Jon Breen Fund newsletter 6-21-07

The Jon Breen Fund

Mount Vernon High School

100 California Road

Mount Vernon, NY  10552

 

June 21, 2007

 

Dear friends and fellow classmates,

 

Hello from sunny Tarrytown in the heart of the Hudson River Valley. This letter marks the fourteenth edition of the Jon Breen Fund, which attempts to accomplish some simple tasks. The first of these tasks was to perpetuate the name of Jon Breen, a good personal friend to many of us, and a great contributor to the success of our class. The second of these tasks has allowed me to reach out to the next generation of young people from Mount Vernon, and find out what they are thinking about, reflective of the issues of day. It has also allowed me the opportunity to impart on them my experiences and perspectives. It has been an interesting year for the City of Mount Vernon and change never ceases. On one hand, a new, and very expensive roundabout replaced the old circle that used to be at the intersection of Lincoln and Gramatan. Other changes have been initiated and all in all there is a new economic vibrancy. On the other hand, crime and violence have spiked and the new police commissioner, David Chong has his hands filled. I have met him a few times, and he is an outstanding professional and overall street crime has declined markedly. But, unfortunately, there are many conflicts among the young people that end up in tragedy.

 

With regards to our class, I have little new news to share. I keep on seeing my old friends and most of the people I know are alive and kicking. Over the past year I have seen Bill and Joan Bernstein and Barbara Tucci and her husband Roland Parent in Florida before we took a cruise to Belize, Larry Reich in Palm Springs after we played tennis in Scottsdale, and Lew and Isabella Perelman in Washington D.C for Thanksgiving. Jim Kurtz is always traveling to one exciting place or another. I communicate through email and get answers from many others. Peter Altieri and I had lunch up in his neck of the woods, I’ve stopped at Laura Kosof’s store, Michael’s on Madison Avenue, and we travel to the New York museums with Warren and Mary Adis. I am always in contact with Alan Rosenberg, and he and his wife Wendy are still following basketball aggressively. I went to the Class of 1966’s 40th reunion for five minutes and I hear from Doug Garr, class of 1967, that they will have 40th reunion this July. I see Fran Sanders during the High Holidays in Hastings, now and again, and I am in contact, through email, with Mal Gissen and Mike Schlanger, who are a few years ahead of us. Stan Goldmark’s daughter graduated from Syracuse and she’ll be working in Washington DC. Joel Zalvin is still enjoying life at New England Financial and is off to Italy this summer. I receive emails from Carla Patnik Axelrod, who is living in Florida, Lee Jackel Egan from South Carolina, Alann Wexler from upstate NY, Sue Nassau Farber from Utah, Richard Hoffman from Washington, DC, Arnie Siegel from LA, Matt Goldberg from Oakland, and three great MVHS wrestlers, Armel MacDonald, Dave “Pete” Sisto, and Jimmy Gordon. Frank Engel is still a great correspondent from Portland. I had a great evening with Commissioner Jim Finch at a fund-raiser for MV’s Mayor Davis in Eastchester. Jim has not changed one bit in decades, and he’s got the greatest sense of humor one could hope to experience. I exchange emails with Alice Brewen Acheson, who is way out in Friday Harbor, Washington, and Patti Nash Ballentine, Margie Spears and Linda Young Shapiro from Davis High in the mid1950’s. I even had lunch with Barbara Fine and her husband Jim Alexander, who is in the insurance business.

 

This year, as in the past, I read, selected and awarded the winners of the Jon Breen Essay contest and the Henry Littlefield History Prize at the MVHS Award’s assembly on the evening of June 12, 2007. The top winner of the essay contest and the Littlefield Award is a nice young fellow named Rashaud Senior, who happens to be number one in his graduating class, and is off to Harvard in the fall. Changes are afoot in Mount Vernon, and the leadership of the school system and the high school has changed. Brenda Smith, the former principal and superintendent of schools, has resigned after thirty-five years in the system. I believe her enthusiasm and dynamic personality will be sorely missed. Paul Court, the lead history teacher, who succeeded John Alberga, L.E. Smith, and Henry Littlefield in that position, maybe making a change. It is sort of fascinating that they have had only four history department heads in over 40+ years.

 

This years Jon Breen essay was the following:

 

The United States Constitution:

 

Article I – Section 8- Powers of the United States Congress

 

The Congress shall have the powers to declare war, grant letters of marque and reprisal, and make rules concerning capture on land and water. To raise and support armies, but no appropriation of money to that use shall be longer term than two years.

 

Article II- Section 2- Powers of the President

 

The President (is) to be Commander-in-Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States and of the militia of the other states.

 

Should the Congress of the United States exercise its right to fund and support the Armed Forces of the United States in a way to limit the scope of our military involvement in Iraq, or is this an infringement on Article 2- Section 8 that states that the President is Commander-in-Chief? Will this result in a Constitutional Crisis?

 

Has the President of the United States abrogated his fiscal responsibility by funding the continuing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan with continuing resolutions and not either direct taxation or adding it to the fiscal budget? Isn’t the responsibility of the US Congress to “Declare War,” and without a direct declaration of war, has the executive unlimited right to wage war?

 

Did the results of the Congressional elections of 2006 reflect a mandate by the electorate for change in Washington, specifically regarding the continuation of the funding of the War in Iraq? If, so what is the responsibility of the new Congress?

 

Does the President, without an official “Declaration of War,” have the right to wage a war without limitations of expense, duration, and venue? If so, has the so-called “Unitary” President usurped the war powers granted to the Congress?

 

Meanwhile, the Breen Fund is still sitting with enough money to last for a number of years in the future. I have been asked about the potential of a 45th reunion. If you have any interest, please email, call, or drop me a note and I will pass it on to our other classmates whom have worked on our past reunions.

 

On a personal note, we had a great trip to Saratoga, Montreal, and Ottawa. I recommend Ottawa to any and all. It is a beautiful city, and the Canadian capital is magnificent. We were in Freeport, GBI again, and will be off to Atlanta and North Carolina in the fall, after a summer of politics and tennis. Once again I am chairing a campaign for Supervisor Paul Feiner in the Town of Greenburgh. Meanwhile my mother died, approximately one year ago, in June of her 99th year.

