on that revenue stream to exist.
The problem, of course, is that the belief isn't always right and not everyone is concerned about what the Christian churches think. So why is the United States imposing this policy on countries and ruining so many people's lives? The U.S. may not be making friends throughout the rest of the world but at least focus on the family and the Baptist churches are happy. And if the current government has its way, all gambling will eventually fall - except of course for the lotteries and bingos - which are Godly.
As Supreme Court judge James W. Smith said in a scene from "Borat": "The United States was once a Christian country and mark my words we will again become a Christian country." So much for the separation of church and state.
Look for part 2: If the Government Believes that It Should Rule by Religion, What Exactly does Religious Dogma Say about Gambling?