Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Anti-Defamation League Denounces Efforts to "Christianize America"

In recent weeks, several leaders of major American institutions have spoken-out against the Christian Right. First, Rev. John Thomas president of the United Church of Christ, a mainline protestant denomination.

Thomas denounced groups "within and beyond the UCC" that are "intent on disrupting and destroying our life together."

"Groups like the Evangelical Association of Reformed, Christian and Congregational Churches and the Biblical Witness Fellowship are increasingly being exposed even as they are increasingly aggressive," Thomas said. "Their relationship to the right-wing Institute for Religion and Democracy and its long-term agenda of silencing a progressive religious voice while enlisting the church in an unholy alliance with right-wing politics is now longer deniable. United Church of Christ folk like to be 'nice,' to be hospitable. But, to play with a verse of scripture just a bit, we doves innocently entertain these serpents in our midst at our own peril."

Then, up stepped Dr. Hunter Rawlings interim president of Cornell University, who used his state of the university address to rally the univeristy to come to terms with the problem of the "intelligent design" movement, which he described as "a subjective concept.... a religious belief masquerading as a secular idea. It is neither clearly identified as a proposition of faith nor supported by other rationally based arguments."

Rawlings' went on to quote from a letter written by university founder Ezra Cornell in which he warned "that the principal danger, and I say almost the only danger I see in the future to be encountered by the friends of education, and by all lovers of true liberty is that which may arise from sectarian strife. From these halls, sectarianism must be forever excluded, all students must be left free to worship God, as their conscience shall dictate, and all persons of any creed or all creeds must find free and easy access, and a hearty and equal welcome, to the educational facilities possessed by the Cornell University.....".

This week, Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League, addressing an ADL conference, spoke out against efforts to "Christianize America."

The Isreali newspaper Ha'aretz, reported that the ADL "has in the past spearheaded campaigns against religious preachers and Christian elements deemed unusually extreme. But this is the first all-out media assault by an ADL head on the U.S. Christian establishment."

"Today we face a better financed, more sophisticated, coordinated, unified, energized and organized coalition of groups in opposition to our policy positions on church-state separation than ever before," Foxman said. "Their goal is to implement their Christian worldview. To Christianize America. To save us!" he said.

Foxman proceeded to describe the process and to name names: "Major players include Focus On Family. Alliance Defense Fund, the American Family Association, Family Research Council and more. They and other groups have established new organizations and church-based networks, and built infrastructure throughout the country designed to promote traditional Christian values."

The ADL continued the "media assault" with a press release today stating that the curriculum for teaching the Bible in the public schools being promoted by the National Council on Bible Curriculum in Public Schools, is unacceptable, because it "advocates the acceptance of one faith tradition's interpretation of the Bible over another."

"This wholly inappropriate curriculum blatantly crosses the line by teaching fundamental Protestant doctrine," said Abraham H. Foxman, ADL National Director. "The text relies solely upon the King James Version of the Bible and hews to a fundamentalist reading, especially of New Testament passages. This is the primary flaw in the curriculum – that it advocates the acceptance of one faith tradition's interpretation of the Bible over another."

According to ADL, the King James Version is the least faithful one to the original Biblical languages of Hebrew and Greek.

There are acceptable resources available for teaching the Bible in public schools. For example, the newly published textbook, "The Bible and Its Influence" from the Bible Literacy Project is designed to meet the standards for teaching the Bible in public schools with one semester on the Hebrew Scriptures and one on the New Testament.

The U.S. Supreme Court has said that although public schools may not teach religion, they may teach about religion in a secular context. The Bible may be taught in a public school, but only for its historical, cultural or literary value and never in a devotional, celebratory or doctrinal manner, or in such a way that encourages acceptance of the Bible as a religious document. If a school district chooses to teach the Bible in this context, the adopted curriculum must be balanced and pluralistic in nature and the curriculum should not advocate one particular religion, interpretation or translation over another."

(For its part, Focus on the Family, one of the leading Christian right organizations, thinks the curriculum "should be in all public schools," although it promotes creationism, Christian nationalism, and has generated national controvery.)

It is encouraging that more and more important leaders in American public life are rising to meet the urgent challenge of our times: an antidemocratic movement, bent on religious supremacy and creeping theocracy at all levels of government, and in all areas of life. Let's encourage more leaders to follow the lead of Foxman, Rawlings and Thomas.

[Crossposted at Political Cortex]


Blogger HolyInheritance said...

As if "denouncing" anyone is going to solve anything. Somebody seems to be splitting us up, so I'll denounce them, and that will bring us back together. What ever happened to "love thy neighbor," and "cast the beam from thine own eye."

2:28 PM  
Blogger Frederick Clarkson said...

You might ask that of the Christian Rightists seeking to impose thier religious views on others using the power of government to do it.

2:51 AM  
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