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Austin Cline

Sharron Angle: No Separation of Church & State

By July 6, 2010

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It's practically an article of faith among conservative Christians and far-right Republicans that there is no such thing as "separation of church and state." It's thus no surprise to see Republicans denouncing separation and defending theocratic politics but that doesn't mean that it's any easier to watch when it's happening. Sharron Angle, Republican candidate for Senator in Nevada and favorite among Tea Baggers, tried to defend her anti-separation views and only revealed just how confused her mind really is.

The revelations came when Sharron Angle was interviewed by Jon Ralston in his "Face to Face" program. Angle was asked about testimony she gave in 1995 to the state Assembly in 1995 when she criticized a voucher program without money for private religious schools:

"The bill is exclusionary of many private religious schools and Ms. Angle believed that to be an un-American concept, and the tenant of the separation of church and state is an unconstitutional doctrine. She referred to it as a politically correct bias wrapped in appealing language."

Ralston quoted the above then proceeded:

Ralston: The separation of church and state arises out of the Constitution.

Angle: No, it doesn't, John.

Ralston: Oh it doesn't? Oh, the Founding Fathers didn't believe in the separation of church and state, the Establishment Clause, the First Amendment?

Angle: Actually, Thomas Jefferson has been misquoted, like I've been misquoted out of context. Thomas Jefferson was actually addressing a church and telling them through his address that there had been a wall of separation put up between the church and the state precisely to protect the church.

Ralston: So there should be no separation.

Angle: To protect the church from being taken over by a state religion. And that's what they meant by that.

Source: Crooks & Liars

So, the separation of church and state doesn't arise out of the Constitution... but there should be separation to "protect the church" from the state? Huh? First Sharron Angle denies that the separation of church and state really is constitutional, then she proceeds to explain what she thinks separation of church and state is "really" about.

I'll ignore the fact that Sharron Angle is just repeating a popular myth about church/state separation -- that it is only supposed to function in one direction -- because her desperate confusion over her own beliefs is far more significant. She wants to be a U.S. Senator and considers herself qualified to hold that office, but she can't even coherently state her own political positions.

Fortunately, Angle also reveals just how important church/state separation really is when she is asked about her views on abortion:

Manders: I, too, am pro life but I'm also pro choice, do you understand what I mean when I say that.

Angle: I'm pro responsible choice. There is choice to abstain choice to do contraception. There are all kind of good choices.

Manders: Is there any reason at all for an abortion?

Angle: Not in my book.

Manders: So, in other words, rape and incest would not be something?

Angle: You know, I'm a Christian and I believe that God has a plan and a purpose for each one of our lives and that he can intercede in all kinds of situations and we need to have a little faith in many things.

Source: Huffington Post

It's bad enough that she would make abortion a crime no matter what the circumstances, but for our purposes here it's her reasoning which we should focus on: it's because she believes "God has a plan and purpose" for us all. In other words, abortion is wrong because it would be an attempt to thwart God's plans. Setting aside the fact that maybe abortion is as much a part of God's plan as rape, Sharron Angle's argument here boils down to nothing more than: abortion is wrong because of what I think my god would want.

This is exactly the sort of "reasoning" which church/state separation is supposed to protect us from. It's not just about protecting churches from the state, but also about protecting individual citizens from churches and religious believers using the power of the state to impose their religious dogmas on us all. If the state makes abortion a crime because "God has a plan," it isn't acting to protect life but rather to privilege certain religious beliefs and impose religious standards on everyone.

Once again, though, Sharron Angle also managed to reveal just how confused she is about her own positions:

When Ralston challenged her comments to a Reno conservative talk show host that abortion should not be available even in the case of rape or incest, Angle said she values life.

"You want government to go and tell a 13-year-old child who's been raped by her father she has to have that baby?" Ralston asked.

"I didn't say that," she said. "I always say that I value life."

She went further to say she believes government should stay out of the issue of abortion, but it decided to insert its control after the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision.

"The government decided to get involved in this, not me," she said. "I'm just defending my position."

Is it possible to be any more incoherent? I doubt it -- her original statement was unambiguous that a 13-year-old child raped and impregnated by her father should be forced by the state to carry the pregnancy to term under threat of legal punishment. It seems that she didn't actually think much about what this meant because as soon as she is challenged on the implications of her position, she tries to weasel out of it by insisting that legal abortion mans that the government is "involved" -- as if there is no government involvement by making abortion a crime!

I'll bet she sincerely and truly believes that the government gets involved when it's not allowed to criminalise some action but stops being involved when it prosecutes and imprisons people for some action. It's almost makes sense if you remember how many Republcians are in favor of privatizing every facet of the government, including law enforcement and prisons.

From beginning to end, Sharron Angle's positions are confused, incoherent, and irrational -- but they are precisely what define right-wing Christianity and right-wing conservatism in America today. Sharron Angle isn't an aberration in American conservatism or American Christianity. Maybe 20 years ago she might have been, but today she's the mainstream.

Comments
July 6, 2010 at 4:34 pm
(1) MikeC says:

It terrifies that me morons like this (Sharron Angle) can even be considered for Senate, much less the popular candidate.