She was in great shape at her 98th birthday, but fell victim to some old ailments and fought valiantly for another 4 months. She never had the great health of my father, who lived into his 101st year in 2005, but she had an iron will to live and that determination allowed her to survivr a very long time. In closing, I am still keeping busy with long-term care insurance, and my wife Linda is still going into New York, and working for Charlesbank Private Capital. We play tennis every weekend, and our kids are still in Boston. I intend to keep my hands in local politics until at least 2009, I believe, and I continue to write essays (see them at http://www.richardjgarfunkel.com or Google me at rjgpublicthoughts.) and give lectures. I can be reached at 2801 Watch Hill Drive, Tarrytown, NY, 10591 and at 914-524-8381, or 914-261-6587 or rjg727@optonline.net.

 

 

Richard J. Garfunkel

 

 

The Rise of the Secular State from the Shackles of religious Domination 6-18-07

 

The Rise of the Secular State from the Shackles of Religious Domination

By

Richard J. Garfunkel

June 18, 2007

 

Today we are in the midst of a period of revision when it comes to the re-entrance of religion into the political lexicon of our electoral process and our candidates. In our western culture, our European cousins, and we in the New World have experienced an interesting phenomenon as we have moved decades away from the cataclysm of the Second World War. In the period before the war, empires, dictatorships, and monarchies dominated much of the world. There were a few advanced democratic countries, but with regards to much of the world, the period of enlightenment had not shown through the haze of myth, mysticism and misinformation. The scientific age had not taken hold in vast areas of population around the world. Hand and hand, with that huge portion of society that was most comfortable with myth, was the obvious lack of knowledge regarding the natural law and scientific discovery. Part of that belief in myth was a literal belief in religion. In the most basic way, the consequences of the war caused certain philosophical realities to emerge. One change was a definitive loss of faith by many people most affected by the tragedy of war. In other words, many questioned, “Where was G-d?” 

 

With the rise of radical Islamic fundamentalism, the Christian world, especially in the United States, is experiencing a commensurate rise in Evangelical Christianity along with other religious groups becoming more conservative. Could this be the start of another series of religious struggles between east and west? Is this new era a throw back to the Crusades, or the Hundred Year’s War?

 

Our recording of history is quite limited, when one considers that as a species, we have been around and walking upright for at least a few million years. Mankind’s modern states evolved from the most primitive social unit of the family and then the tribe. These tribes were either separated by distance, or language, or race. These separate social and physical characteristics that delineated one tribe from another would eventually breakdown, as distances became shortened, and they were enveloped by the all-encompassing empire state. Certainly in the western experience, our world, and lives, were affected most directly by the emergence of the Mesopotamians, who arose from the fertile triangle of the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers. Along with the emergence of these groups, religion seemed to accompany them in their development. When a ruler had to explain a natural cataclysmic happening that was obviously beyond his/her control, he enlisted a shaman or holy person that could explain these phenomena in spiritual phraseology. It seems that when we look at the artifacts of many parallel cultures of that ancient time, we find icons that reflected quite often the many gods they worshipped. It seems clearly that primitive humans needed a “god” or supernatural type personality to justify the unknown that mystified them constantly. That unknown could be the stars in the sky, the weather, sickness, prosperity and famine, and certainly the process of life and death itself. They had no rational answers for what was constantly happening, and therefore they created myths and therefore godlike images or icons to give sufferance and eventual worship. The ancient Egyptians had twenty-nine gods that ranged from Amon to Ra to Troth. These gods represented almost everything that was greater than them in their every day life. Since the sun was the powerful element in their lives, Ra, the Sun God, was the most powerful god. The Greeks and the Romans humanized their gods and inculcated them in the every day life and function of their culture. Their authors wrote plays and sagas about the gods and how they manipulated human life.

 

Eventually many of the more enlightened among the ancients started to question quietly the spiritual worthlessness of idolatry. Their meaning became trite and the worship of these so-called gods became passé.

 

Abraham, who came from Ur of Chaldees, was born about 1863 BCE, when that region had become known as Babylonia. The city-state of Babylon had emerged from a small city in Sumeria and rose as the center of a great Empire in the time of Hammurabi, the lawgiver. Abraham lived in this region during the rise of the Hammurabi Code (1780 BCE) and he may have been affected by the impact of this legal system. Interestingly, the Shekel, which served as the ancient Hebrew currency, (87% silver, containing 8.333 grams) and is now used in modern Israel, came from Babylon. The following years spawned successor empires, dominated first by the Persians, and then the Greeks, and Romans. Therefore, from the time of Hammurabi, monotheism slowly emerged from the tribe and the progeny of Abraham. For the next 2000 years, until the time of Jesus, the focus of the one G-d concept was centered in the area that eventually would become the Kingdoms of Israel and Judah. During that period of approximately 2000 years, the tribe of Terah and his son Abraham migrated from Babylonia to Haran and Hamath in Syria, to Hebron, and then on to the Land of Goshen in Egypt. After approximately 400 years in Egypt, there emerged from the Hebrew community a man named Moses, whose name meant, “to draw out of water” or “son of the water.” (Mosheh, whose name was Hellenized to Moses, was the son of Jochabed and Amran). Moses initiated the Biblical “plagues” upon Egypt and their Pharaoh, led the  “Exodus” out of Egypt, supposedly parted the Red Sea, or the “Sea of Reeds,” and led them into the Sinai Desert. Eventually the Israelites, as they were known, moved into Canaan, the location of modern Israel, and a region populated by various tribes as the Philistines, Jebusites, Amorites, Ammonites, Moabite and others and conquered the land. It was at this period of time that Jericho; one of the oldest cities in the world was conquered by Joshua.

 

Of course the history of the Jewish people is a long and complicated one with many twists and turns. The Jewish religion, which was law-based, had come from Moses in the desert. Before Moses, and from the time of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph and his offspring in Egypt, the Hebrews had been a large growing tribe. Their connection with G-d had been through the “covenant” offered to Abraham, and it was said that when he was prevented from sacrificing Isaac, he became the first civilized man, and the Jewish religion and monotheism emerged. By the time Moses led the “Exodus” out of Egypt, the Hebrews had no idea of a formalized religion, or a code of conduct, or a set of religious laws. It was in that 40-year sojourn in the wilderness that three distinct events transpired. One, which was paramount, was when Moses left his followers and they grew anxious and started to lose faith in him, his beliefs, their own security and future. It was at this time they divided into two factions, and one group built a golden calf, Ba’al and started to worship this symbol of prosperity and the material life they left in the so-called security of Egypt, whether they were slaves or not. The second major event was Moses’ return, his bringing of the law, the Ten Commandments, and the destruction of the golden calf and all of its followers. It was said that he brought the whole Torah with him. Lastly the 40-year wandering eliminated the whole generation of Hebrews who only knew slavery in the land of Egypt. In a sense the one-god concept made worship simpler and when Moses brought forth the Ten Commandments, he connected the “word of G-d” with the law. Therefore, Moses was historically seen through time as the “lawgiver,” and Hebrews as the people of the “Book,” the Torah or a book of rules. In a sense the Jews were given a code of social conduct that came directly through to them as the “Chosen People,” from the Almighty. In a sense they were “chosen” to be the messenger of the law.

