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Preachy politicians should take a page from history.

With state legislators, members of Congress and other elected officials competing to see who can appear the most pious, the following editorial from The Atlanta Journal-Constitution is timely.

State lawmakers bent on trying to "out-God" each other, as Sen. Nadine Thomas (D-Decatur) aptly describes it ought to consider the fate of Ethiopian Emperor Menelik II. Menelik also r believed that religion was a cure-all, so much so that he nibbled a few pages o the Bible whenever he fell ill.

While recovering from a stroke in 1913, he ate the entire book of Kings and died.

Georgians are being force-fed religion this session by elected officials trampling the U.S. Constitution to appease religious conservatives. First evolution was derided as a negative buzzword and stricken from the schools proposed new curriculum until incensed voters rose up in protest.

Then, the Senate launched a campaign to enshrine a gay marriage ban in the state constitution, despite a perfectly adequate Georgia law already outlawing same-sex unions Although the debate is superfluous, it's also rancorous and loud, and serves the Republican agenda of diverting rural voters from their diminishing job prospects, their failing schools and their uncertain futures.

And if gay marriage isn't enough to rouse people out of their recliners and into voting booths in November, the Senate threw in the Ten Commandments as an added incentive this week. The Senate voted 42-8 for a nonbinding resolution supporting the display of the Ten Commandments in public buildings to acknowledge "God's sovereignty over civil government."

The senators weren't deterred to learn that governments displaying the Ten Commandments are spending thousands Of tax dollars defending themselves in court. Nor were the senators concerned that they were goading citizens to commit what the high courts have said is an unlawful act.

Only Republican Sen. Seth Harp of Midland broke with his party and opposed the resolution, saying, "We are asking the governor and this state to violate the law." Harp showed greater respect not only for the rule of law in this country, but also for the 228 years of history built on an explicit separation of church and state.

As former President Millard Fillmore a said: "If any sect suffered itself to be used for political objects I would meet it by political opposition. In my view church and state should be separate, not only in form, but fact. Religion and politics should not be mingled."

In blending religion and government at every turn, Georgia legislators are concocting an unpalatable brew. And like the emperor, they will discover it can be dangerous.
COPYRIGHT 2004 Americans United for Separation of Church and State
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Copyright 2004, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:Editorials
Publication:Church & State
Article Type:Editorial
Date:Apr 1, 2004
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