Illustration Copyright L. Garcia
With his latest ad, Rep. Zach Wamp wants you to remember that he is a Christian. It's not enough that he claims to have a strong conservative record behind him, you must know his personal religious views in order to make an informed decision. For politicians, it is not enough that they believe what they believe, you must know what they believe and preferably also believe the same.
Wamp has already made it clear that he is a devout Southern Baptist and that he believes that to be elected to public office, one must believe that every word of the Bible is true. He even says that religious belief should permeate all public policy matters. Basically, he wants to legislate Christianity into the lives of every Tennessean. So much for personal choice and responsibility.
His latest ad again touts his Christian credentials with a pledge to help "restore America to its Judeo-Christian heritage and our constitution" starting right here in Tennessee. Perhaps Rep. Wamp has forgotten the First Amendment to the Constitution which states, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof." That our country was founded by predominantly Judeo-Christian men does not mean that their intent was to create a nation to mimic their religious beliefs. One of the core reasons for our founding was the freedom from religious oppression that many found in native England.
There were also well-known critics of religious influence in government among our Founding Fathers. Most notably, Thomas Jefferson stated in a letter to Alexander von Humboldt, "History, I believe, furnishes no example of a priest-ridden people maintaining a free civil government." In another letter to Horatio G. Spafford he strongly criticized religion by writing, "In every country and in every age, the priest has been hostile to liberty. He is always in alliance with the despot, abetting his abuses in return for protection to his own."
Also, the Treaty of Tripoli, signed by President John Adams on June 10, 1797 lays out what many see as the foundation of the "separation of church and state" doctrine. The wording was intended to make it clear that the government of the United States was not making diplomatic decisions based on religious belief. This has renewed importance in the face of the evangelical movement whisking candidates into office.
As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion,— as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquility, of Mussulmen,— and as the said States never entered into any war or act of hostility against any Mahometan nation, it is declared by the parties that no pretext arising from religious opinions shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries.
Wamp would do well to understand that religion and government staying out of each other's affairs is for the protection of both institutions.