Beckel's Willingness to Cave

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Beckel's Willingness to Cave

In this column, USA Today shares a conversation about the separation of church and state between Cal Thomas, the syndicated columnist and former Falwell lieutenant, and Democratic operative Bob Beckel. But I'm annoyed that USA Today handed Beckel the role of supposedly representing my side of this debate.

At various points, Beckel's comments are very much at odds with my thinking and probably at odds with millions of other Americans who believe in church-state separation. At one point, Beckel informs Thomas:
"... there is a middle ground. Religious conservatives want to get prayer back as a formal part of the public school day. If that was the extent of religion in schools, and addressed your 'free exercise of religion' point, let's discuss it."
Beckel may be open to allowing religious prayers to become "a formal part" of the public school day, but I am not. At another point, there is this exchange:
Thomas: "OK, OK, I know a lot of you liberals view public expressions of faith the way Dracula felt about a cross, but can't we agree that Christians, especially, shouldn't expect government to do their work and government shouldn't discriminate against people who have faith in a kingdom not of this world?"

Beckel: "Cal, I wish I would see more public expressions of faith ..."
Why? Whatever one's religious beliefs happen to be, it seems to me that the integrity of those beliefs is often trivialized and sullied when they are turned into public expressions. Public expressions of faith are often a tool for grandstanding by politicians and others.

In their minds, many of the pro-life and conservative activists who rushed down to Florida earlier this year to protest and "pray" for Terri Schiavo were making a public expression of their faith. Did they have that right? Absolutely. And they still do. Was their public expression a self-indulgent charade? In the case of many of them, I think the answer is yes.

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