 

After the death of Moses and the end to the Exodus, the Israelites conquered the Canaan and were able to rule right through the reigns of David and Solomon. After political and social turmoil led to dissention, which caused the split Kingdoms of Israel and Judah, the Assyrians in 722 BCE, finally conquered both entities. In 586 BCE, the remnants of the Jewish presence in the area were dispersed to the exile in what was known as the Babylonia Captivity. This dispersal led the Jews into the Diaspora, or the outside world, where many communities prospered. Eventually the Jews filtered back into their former “Promised Land” from Egypt, and other eastern lands and were able to defeat and remove the ruling Syrians in the period between 165 and 142 BCE. The Roman Senate recognized the new Hasmonean Jewish Kingdom in 139 BCE, which ruled from 165 through 63 BCE. Eventually, as with all political alliances, conditions changed and the Romans declared war on the Jewish Kingdom, and they were conquered. Of course, by this time, conditions in the Jewish world had changed. In the years after the crucifixion of Jesus, Saul from Tarsus, who would eventually become Saint Paul, began his preaching (46-57 CE) throughout the Roman Mediterranean world. Paul would start to separate his new Judeo-Christians from the older Jewish world, and in his speech to the Galatians he said, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus. And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed!”

 

In and about the same time, a revolt by the Zealots in 66 CE, led to further insurrections in many areas of northern Israel. After a defeat by the Zealots in Jerusalem, the Romans brought in garrisons of troops from Syria. With the landing of the Roman Emperor Vespasian in Antioch, the Jews of Sepphoria were beat into submission. By the end of 67 CE, Jewish resistance in Tiberius, and the surrounding region had been crushed. Eventually by 70 CE, Jerusalem had been re-occupied by the Romans and the Temple had been destroyed by the Emperor’s son Titus. Many Jews again were exiled and thousands were taken to Rome as captives. The last resistance by the Zealots was crushed in 73 CE as their mountain fortress Masada eventually was betrayed and the remaining fighters committed suicide.

 

The eventual decline and fall of the Roman Empire would open up the era to both the emergence of Christianity as the dominant European faith and the rise of the nation-state. It would take many generations and years of strife, but the marriage of the church and state, would be forged through Constantine’s dream. Until the time of Flavius Valerus Aurelus Constantinus, or Constantine I, who lived from 274 through 337 CE, the Roman Empire persecuted Christians severely and the Empire’s official thoughts regarding religion were the worship of the pagan gods. Again the worship of idols without underlying reasons, or without a spiritual higher law left the Roman society bereft of a basic morality. Even though the Romans, and the Greeks before them, had some institutionalized codes of conduct, the state had a great deal of difficulty dealing with the inconsistency of human behavior, especially between the classes. Certainly the sanctity of human life was not a great moral question for Romans, and especially their class of libertine and immoral Julio-Claudian rulers. Ironically, if anything the Roman leadership wanted and demanded was the support of the institution of marriage. They wanted children, and population growth, in the most desperate way. In the case of a childless marriage, because a woman was barren, or her husband impotent, adoption of even adult children was encouraged and constantly brokered.  This activity was a pragmatic answer to the social criticism that abounded around childless couples, or marriages that were rarely or barely consummated. The political marriage, which did not produce offspring, needed an heir to carry on the family name and to keep their class intact. Therefore, people who barely lived together, no less occupied the same bedroom, could be given a “social pass’ if they adopted an heir, even if that person was an adult. 

 

Meanwhile, Constantine, who was born in modern day Serbia, became Emperor of the western part of the Roman Empire in 306 CE, while serving his father’s military interests in York, England. There is much debate over why he became a Christian, and though it happened after his fortieth birthday, many attribute his conversion to his mother’s Christian worship. Christian persecution basically ended with the Edict of Milan in 313 CE and at the first ecumenical council held in Nicaea in 325 CE. He was considered the first Christian Emperor and founded Constantinople as the first Christian city. The Byzantine Empire considered him its follower and even the later Holy Roman Empire held that Constantine was to be considered one of its venerable forbearers. Therefore, with Constantine and his followers, the linkage between Christianity and the Roman Empire was set in stone. So the stage was set for the next 17 centuries where church and state would be married, for better, and often for worse. In the same way, the Middle East, that had at one time been called the cradle of civilization, eventually became the center of Muslim rule, as Mohammad (530-632 CE) by his death, he had conquered almost all of the Arabian peninsular. This rise in the power of the Moslem hegemony would become the most obvious case of the union between religion and the state.

 

In the early days of empire, from 750 CE onward, the Muslim world eventually stretched in the west from the city of Toledo in Spain, to Aswan on the Nile, to the horn of Africa, to the southern border of the Caspian Sea, and north to Samarkand, and east to the banks of the Indus. The Muslims gave greater freedoms to the Jewish population under their domination than had the Christians. In Toledo, the Jews opened their gates to welcome the Muslims as liberators. The Muslim conquerors never treated the Jews with the frequent massacres and expulsions that they had experienced under the rule of Christendom. But times eventually changed, and the intertwined and internecine religious aspects of Muslim rule started to turn with violence on other peoples under their domination. In 1066 more than five thousand Jews were murdered during Arab riots. In Fez, Morroco, in 1033, six thousand Jews were massacred. In Kairawan, in 1016 CE, now in modern Tunisia, the Jews were expelled. The remaining Jews of Tunis had a long history of persecution that started in the 1100’s that commenced with forced conversions. In Marakesh in 1232 CE thousands of Jews were massacred. Muslim Arabs. in 637 CE, conquered Jerusalem and between that early period and the Crusades their treatment of the Jews and other non-believers varied. Jews were caught between the competing interests of their Muslim rulers and the Christian onslaughts of the Crusades. In 1099 CE Jews took part in the defense of Jerusalem against the Crusaders, and the next year they helped defend Haifa. In the period from 1099 to 1291 the Christian Crusaders mercilessly persecuted and slaughtered the Jews of Palestine along with any Muslims they could defeat and capture. Interestingly when the Mameluks, who were also Muslim, ousted the Crusaders in 1291 CE, and ruled until 1516, Jewish settlement was encouraged. Jews sought refuge from anti-Semitic persecution in Europe during this period of Mameluk rule, and even after the Ottoman Turks conquered the area in 1517 CE, many European Jews sought sanctuary in places like Tiberius, Safed, Hebron, and Jerusalem. Obviously Jews had never abandoned the land that Moses was promised. Time and time again Jews filtered back into what we know today as Israel.

