16 April 2005

The Democrats' God problem

God has returned to the Florida Legislature, and the parties have chosen sides. The issue in Tallahassee is again school prayer, with the Republicans for it and most Democrats against. Of course, the debate is over state-mandated prayer versus the right to the freedom of religion. The Democrats are morally on the right side of this issue, but unfortunately they choose to battle religious fundamentalism with extremist secularism instead of responsibly promoting the freedom to pray without government intrusion. Democrats should win this issue, but they probably will not, because they lack the necessary political instincts and continue to campaign in a manner that is radically disconnected from the values of everyday voters.

As reported by the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, Representative Wilbert "Tee" Holloway (D-Miami Gardens) has sponsored House Bill 355, which would allow student-led prayer at public school events. This is the fourth time that Representative Holloway has sponsored this legislation on behalf of the Republican leadership. Each year Representative Holloway assumes the role of GOP stooge by sponsoring the government prayer bill and by driving a wedge in between the Democratic Party leadership and the party's Black Caucus. Unfortunately, he fails to figure out that he is being used by the Republican Party, i.e., "The Man."

Holloway claims to be sponsoring this bill for young black people. He argues that the problems in the black community would be cured if only the students in his district were required by the government to pray. I wish Holloway was right. Then problems such as high crime rates, low home ownership, high unemployment, and low education standards would obviously all be solved if the students were made to say a government-mandated prayer each morning. It's wishful thinking, but somewhat naive.

Unfortunately, the bill is fatally flawed. Under the legislation, a student must be randomly selected to lead his or her classmates in a prayer of their choice. In order to not violate the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, a teacher may at no time interfere with the student's prayer. Seems to make sense when the student is leading the class in reciting the Lord's Prayer or scripture in its original Hebrew; however, the bill fails to address those incidents when a remote possibility occurs. What if a student decides to lead the class in a prayer to Satan, claiming the Church of Satan as his or her "religion?" Under the Holloway bill, the teacher would be prohibited from interfering and our children would be forced to listen to a satanic prayer. Even worse, what if the student claims to be a fundamental Muslim and preaches "death to America" before a classroom and pushes al Qaeda propaganda on our children? Again, the teacher would be powerless to stop the prayer and our children would be forced to listen to this garbage. As one can see, the potential harm of this bill greatly outweighs the benefits. Unfortunately, Representative Holloway's bill opens the door to the possibility that our public school students may have their minds poisoned by some bad apples in our schools. And the worst part about it is that Holloway and the Republicans in the Legislature would give those evil doers additional legal protection when they try to hurt our children.

Of course, we can expect level-headed Democrats to save the day, right? Wrong! Democrats believe that they can win the religious debate by emphasizing the separation of church and state and by claiming that we must keep religion out of our schools. Unfortunately, these Democrats continue to bury their heads in the sand and simply refuse to acknowledge the fact that you must battle bad religion with good religion, not with no religion.

Reverend Jim Wallis has been a leading voice of faith in the media, calling for the Democrats to wake up and realize that they are rapidly losing the faith voters that turn out during elections with great frequency. The liberal preacher Wallis, who edits the magazine Sojourners, lays down the arguments that Democrats should be making. His publications go much further than those points which could be made regarding Holloway's government prayer bill; however, he makes one clear point. Democrats will never win over religious voters if they continue to run away from the debate, claiming separation of church and state as their justification. They must engage the Republicans, and Democrats like Holloway, by stating that they are people of faith who believe in responsibly bringing God into our lives. Unfortunately, Florida Democrats refuse to make those arguments, so they continue to lose any debate relating to faith.

Holloway's bill will surely pass the Florida House, because the members there do what they are told and refuse to think for themselves. If the House leadership wants a bill to pass, it will pass. The Florida Senate, however, may prevent this legislation from becoming law, just as they did two years ago. By realizing that allowing Satanists and terrorists into our public schools is not the proper way to honor God, Florida Senators were wise to stop this bad bill in 2003. Let's just hope that the state's upper chamber exercises the same wisdom this year.


Anonymous gator78 said...

I agree that the Democrats are bad on this issue, but I think this blog is too harsh. The title especially is overboard.

6:13:00 PM  
Blogger james H said...

I'm sorry that you feel that way. If you read the whole post, you'll notice that I am kinder to the Ds than the Rs. I just think that they are both wrong on the religious debate.

I will say that the Democrats have a chance to save themselves. Unfortunately for the GOP, they turned over their party's pink slip to the religious right over a decade ago. The Party of Lincoln, Goldwater, and Reagan is dead! It is now the Party of Falwell, Robertson, Dodson and Dr. James Kennedy.

9:00:00 PM  
Blogger Mike said...

Praying to Satan? I think that's a very remote possibility, but personally, I think it opens the door for other sorts of prayer.

"Dear Lord, we ask that you grant the Tin man (Cheney) a heart, the Lion (Rumsfeld) some courage, and the Scarecrow (Bush) desperately needs a brain. Toto is fine, but Dorothy (Laura) would really like to go home to Crawford, I mean Kansas.

Oh yeah, and if possible, we'd like this war to end and our soldiers to come home as soon as possible"

This is exactly the sort of speech that should be protected, and if this bill does that, then by all means, sign it into law.

11:36:00 PM  
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