Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Church and State

A passage in the Haggadah, read during the Passover Seder, tells us to think of the Exodus from Egypt as if we ourselves were personally rescued from slavery. I feel as if I was personally saved from the Holocaust.

I hever had to wear any identifying mark - a yellow star of David, a large J, a number tattooed on my arm - never.

I hever had to raise my hand when asked by a person in authority "who is Jewish?" No matter what the motivation. A person in whom I have 100% confidence told me about a situation that I have been unable to confirm. I will reveal the matter, but eliminate all possible identifications. If it is true, it is horrifying. If it is not true, it could be and cries out for vigilance in all aspects of life. A teacher asked the students who are Jewish to raise their hands. They did. After all, a teacher is a person in authority. Then, the teacher seated them so that there would be a Jewish student and a non-Jewish student side by side. Separation of church and state? Hardly.

The people who wrote the Constitution of the United States appreciated the hardships endured by religious persecution and wanted to make our country a safe haven for all peace-loving people - with no hint of a divine right to rule.

If you pay attention to the TV evening news, you will notice that gratuitous references to religion are usually omitted. This was not always the case. One day, I heard "he is Jewish" or, "the son of Jewish parents" or, well known "Jewish family" and I wrote a letter - in the days before email - to the network headquarters. that accused them of being racist. That, unless the person's religion was a pertinent factor in the story, it should not be mentioned - or - mention the religion of everybody. Within days, religious affiliations, unless a contributing factor that moved the story along, were omitted.

Success came with sports radio talk shows too. When the football draft yielded players for the Eagles that did not meet the standards of the talk show hosts, they offered "the best Mormon available," instead of the traditional "best player available." (A reference to the religion of the Eagles' head coach Andy Reid.) This time I used email to accuse them of being racist and you seldom hear, religious talk references. Andy Reid's Mormonism has almost disappeared.

However, look at the slate of candidates that the Republicans are fielding. We all know that Mitt Romney is a Mormon (accused of being a cult by Perry's religious leader). But what are the religious affiliatiions of the other potential candidates and are their religious beliefs important to anyone but them? There is always hope that reasonable minds prevail. After all, JFK was not ruled by the Vatican. American voters had confidence in the separation of church and state.

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