 

This marriage of church and state would thrive in Europe and with the establishment of the Holy Roman Empire, which was neither holy nor Roman. It was centered in modern Germany and established in 814 CE, after Charlemagne’s death. The title of Emperor (Imperator) carried the dual role as the secular leader and that of the protector of the Catholic Church.  Emperors were ordained as sub deacons in the Roman Catholic Church, and eventually this dualism would lead to direct conflict with the rise of the power of the Papacy during the Middle Ages. It would come to a peak in the 11th Century with the Investiture Controversy between Henry IV and Pope Gregory VII. The pope had excommunicated Henry over his convening of the National Council at Worms, Germany. This conflict arose over Henry’s dissatisfaction regarding the activity of Catholic Bishops and the internal struggle within Germany over the legitimacy of Hildebrand’s succession to the throne of Saint Peter in the name of Gregory VII.

 

This long struggle between German prelates and the papacy would last for many, many years. Eventually, over the issue of the sale of indulgences, a way to buy forgiveness and the power to appoint German bishops, it would bring rise to the conflict between Martin Luther and the papacy. Luther, with his 95 Theses, along with his campaign against Roman Catholic authority started the Protestant Reformation and was excommunicated by Pope Leo X in 1521. He was called to the Diet of Worms in 1521, he was exiled to the Wartburg Castle in that same year, he continued his writings, and he finally left his voluntary imprisonment and returned in triumph to Wittenburg. Eventually Luther would break from the church over many of its rituals including catechism, confession, and the Eucharist. In 1525, Luther married Katherina von Bora, who was one of twelve nuns whom he helped escape from the Nimbschen Cistercian convent two years earlier. Luther, the most significant Christian revolutionary since the establishment of the Church in Rome, translated the New Testament, established a new order of Christianity, and was able in 1530, with the Augsburg Confession, to establish the Lutheran rule of Charles VI, the Holy Roman Emperor. In this way, the dominance of the Catholic Church, over the internal affairs of all the countries in European Christendom started to first change and then erode.

 

As the Age of Enlightenment swept over Europe, the uneasy and unholy marriage between church and state started to fracture as a revolutionary fervor swept away the power of oppressive monarchies. Countless historians have chronicled the subject of revolution, vis-à-vis, the Church and political insurrection and change, stretching from the French Revolution to the Spanish Civil War. The Church, as a major political, social and spiritual institution has always been an important part of the ruling class of royalists and oligarchs. In France, whether it was Richelieu (1585-1642) or Mazarin (1602-61), Cardinals virtually ruled from 1624 through 1661. In other countries, the Church and the monarchies were linked so closely, that the public quite correctly identified the Church with repression, conservatism, closed mindedness, and the entrenchment and support of the wealthy classes. As a result of the rise of the Protestant influence in Germany and the Low Countries, conflict became almost inevitable. In the next century after Luther, continental powers started to unite together under the aegis of religious similarity. The Thirty Year’s War (1618-48) certainly started over religious concerns that were agitating Europe beginning with Charles V’s signing of the Peace of Augsburg in 1555.  This treaty had nominally ended the violence between Lutherans and Catholics. But the spread of Calvinism started to disturb the religious balance and small, so-called brushfire dustups erupted in different sections of the Holy Roman Empire and the Spanish Netherlands. Eventually in 1618 full scale war was initiated by Spain, who was interested in preventing the German States from interfering with their territory and control over the Netherlands. These concerns, along with the Bohemian Revolt (1618-25) over succession legitimacy within the Holy Roman Empire, would lead to fears from Lutherans that their religious rights would be protected. Eventually because of other events: the Danish and Swedish Interventions (1625-35) led to the alignment of Lutheran dominated countries versus the Habsburg powers that were Catholic. Eventually France felt threatened by the surrounding Habsburg powers and sided with the Protestants in 1636 and the religious causes of the continent wide conflict became blurred. The war caused so much incredible devastation that almost all of the different participants were exhausted. The Treaty of Westphalia ended the conflict finally in 1648. This incredibly tragic period would end the final religious war among the competing Christian bodies of Europe. The war’s end would record the high water mark for the Habsburgs, and especially Spain, who would eventually lose Portugal and the Netherlands. But, on a nationalistic basis, the nation state and the church would still be aligned against reform and opportunity regarding their subjects.

 

In the “restoration, reformation and so-called legitimacy” period that followed the Congress in Vienna in 1818, the return of the old order, following 100 years of English-French confrontation followed. Napoleon Bonaparte, who changed the map of Europe with his dynamic military triumphs, was defeated by Wellington at Waterloo and exiled to Saint Helena. But the reforms and social change brought by Napoleon was not forgotten by many of Europe’s subject people.

 

Napoleon Bonaparte had crowned himself Emperor on December 2, 1804 at the Notre Dame Cathedral, and it was claimed he had seized the crown from the grasp of Pope Pius VII.  It was thought that he had not wished to be subjected to the authority of Rome. But, in fact, the ceremony and procedure had been all arranged in advance. After the Pope had given his blessings, Napoleon crowned both himself and his wife Josephine de Beauharneis as Empress.

 

It was said that the Congress of Vienna began an era of continental peace that would last 100 years until the First World War. But, in truth, there was much fervor in Europe and in this next century, cataclysmic change would come to the both the European monarchies and their connections to their state sponsored church affiliations.