July 7, 2010 at 8:46 am
(2) tracieh says:

>Angle: To protect the church from being taken over by a state religion. And that’s what they meant by that.

It’s like the Reeses’ commercial. You can’t get chocolate on the peanut butter without getting peanut butter on the chocolate. If the state promotes, endorses, supports a religious position how is that not “state religion”? As an example, what if the state promoted Muslim prayer? Would THAT be OK with this person? I am highly doubtful.

I don’t see how religion can be part of state without state being part of religion…?

July 8, 2010 at 9:06 am
(3) Lady Valar says:

Liars for Jesus – The Religious Right rewrites History…

http://www.amazon.com/Liars-Jesus-Religious-Alternate-American/dp/1419644386

July 9, 2010 at 1:36 pm
(4) MKR says:

From beginning to end, Sharron Angle’s positions are confused, incoherent, and irrational — but they are precisely what define right-wing Christianity and right-wing conservatism in America today.

Your claim is supported by the researches of sociologist Jim Ault into the ways of fundamentalist Christians in the US, as reported “here (“A Sociologist Lives Among Christian Fundamentalists: His Conclusions” at Blog on the Way):

Ault’s next most disarming insight is that Fundamentalism relies upon situation ethics. He expressed surprise that the preacher, a man he came to admire, would thunder that divorce was always wrong, and everybody would shout “Amen!” yet several people in the church were divorced. They felt no incongruity about condemning divorce yet also being divorced. Ault learned that the Fundamentalist mindset believed that it believed in the absolutes that it claimed, yet the culture was one of addressing every situation individually and evaluating it in light of multiple factors. While remaining conservative and morally strict, Fundamentalism, nonetheless, relied upon situation for its moral decisions, not absolutes. Divorce, in the end, was NOT always wrong if a situation was one that was intolerable or “unavoidable”. The people, he noted, saw no contradiction in what they said vs what they actually practiced. They thought they believed in an absolute morality, and they practiced situation ethics.

July 9, 2010 at 3:16 pm
(5) Todd says:

When life gives you incestuous rape, make rapeonade.

July 9, 2010 at 6:47 pm
(6) John Hanks says:

No money for Israel or Saudi Arabia, etc. Separation of Synagogue, Mosque and state.

July 10, 2010 at 5:17 pm
(7) Dave Y. says:

I truly don’t understand how you folks keep missing it?
This is a blatant act of SEDITION, an attempt by the Xian right to overthrough the constitution, and this act is punishable by DEATH, its time for you ALL to stop whining and make the powers that be prosecute these acts or refuse to pay your taxes and have anything to do with the goverment, the RETARDED don’t have a RIGHT to be heard, they ARE mentaly incompetent, meaning they do not have right to vote or be heard, yo0u want corruption to end, then stop protecting the retarded from the world and protect the world from the retarded!

Inteligent Design- letting the retarded pretend their normal for more than a decade now!

July 13, 2010 at 3:14 pm
(8) Bapzzy says:

You are no better than the bigots of the conservative religious right. Stereotyping all and separating us further.

July 13, 2010 at 3:45 pm
(9) Austin Cline says:

You are no better than the bigots of the conservative religious right. Stereotyping all and separating us further.

Feel free to show how. For starters, would you like to point to anywhere that I have stereotyped all members of any group?

July 30, 2010 at 2:19 pm
(10) Catherine says:

I’m always amazed at how people are ignorant of the “Constitution”, Sharron Angle is absolutely correct. “The separation of church and state” is to protect the church from the government.
Do you really think our forefathers were worried about the church interfering in the government?

You all need to go back and rediscover ” the Constitution “for yourselves and not take someone’s word on their interpretation.

July 30, 2010 at 3:11 pm
(11) Austin Cline says:

I’m always amazed at how people are ignorant of the “Constitution”, Sharron Angle is absolutely correct.

Feel free to demonstrate how, if you can.

“The separation of church and state” is to protect the church from the government.

And the government from the church.

Do you really think our forefathers were worried about the church interfering in the government?

Absolutely – they had lots of bad examples of what happens when religion controls governments in recent (to them) European history.

If you have trouble understanding what’s wrong when religion controls government, take a look at Saudi Arabia.

August 10, 2010 at 9:47 pm
(12) Robin says:

Catherine, YOU need to read our constitution just once! The wording of the constitution itself is crystal clear, without interpretation. There are two religion clauses in the first amendment: the establishment clause (which protects the government from religion) and the free exercise clause (which protects the rights of individuals, not religions).

August 11, 2010 at 1:19 am
(13) Lisa says:

If you have more trouble understanding what’s wrong when religion controls governmnet, look to the Taliban. Just recently they executed a 47 year old pregnant woman AFTER flogging her 200 times. What was her crime? Alleged adultery. Was the man executed as well? Now you know those men can’t control their basic impulses when we women are entifing them. See the link to this atrocity below.

http://www.cnn.com/2010/WORLD/asiapcf/08/09/afghanistan.woman.killed/index.html?hpt=T2

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