Thursday, February 26, 2004

A few Republicans (and DINO Zell Miller) in the Senate have recently floated what you might call the "establishment of religion act of 2004", which, among other things, seeks to place any bill establishing religious ceremony in government beyond the purview of the courts themselves. And some radicals, like David Neiwert, think the whole thing is profoundly unamerican.

Well, writing from Massachusetts, I think that's nonsense. The establishment of religion is in fact a strain of wholly American tradition which was strong here right from our earliest days, where the intolerant local authorities banned not only pagan rituals borrowed from African slaves, in the Salem witch trials, but also persecuted even Christians they viewed as deviant, hanging the occasional Quaker, and banishing the Protestant minister Roger Williams, who went on to found the colony of Rhode Island, because (like the dangerous secularist Neiwert), he had strange ideas about actually separating church and state.

So, state coercion of religion actually goes a long way back in American history, and attempts at revival are an interesting development which has to be seen in that context. We have yet to see what will come of it, of course, but one way or another we're sure to get the government we deserve.


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