 

Even in Germany (Prussia) with the ultra-nationalist Otto von Bismarck (1815-1898), there emerged a policy of Kulterkampf, or culture’s struggle against the influence of the Vatican. In the following years, one of Bismarck's primary political objectives was to reduce the influence of the Catholic church in Germany. This may have been due to the anti-liberal message of Pope Pius IX in the Syllabus of Errors of 1864, and the dogma of Papal infallibility (1870). Prussia (except the Rhineland) and most other northern German states were predominantly Protestant, but many Catholics lived in the southern German states (especially Bavaria). In total, one fourth of the population was Catholic. Bismarck believed that the Roman Catholic Church held too much political power, and was also concerned about the emergence of the Catholic Centre Party (organized in 1870).

Accordingly, he began an anti-Catholic campaign known as Kulturkampf. In 1871, the Catholic Department of the Prussian Ministry of Culture was abolished. In 1872, the Jesuits were expelled from Germany. Bismarck somewhat supported the emerging anti-Roman Old Catholic Churches and Lutheranism. More severe anti-Roman Catholic laws of 1873 allowed the government to supervise the education of the Roman Catholic clergy, and curtailed the disciplinary powers of the Church. In 1875, civil ceremonies were required for weddings, which could hitherto be performed in churches. But these efforts only strengthened the Catholic Centre Party. In 1878 Bismarck abandoned Kulturkampf. Pius died that same year, replaced by a more pragmatic Pope Leo XIII.

Of course Germany was the country that spawned the Protestant Reformation and had a population that was dominated by Lutherans. The Catholics only represented 25% of the German population, wherein their Germanic Austrian neighbors, who were once considered by Bismarck to be incorporated into a greater German state, were 95+% Roman Catholic.

Is there some consistency in all of this? Even though unification movements of both Germany and Italy were quite different both nationalistic groups found themselves directly opposed to the influence of Rome. In France in the late 1780’s and Russia in 1917-8, forces of reform and change were also quite different, but extremely radical. As a consequence of these radical movements, whole classes representing the royalty, the rich, the landowners. and the Church were purged from national power or even existence. In Mexico, land reform and anti-imperialism were linked to an anti-clerical political solution. The ensuing Mexican Revolution deposed the Emperor Maximilian (1832-1867). In Italy, with the patriot Garibaldi (1807-1882) leading a coalition of forces that were united against Napoleon III’s influence and the power of the Vatican in its control of Rome, a strong anti-clerical faction arose. After both the triumph of Benito Juarez and the ascendancy of Garibaldi and the Italian unification forces, the Catholic Church was significantly weakened in both Mexico and Italy.

Obviously the Church’s close connections to the monarchy in Russia and Spain caused violent reactions. In Russia the Eastern Orthodox Church was virtually destroyed by the Russian Revolution. Certainly the influence of the “Mad Monk” Grigory Rasputin (1869-1916), who was not really a Monk, influenced public opinion in a highly negative way in Russia. The religious trappings and ostentatious wealth of both the Romanovs and the Eastern Orthodox Church sickened both the intellectuals and the poor of Russia. In the wake of both the Russo-Japanese War of 1905 and World War I, reform movements fomented and then actual change violently emerged. The feelings ran so high against the established church, which was so linked with the monarchy that extreme measures by the Bolsheviks were almost universally, supported by the poor who were, ironically, the most religious. Of course Marx, who never lived to see his ideas succeed, would have never guessed that there would be a soviet-style, communist revolution in Russia. It was Marx, (1818-1883) at age 26, who famously wrote that, “Religion…is the opium of the people.” (Critique of the Hegelian Philosophy of Right, 1844). Almost nowhere in the modern age was such a large percentage of a country’s people so abused by a monarchy so linked to religion. Of course, in the wake of World War I and World War II, both the Communists of Russia and China abused and murdered many more millions.

In the 20th century, violence in Russia, starting with the abortive 1905 insurrection at the Winter Palace and culminating with the Brest-Litovsk Treaty and the virtual loss of the First World War, led to the removal of the Romanovs from power, and the rise and triumph of the Soviets. Because of this incestuous linkup between the Czarist monarchy and the Church, religious life was virtually destroyed. Other anti-clerical struggles emerged in the context of the bitter Spanish Civil War and both Hitler and Mussolini were, in their own unique way, anti-religious. Mussolini was always looking at ways to control and limit the power of the Papacy, and Hitler, who had used the Papal Concordat to bring justification to his regime, would have destroyed the Vatican if he could have done it politically. Hitler, a Catholic from overwhelmingly Catholic Austria, received remarkable support from the Roman Catholic population of Germany and Austria after the 1938 Anschluss. Of course, the Nazis pressured Kurt Schuschnigg the Austrian Chancellor, who had succeeded his predecessor Englebert Dollfuss, who was murdered by Nazi agents, to hold a plebiscite regarding a union between Germany and Austria. With literally a gun at his head, the plebiscite was held, and 99.73% of the Austrians voted for Anscluss. Many historians agree that the vote may not have been legitimate. Even Schuschnigg had raised the age criteria for voting to 24, to hopefully eliminate many of the youth who supported a union with the Nazis. But 400,000 other voters were excluded, including all Jewish voters and many trade unionists. Eventually almost all the Nazi institutions from the SS (Schutzstaffell) to the Gestapo (Geheime Staatspolizei) were over subscribed by Catholic membership and many leaders of the 3rd Reich, including Hitler and Himmler, were Catholic. This was quite ironic since Hitler almost went out of his way to destroy the Catholic priesthood and its religious institutions within Nazi Germany.

The role of Pope Piux XII (1876-1958) has been hotly debated regarding his World War II activities. His efforts in authoring the Reichskonkordat, which was finally signed on July 20, 1933, when he was Eugenio Pacelli, and a Cardinal (since 1929) and the Vatican Secretary of State gave legitimacy to the Nazi regime. Eugenio Pacelli was from an Italian family of lawyers that served the Vatican for many years.  He had worked on the framework of the Concordat for decades, and was the then Vatican Secretary of State, the former Papal Ambassador to Germany and eventually the new Pope, Pius XII, (Pope 1939-58). When the Concordat was finally signed. Hitler’s desire for legitimacy, and therefore, for a smoother path towards recognition and acceptance was helped immensely.  The Concordat treaty with the Vatican, allowed Catholic schools, in Germany, to be on an equal political and financial footing with Lutheran schools, and virtually ended the role of independent liberal-minded German Catholic clergy in the political process. With the virtual elimination of this independent clergy, Rome got what it wanted; a foothold in Lutheran Germany, and Hitler got the blessing of the Vatican. With the Anschluss with Austria in 1938, eight million more Catholics were absorbed into the greater Reich and swelled their (Catholic) minority from 25% to almost 33% of the new Germany’s population. This agreement smoothed the path for Catholics, with their innate fear and loathing of “godless” communism, to play a strong part in Hitler’s future plans. Eventually Catholics would be disproportionably represented in higher numbers in both Nazi and SS leadership roles and its membership numbers.

