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Rick the lip, wrong Paige, and the plumed Knight. (Church And State).

Republican Senator Rick Santorum is an embarrassment to the state of Pennsylvania. In an April 21, 2003, Associated Press interview, Santorum compared homosexuality to bigamy, polygamy, incest, adultery, and bestiality. His remarks drew comment both for and against. Richard Cohen slammed him as a "moron" in his April 24 column in the Washington Post while Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (Republican, Tennessee) said that Santorum "is a consistent voice for inclusion and compassion in the Republican Party." This "voice for inclusion" has called Senator fellow Catholic Tom Daschle (Democrat, South Dakota), a "rabid dog."

Even more preposterous words came from Santorum in an interview with the National Catholic Reporter's Rome correspondent John Allen in January 2002. At a big Opus Dei affair in Rome, Santorum told Allen he regards President George W. Bush as "the first Catholic president of the United States." Funny, I thought Bush was a Methodist and John E Kennedy was the first Catholic president. Santorum has evidently excommunicated Kennedy because the latter was a staunch supporter of church-state separation--a position at odds with that of Santorum and his Opus Dei friends.

Then, in an article in the May 2003 issue of the conservative Catholic magazine Crisis, Santorum was critical of teaching evolution in public school science classes. Finally, on May 17, 2003, Santorum, who sets an example by having seven children, was awarded the Pro Dei et Patria Medal for Distinguished Service to God and Country by the ultraconservative Catholic Christendom College in Virginia.

Is U.S. Education Secretary Rod Paige on the right page? I think not. In a Baptist Press interview in April 2003, Paige said he "would prefer to have a child in a school with a strong appreciation for the values of the Christian community." He also said that "Christian schools ... are growing as a result of a strong value system" and "a parent should be free to select a school that meets [a] child's needs, whether it's private, home school or public." (This is an apparent reference to his and Bush's support for vouchers for faith-based schools.) Paige is puzzled by "the animosity to God in public school settings."

"Well," as Comedian Jack Benny would have said. Is Paige saying that all religious values are wonderful? What about those commonly used in many Christian day schools that inculcate disrespect for values and traditions outside Christian fundamentalism? The values taught in these schools were exposed in Al Menendez's groundbreaking 1993 book, Visions of Reality: What Fundamentalist Schools Teach (published by Americans for Religious Liberty) and Frances Paterson's 2003 book, Democracy and Intolerance: Christian School Curricula, School Choice, and Public Policy (Phi Delta Kappa).

Does Paige really believe that there is "animosity to God in public school settings?" Paige's office tried to say that he was misquoted, that his remarks referred to colleges, not lower schools. But one doesn't refer to college students as "children" or "home schooling" at the post-secondary level.

In the wake of the Supreme Court's June 2002 ruling in favor of vouchers for faith-based schools, advocates of such misuse of public funds have encountered stumbling blocks in their way. Provisions in at least thirty-seven state constitutions bar such aid. So, well-heeled conservative outfits are seeking to use the courts to remove these barriers, which are being called "Blaine amendments."

James G. Blaine, born in Pennsylvania, became a prominent Republican senator from Maine. In 1876 Robert Ingersoll called Blaine "the plumed knight" at the Republican nominating convention, and in 1884 Blaine won the party's nomination for president.

Earlier, in 1875, Blaine introduced an amendment to the Constitution to bar any tax aid to faith-based schools. This was to reinforce the First Amendment principles of church-state separation to protect and ensure religious neutrality in public schools.

The school voucher crowd today calls the strong separation provisions in state constitutions "Blaine amendments" in an effort to smear them as anti-Catholic or anti-religious. Blaine's mother was actually Catholic, and there is no evidence that Blaine was either anti-Catholic or anti-religious.

The "Blaine amendment" assault is a serious attack on church-state separation that must be "opposed. The whole "Blaine" stratagem is explored more fully in the current Voice of Reason newsletter of Americans for Religious Liberty.

Edd Doerr is president of Americans for Religious Liberty and immediate past-president of the American Humanist Association.
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Title Annotation:Senator Rick Santorum; U.S. Education Secretary Rod Paige; "Blaine amendments"
Author:Doerr, Edd
Publication:The Humanist
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jul 1, 2003
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