Wednesday, May 04, 2005

George W. Bush On Religion

Where does the President stand with regard to the role on religion in America? President Bush makes his position clear, in a recent press appearance:
“The role of religion in our society? I view religion as a personal matter. I think a person ought to be judged on how he or she lives his life, or lives her life. And that's how I've tried to live my life, through example. … I think faith is a personal issue, and I get great strength from my faith. But I don't condemn somebody in the political process because they may not agree with me on religion. The great thing about America, David, is that you should be allowed to worship any way you want, and if you choose not to worship, you're equally as patriotic as somebody who does worship.”

Amen. This is the American way – freedom of religion – which sees faith as a private subjective matter. The solace one seeks in religion is personal, as the President says, not public. This is not to say that one should be ashamed of being openly religious as some might have it; that’s another form of intolerance. The classic American view, that Mr. Bush expresses above, holds that the imperatives of one’s religion, the demands of one’s faith, apply only to one’s own self so that you “should be allowed to worship any way you want, and if you choose not to …”

There is one problem, however. We are forced to pool our wealth together, via taxes, to support and sustain government schools. How do we decide what should be taught in those schools without denying each individual the right to live according to their own religion or philosophy? Some want these schools to be completely free of religion, even in history classes, while others, who have little wealth left after taxes, want those schools to teach ethics inline with their religious percepts – often at odds with the secular orientation of today’s schools. There is only one way to solve this problem that’s consistent with our heritage of individual rights: privatize education. Period! End tax-supported schools. Nothing else will end this acrimonious debate.

Unfortunately, we are taking steps in the wrong direction. With the President’s Faith Based Initiatives, Mr. Bush understandably seeks to restore the role of religious organizations in charitable work. Historically, they have played the major role before the welfare state and it is appropriate that they resume that worthy practice. However, already there are problems. I’ll let Mr. Bush explain it: “We ought to judge faith-based groups by results, not by their religion. And that's part of the cultural change that we're working on here. The bad news is, is that when it approved the funding, the city added a provision declaring that religious ceremonies are not to be conducted on the site initiated by the Salvation Army.”

Once again: if we are forced to pool our wealth together there will be a fight over the spoils. Obviously, we’ll want some of our hard-earned wealth back. And many people will want more than just the return of their own contributions (or else why was it pooled to begin with?) Thus, individual initiative and self-responsibility go by the wayside. What is left? A shameless grab for whatever one can get away with as one pushes the other aside.

There is only one real solution. We need to get the government out of the welfare business and allow private charities to tackle this problem on their own. This is not an idea that is easy for most to accept. Freedom means uncertainly and this is not always welcomed. We’ll need a cultural change over the long-term. But change starts by making people aware of the problem inherent in collective solutions. Let’s outline some near terms goals.

To keep religion out of government as many on the left demand, we need to take government out of education, welfare, the arts, and the humanities – as some of us on the right demand. Let’s do both! Let’s start on the federal level by eliminating the Department of Education, all education laws, all federal housing and federal welfare programs (aside from the long-standing commitment we’ve made to the elderly). Perhaps if the federal government focused on defense, instead of spreading itself thin, we just might be able to prevent 9/11 s.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey, Jason, a good post. I referenced it in my own blog entry today, "The Evangelical Crusade Marches On." See here:

Chris Matthew Sciabarra

5/4/05, 11:16 AM  

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