As a result of Hitler’s diplomatic actions, in the first few months of his Chancellorship, he was able to consolidate power, shape the government in his own image, change the democratic institutions of post WW I Germany, and start to legislate new and restrictive laws regarding Jews, trade unionists, religious leaders, socialists, the press, and other democratic institutions. These actions of 1933 and 1934, which went basically unchecked, put Hitler and his Nazi gang of brigands in sole power in Germany. This unchecked megalomaniacal power would lead directly to the outbreak of World War II. The consequences of World War II would lead to one of the greatest catastrophes in human history. The war, which caused the killing and murder of between 55-60 million civilians and soldiers, also destroyed millions of homes and an incredible amount of Europe’s infrastructure. Along with the murder of six million Jews, millions of Poles, Serbians and other captive peoples died. In reality, as a result of the war, millions upon millions of Russians, Chinese, Japanese, and Asian non-combatant citizens died from the violence along with the scourges of starvation and exposure. 

Therefore, out of this cataclysm, came the earlier question regarding “where was G-d?” As it was being asked more and more, unquestioned “faith” was under its greatest challenge. Hand and hand, with this great cry, along with the incredible advances and breakthroughs in science and medicine, the destiny of many of the world’s citizens started to changed dramatically. Therefore, “faith and myth” became less important and the questioning of the relevance of religion became more acute. Communication, transportation, atomic energy, antibiotics, and a plethora of other things to come, resulted in putting faith, bolstered by myth, in the back closet of modern thinking. Even the divided ideology of the Christian west versus the Communistic anti-religion east did not reverse this inexorable trend towards the abandonment of un-questioning faith. All of the major western religions initially grew in the more modern reformist mode, in the immediate wake of the war. But the reform element of western religion could not maintain church attendance and the conformity to religious practice at its pre-war levels, especially in Europe. Church attendance in Europe has virtually disappeared. When one travels to Europe, one finds the churches empty, except for the tourists queuing up to pay 12 Euros to get in and take pictures. In the same way, the Protestant churches of England (Anglican), the Low Countries, and Scandinavia (Evangelical Lutheran, Calvinist and minor sects) also are feeling the affects of abandonment. In Germany today, only 72% of the population regards itself as Christian, and many children are the issue of either civil unions or parents who are not married.

Whether it was the northern European heirs to the Protestant Reformation or the constant governmental intrusiveness of the Roman Catholic Church, the trade off for the spread of western civilization came at a heavy price. At least the “Deists” who dominated the new and emerging American Republic, understood fully that the concept of “Separation of Church and State” was critical. Both the Presidency and the Courts throughout our history have supported the “Establishment Clause” until now. President Thomas Jefferson said, that the clause against the establishment of one favored religion by law was intended to erect “a wall of separation between church and state.”  In 1802, Jefferson’s sent a famous letter to the Baptists of Danbury, CT., and in it, he supported their right to refuse to pay a tax to support the established church of that state. This landmark letter became one of the earliest indications of where our 3rd President stood on religious freedom from state control and the erecting of a large “wall of separation.” Ironically, in recent times, the late Chief Justice William Rehnquist questioned Jefferson’s reasoning on this incident.

 

The concept of the “separation of church and state” is often credit to the mind of the British philosopher John Locke, whose influence was keenly felt in the drafting of the United States Constitution. In his social contract, he talked about “a natural right in the liberty of conscience.” This led to the thought that religious freedom was sacrosanct to the individual and that right should be inviolable by any government agency, dictate, or authority. Under our Constitution the treatment of religion is divided into two clauses: the “establishment clause,” and the “free exercise clause.” With regards to “free exercise,” the treatment of religious practice should not be impinged on by government, unless there is a clear violation of state law, which could prohibit practices such as; bigamy, sex with children, human and animal sacrifice, use of drugs or other criminal acts. Basically the courts have insured that important religious rights are not impeded and they usually demand that any state laws restricting religious practices must show that the state has a valid interest in protecting citizens from being bodily violated.

 

The United States Supreme Court has mentioned the “separation of church and state” twenty-five times and the first time was in 1878 with the Reynolds Case. In this case the Court defended marriage as between a man and a woman and denied free exercise claims of Mormons in the Utah Territory. It was never used again until the late 1940’s. In 1947, in the case of Emerson v The Board of Education, the Supreme Court recognized the right of New Jersey to support state sponsored busing to schools whether parochial of private. They reasoned that as long as the busing was offered to all students it was not a violation of the “Establishment Clause.” A strong advocate of the “separation” was Justice Hugo Black, who as a former member of the Ku Klux Klan was thought to be anti-Catholic.

 

In fact, our children received free busing to the Solomon Schecter School of Westchester that was located in White Plains. As White Plains residents, we qualified for free bus transportation only within the city. With respect to school prayer, the Courts in Engle v. Vitale, in 1962, voided a law that allowed a non-denominational prayer written by a member of the New York Board of Regents, the state’s educational policy body. The next year, in 1963, in Abington v. Schempp, the Court ruled against the reading of the Lord’s Prayer. The Court had determined that “secular purpose” and “primary effect” were the new tests to determine compatibility with the “Establishment Clause.” Because the Lord’s Prayer violated these tests, the law allowing its reading was struck down.

 

In 1971, in Lemon v. Kurtzman, the Supreme Court ruled that the government may not “excessively entangle” itself with religion. This involved a complex arrangement, which used public monies to subsidize religious teaching. Even in 1985 the Court, in Wallace v. Jefferson, determined that an Alabama law that allowed students a period for “silent contemplation” for the purpose of private prayer should be voided. Recently in this area, a case in 1994, which involved the ultra orthodox Jewish community of Kiryas Joel Village School, had the Court reaffirm its position on the use of public monies to support or prefer one religion. In fact, Justice David Souter, who was writing for the majority, stated, “that government should not prefer one religion to another, or religion to irreligion.”

 

With regards to the display of religious icons, scenes or symbols on public property, Scarsdale, NY fought a series of challenges between 1957 and 1980 to its policy of having a crèche on the publicly owned Boniface Circle. Eventually it was removed, and it was again replaced when adding a Menorah brokered a compromise.

 

In 2001 when Roy Moore, a Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, had a monument to the Ten Commandments commissioned and placed on the Court’s property. In 2003, in the case of Glassoth v. Moore, he was forced to remove the monument, and when he refused to comply, he was eventually removed from office.

 

At the time, I wrote about the case.

 

Alabama Judge and the 10 Commandments, a Response

2003

 

 I sure hope that you do not believe that the removal of Alabama's Chief Judge was symbolic of the problems inherent in America today, or a hypocritical reaction to a “patriot's” valiant effort to bring reason, justice and good habits back into the lives of the people who visit his former courthouse? Judge Roy Brown, all political prejudices aside, is a dope. His actions, subsequent protest, failure to obey an order, and his conduct reflect moronic and, in my opinion myopic and foolish judgment. Whether “In G-d We Trust” and the block of granite with the 10 Commandments is comparable or incomparable is totally irrelevant. We have many small and large inconsistencies rife throughout our society. Why anyone, in his/her right mind, would sacrifice his career, livelihood, and future, for an issue that is not even debated or even cared about by 95% of the “well-meaning” people of the right or the left astounds me. In most cases his act alone should disqualify himself from any further activities that involve the use of “judgment.” We have recognized grudgingly or not grudgingly over the centuries that we do not believe in the “state establishment of religion, or its support.” Religion, in this country, has intelligently evolved from our non-religious deist-type founders, to be a “private” pursuit, not encumbered or fettered by the state.

 

Personally, I believe in G-d, and I consider myself a G-d-fearing person. I do not believe that the 10 Commandments are a horrible document or even a controversial set of guidelines for our or any society's laws to be based upon. But it is clear that he flaunted the “Establishment Clause”, it is clear that there has been rulings supporting the “Establishment Clause” forever and it is clear that he fought the wrong battle at the wrong time for the wrong reasons.

 

If his reasoning is that “bringing G-D, the Ten Commandments or any other Judeo-Christian teachings into a more prominent place in our secular society or government will make a positive difference,” I believe that he is really on a fool's journey. My sense is that America has immense problems that cannot even be addressed by added “state” encouragement of spirituality. Though in my heart I wish people were more willing to follow the “golden rule” and all that it entails and implies.

 

In regards to America, I can say with complete conviction and belief, that the scandal regarding pedophiliac abuse that the Church has condoned, covered-up and paid hush money in the millions to silence, has dwarfed any of the church/state arguments that have come along. On top of that, our corporate culture of greed, avarice and profligacy has done more to corrupt America than any loss of church going or religious icons could accomplish.  Putting symbolic representations of religious commandment in public places may seem like an intelligent step towards reminding society of its eventual reward for misconduct. But, all in all, when a great historical institution of moral rectitude engages in consummate hypocrisy involving our most vulnerable citizens, then we, as a society must really start to worry about moving backwards towards the old European model of state and religious marriage.

 

I do not attempt to know the answers of why in our society, where there is still very heavy church/synagogue attendance, in comparison with the rest of the western world, that our murder, rape, felony, embezzlement, stock and accounting manipulation, price-fixing, and child abuse rates are so much more higher.

 

All in all, the Judge is out of a job, and out of a career.

 

Therefore, from my earlier citing, the Supreme Court has always reviewed the “prayer in our schools” issue, and its support for “Establishment Clause” has been consistent for generations. But despite that fact, faith-based initiatives, promulgated by the current administration, frighten both the secular and the liberal branches of the Judeo-Christian community. The issues of the Kansas State School Board over “creationism” and a small Pennsylvania school board’s similar support became national issues. The local electorate removed the Pennsylvania Educational Board, and I believe that the Kansas State Board has also changed.  So generally, most Americans, when they make the choice in the ballot box, lean to inclusiveness and not to a more religiously based dogmatic approach.

 

Even President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who regarded himself as a religious man and who invoked the name of G-d often, understood fully the need to draw a clear separation between church and state. President Lincoln, who could quote the Bible, verse by verse, was not one to indulge in ritual of formal church service. Ironically, with the right wing’s stampede to cite various examples of FDR’s introduction of religious prayer into American life they have focused on his D-Day Prayer.

 

 

 

Franklin D. Roosevelt
June 6, 1944

My Fellow Americans:

Last night, when I spoke with you about the fall of Rome, I knew at that moment that troops of the United States and our Allies were crossing the Channel in another and greater operation. It has come to pass with success thus far. And so, in this poignant hour, I ask you to join with me in prayer:

Almighty God: Our sons, pride of our nation, this day have set upon a mighty endeavor, a struggle to preserve our Republic, our religion, and our civilization, and to set free a suffering humanity.

Lead them straight and true; give strength to their arms, stoutness to their hearts, steadfastness in their faith. They will need Thy blessings. Their road will be long and hard. For the enemy is strong. He may hurl back our forces. Success may not come with rushing speed, but we shall return again and again; and we know that by Thy grace, and by the righteousness of our cause, our sons will triumph.

They will be sore tried, by night and by day, without rest — until the victory is won. The darkness will be rent by noise and flame. Men's souls will be shaken with the violences of war. For these men are lately drawn from the ways of peace. They fight not for the lust of conquest. They fight to end conquest. They fight to liberate. They fight to let justice arise, and tolerance and goodwill among all Thy people. They yearn but for the end of battle, for their return to the haven of home.

Some will never return. Embrace these, Father, and receive them, Thy heroic servants, into Thy kingdom. And for us at home — fathers, mothers, children, wives, sisters, and brothers of brave men overseas, whose thoughts and prayers are ever with them — help us, Almighty God, to rededicate ourselves in renewed faith in Thee in this hour of great sacrifice.

Many people have urged that I call the nation into a single day of special prayer. But because the road is long and the desire is great, I ask that our people devote themselves in a continuance of prayer. As we rise to each new day, and again when each day is spent, let words of prayer be on our lips, invoking Thy help to our efforts. Give us strength, too — strength in our daily tasks, to redouble the contributions we make in the physical and the material support of our armed forces.

