The President and the Pope
VOLOKH at law.ucla.edu
Tue Jun 15 13:14:14 PDT 2004
I'm sorry, but I just don't quite understand. What is it that's
supposedly permissible under this model, and supposedly impermissible?
Also, I take it that much Christian political rhetoric takes the
form: "Good Christians ought to [oppose racism / support sexual
abstinence before marriage / protect the environment / support programs
that help the poor / oppose war]." The speakers often recognize that
different Christian groups disagree on this, but their argument is that
theirs is the right Christian perspective. (This is pretty similar in
this respect about arguments about what good liberals, or good
conservatives, or good Americans, or just decent people should think.)
So I'm not sure that there is even much of a meaningful distinction
between implicitly endorsing one set of varieties of Christianity (by
saying that one attitude is good and another is bad, where the good
attitude is endorsed by some Christian groups and opposed by others),
and calling upon like-minded Christians to come to his support.
Bob O'Brien writes, responding to me:
> Sorry to sound like a broken record, but I wonder how this
would have played out in other contexts. For instance, the abolitionist
movement, the civil rights movement, and various anti-war and other
movements have involved political-religious alliances on controversial
public policy questions. (The abolitionist movement was of course
indeed dangerous to the republic in the short term, though good in the
>If in 1963, a government official called on Christian ministers
to oppose racism and segretation and support civil rights, and asked
them to assert that good Christians should oppose racism and segregation
and support civil rights, would this really have been unconstitutional?
Since Christian ministers differed on each of these issues (in
the old South Christian ministers maintained Bibilical support for
slavery; in the South of 1963 Chritian ministers continued to maintain
Bibilical support for segregation), it seems to me that for the
President to opine about the beliefs or actions of "good Christians"
constitutes endorsement of one set of varieties of Christianity.
However, for the President to call upon all like-minded Christians to
come to his support is another matter.
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