Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Last gasp of the Republican Rationalists

The New York Times > Opinion > John C. Danforth: In the Name of Politics
....When government becomes the means of carrying out a religious program, it raises obvious questions under the First Amendment. But even in the absence of constitutional issues, a political party should resist identification with a religious movement. While religions are free to advocate for their own sectarian causes, the work of government and those who engage in it is to hold together as one people a very diverse country. At its best, religion can be a uniting influence, but in practice, nothing is more divisive. For politicians to advance the cause of one religious group is often to oppose the cause of another.

Take stem cell research. Criminalizing the work of scientists doing such research would give strong support to one religious doctrine, and it would punish people who believe it is their religious duty to use science to heal the sick.

During the 18 years I served in the Senate, Republicans often disagreed with each other. But there was much that held us together. We believed in limited government, in keeping light the burden of taxation and regulation. We encouraged the private sector, so that a free economy might thrive. We believed that judges should interpret the law, not legislate. We were internationalists who supported an engaged foreign policy, a strong national defense and free trade. These were principles shared by virtually all Republicans.

... in recent times, we Republicans have allowed this shared agenda to become secondary to the agenda of Christian conservatives. As a senator, I worried every day about the size of the federal deficit. I did not spend a single minute worrying about the effect of gays on the institution of marriage. Today it seems to be the other way around.
It sounds like it might be possible to enroll Danforth as a "Guardian of the Enlightentment". He might even feel that natural selection belongs in science class, and intelligent design/creationism belongs in the philosophy or theology departments. (Gingrich is in the same category -- even though I disliked his conduct in the house).

So is this the last gasp of a powerless remnant of a now transformed party, or another sign that overreaching by religious conservatives is rousing a sleeping ... errr ...something? If the latter, we'll find out if the "something" is a "giant" or a dwarf.

No comments: