We deeply appreciate the favorable mail we've received. It's great to know that so many people read our page and support what we do. At the same time, plenty of others have let us know that they think our views are muddled, wrongheaded, or otherwise incorrect. And that's OK with us; we want to hear from everyone that has an intelligent comment about our page, and our critics are nothing if they aren't intelligent.
All the same, over the last few months we've become perplexed at the content of our critical mail. Put simply, a lot of our critics seem either to misunderstand what separationism is all about, or else haven't read parts of the page that anticipate and deal with anti-separationist arguments. As a consequence, we spend lots of our time in correspondence either repeating positions we've already spelled out in detail on our page, or referring people to parts of the page they haven't read. Frankly, we don't think this is a good use of our time, so we've put together a FAQ-like document that deals with some of the arguments/criticisms that are most frequently made in our critical mail. Our hope is that this document can advance the discussion of separationism by clarifying where we stand on some important issues, and directing our critics to parts of our page that they need to read.
Why do you refer to "Religious Right" as if it were a monolithic group? We're not all robots, you know. In fact, I'm not even a member of the religious right.
An additional note: the terms "accomodationist" and "non-preferentialist" are words used by non-separationists themselves. They are, in fact, about as neutral as descriptive terms get--at least as neutral as the term "separationist." Nor is there anything particularly inaccurate with the term "religious right." The people we take to task in the web page are unquestionably religious and politically "right." It's no worse, in our judgment, than the term "secular left," a label that some members of the progressive movement use to describe themselves.
As to your membership in the "religious right," we won't even speculate. It's not for us to determine what you are. If you reject the "religious right" label we won't pin it on you. And we won't assume you're a robot either. But do understand that a lot of what people say to us comes directly out of popular accomodationist books, with no attempt made to check out the accuracy of what these books say. These books are full of inaccuracies; if you haven't checked out the sources you quote in the original, you will likely make some mistakes in what you argue, and we will point that out to you.
Calling the religious conservatives "extreme" is uncharitable/inaccurate/name-calling, etc.
Please understand: we don't think that everything Robertson believes is accepted by every religious conservative. What we do think is that Robertson's views have pushed the movement to the right, and he will continue to push it to the right as long as remains a major player in the Christian Coalition.
Similarly, we are concerned about the influence of Christian "reconstructionism." Reconstructionism is a Calvinist-based movement that holds that all nations should adopt the law of the Old Testament. This law, among other things, would provide for a type of slavery and would require the execution of homosexuals, disobedient children, and people that worship a God other than the God of the Bible (for a more detailed look at what reconstructionists believe, look here). Some reconstructionist organizations (eg., The Coalition on Revival) claim important religious right figures as members, and reconstructionism has certainly made inroads in various state Republican parties. For a closer look at some state Republican party platforms, look here.
Extremity, of course, is in the eye of the beholder. If you don't think Pat Robertson or reconstructionists are outside the mainstream of American politics, that's OK with us. But we aren't going to apologize for depicting some members of the religious right as extreme. They are extreme and, in our opinion, their views deserve to be criticized.
Doubtless you can point to political liberals that have taken extreme positions. Again, we don't disagree. We think that all political movements tend toward extremity. At the same time, it's not the liberals that have power in America, and it's conservatives, not moderates, that seem to be in control of the Republican Party. In contemporary America, it is conservative extremism that poses the greater threat to our democracy.
Separationists want religion to disappear from the public square.
To be more explicit: separationism is not the belief that religion is bad, or that religion has nothing useful to say about current events. Rather, it's the belief that government should have no power to favor, hinder, support, or control religion. If anything, separationism is a conservative position--it denies that government should have the sort of power that non-separationists want to give it. We explain our position on this point in more detail here.
I have this quotation that proves that [name of a founder] rejected separationism.
What's wrong with a kid praying in school? What could you possibly have against that?
Christians are under attack in America. It's getting to the point that you have to hide your religion to be accepted in American society.
If anything, the political arena testifies to the popularity of conservative Christianity in modern America. For example, it is now commonplace for politicians to campaign for office on the strength of their religious convictions. Hence, when Republican presidential candidate Bob Dole decided to stop attending Foundry United Methodist Church in Washington D.C., Dole made it clear that he did so because he was upset with the Church's religious liberalism. Evidently, Dole didn't think it was going to hurt his cause to be know as a conservative Christian. In past decades neither Jimmy Carter or Ronald Reagan made a secret of their religious beliefs, and President Clinton is well known as a Southern Baptist. Nor did the "Christian" label prevent hundreds of evangelicals from running for higher office in the last election. If Christians are so culturally marginalized, why do so many Christians publicize their religious affiliations?
Conservative Christians are now the most important voting block in the Republican party. Religious voters are courted aggressively by both parties on both the national and state level. Evangelical Christianity dominates the content of several cable TV channels. Evangelical radio stations number in the hundreds. Christian music artists now rival the popularity of rock stars. You can't drive down a street without seeing bumper stickers that proclaim the Christian faith. Parachurch organizations have exploded on college and high school campuses. Public opinion polls confirm that the vast majority of Americans see religion as important to their daily lives. If anything, Christianity is now a more dominant cultural and political force than at any time in the last half-century.
So why do so many of our critics think that Christians are being discriminated against? We believe that it has to do with recent Supreme Court decisions that eliminated various forms of favoritism for religion. As noted by historians, Protestantism has enjoyed a de facto establishment in America for most of our history. When prayers were said in schools, for example, these prayers had a Protestant "feel" to them, and when the Bible reading was required it was always the King James version that was read. Hence, when organized school prayer and Bible reading was struck down by the Supreme Court in the 1960s, religion in general, and Protestantism in particular, lost out on the favoritism it previously had enjoyed. Many people see these decisions as discriminatory, but this is wildly inaccurate. Rather, these decisions make the state religiously neutral; they allow students to make their own decisions about whether and how to pray or study the Bible. We reject, in other words, the popular Religious Right argument that these decisions were hostile to religion.
Well, that enought for now. We'll expand on this document sometime in the near future. Stay tuned for further developments.