And let our hearts be stout, to wait out the long travail, to bear sorrows that may come, to impart our courage unto our sons wheresoever they may be. And, O Lord, give us faith. Give us faith in Thee; faith in our sons; faith in each other; faith in our united crusade. Let not the keeness of our spirit ever be dulled. Let not the impacts of temporary events, of temporal matters of but fleeting moment — let not these deter us in our unconquerable purpose.

With Thy blessing, we shall prevail over the unholy forces of our enemy. Help us to conquer the apostles of greed and racial arrogances. Lead us to the saving of our country, and with our sister nations into a world unity that will spell a sure peace — a peace invulnerable to the schemings of unworthy men. And a peace that will let all of men live in freedom, reaping the just rewards of their honest toil.

Thy will be done, Almighty God.

Amen.

Of course this was a special time, and our men were in harm’s way, and Roosevelt did not limit his call to one day of prayer. He asked the American people to continue to pray, every day, for their safety. But he was not talking about public policy, or backing a state-sponsored religion, or telling people to be religious. He was basically saying, that this D-Day landing was now in the hands of the men at the front, and all we could do, in our own special way, was to pray for their safety. Of course, in 1944 church attendance was at an all-time high because of the war and America thought of itself, primarily as an extension of Euro-Centric culture, and certainly not divorced from Christianity. Interestingly, out of World War II, the famous quote “There are no atheists in foxholes,” emerged. It was at times attributed to either Lt. Colonel William J. Clears or Lt. Colonel William Casey. But the precise origin also has been most often been traced to the late Scripps-Howard war correspondent, Ernie Pyle. On the other hand, in 1942, and in response to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, songwriter Frank Loesser wrote a patriotic song titled, Praise the Lord and Pass the Ammunition. Both sayings were extremely popular and seem a bit contradictory, but they convey the same message. The obvious message is that one can often turn to prayer in dealing with fear, but in a secular sense, prayer can only go so far in confronting reality, so “Pass the ammo!”

Ironically it was Eisenhower who started the effort to bring religion back into the forefront of American public life. It was Eisenhower who transformed the pledge of allegiance with the addition of the phrase, “under G-d.” It was also Eisenhower who started to take public advice from Billy Graham. When John F. Kennedy started his run for the presidency in 1960, the concern, most often articulated, was whether Kennedy would allow a foreign religious prelate to affect his decision-making. Kennedy was able to defeat Hubert Humphrey in the heavily Protestant dominated West Virginia Primary, despite incredible opposition from numerous Protestant clergy that weighed in with their views on Catholicism, and their fear of the Pope’s influence on a Kennedy presidency. Kennedy had made an effort to diffuse Protestant criticism by taking on the issue directly. He addressed the issue of the freedom to worship with patriotism, and cited the death of his heroic brother Joe. He stated that religion wasn’t a factor when he joined the navy to fight in the war, and that “nobody asked my brother if he was a Catholic or Protestant before he climbed into an American bomber to fly his last mission.” Of course his greatest coup was to get Franklin D. Roosevelt’s son Franklin Jr. to campaign for him in West Virginia. Even though FDR had broken with Joe Kennedy Sr., and Eleanor Roosevelt had preferred Adlai Stevenson and had a famous dustup with Cardinal Spellman of New York, JFK’s campaigning with FDR’s son, who looked quite like his father, worked miracles. FDR was, and is to this day, incredibly popular in West Virginia. Richard Reeves, the historian, observed, “ as if the son of G-d had come to give the Protestants permission to vote for this Catholic.”

 

 John F. Kennedy later won the Presidency by less than 1/10th of a percent of the popular vote or 118,000 votes. Theodore White, a chronicler of Presidential races, determined in his seminal work, The Making of the President, 1960, that Kennedy’s religion had cost him upwards of to 7-8 million votes. A shift of that magnitude would have given JFK a landslide approaching 60% of the popular vote. Ironically four years later, Johnson was able to attain that winning percentage.

 

Recently the public observed three former Presidents sublimating themselves to the aging Billy Graham’s ministry and legacy. Even someone was quoted as saying that Billy Graham’s efforts were critical to the history of this country. I have nothing against Billy Graham, though I do wonder about the positive influences of his coterie of cloning imitators. Many of these individuals are just in the business of religion and often to remind me of the character of Elmer Gantry. I thought that the country had “wised up” sufficiently to the message of the Scopes Monkey Trial and that a film like Inherit the Wind had put these phonies out to pasture. But, of course, it has been over eighty years since the Scopes Trial and the subject of the teaching of Darwinism in Tennessee, was challenged in 1925. In 1927, Sinclair Lewis published his sensational novel, Elmer Gantry. Many, at the time, assumed it was based on the lives and characters of the evangelical ministers, the Reverend Billy Sunday, and Aimee Semple McPherson. In truth, it was based on the teachings of Burris Jackson, a minister at the Methodist Episcopal Church in Kansas City, Missouri and Lewis had never been exposed to Sunday or McPherson. But, public opinion saw many similarities between the story of Gantry and these famous evangelical ministers. But many seemed to have now forgotten the message of the critically, well-received 1960 movie with Burt Lancaster.

 

In the United States we find a religious population mostly dominated by Christians. According to a 2004 survey, in the United States, there were 66.4 million Catholics, and 83.8 million Protestants and approximately 6 million Jews. With regards to adult identification with a specific religion in 2001 the numbers were 159.5 million Christians (50.8 Catholic, 108 million Protestant,) 2.8 million Jewish, 1.1 million Muslim/Islamic and 1.1 million Buddhist, along another 1 million others. Also, among American adults, 29.5 million identified themselves as with no religion and 11 million did not answer. The American Religious Identification Survey of 2001 stated that of all Americans, 37% considered themselves religious, 38% somewhat religious, 10% secular, 6% somewhat secular, and 9% refused to comment.  

 

Significantly, though, there seems to be less statistics today on the “real” percentage of people attending church or synagogue on a weekly basis. But for sure, it seems high, with regards to European standards, where church attendance has been on the severe decline in some regions. Jewish attendance has been also on the decline since the 1950’s, and in the coastal, more urban areas there has been a rise of a more reformed brand of Judaism and Christianity. In the interior of the United States, especially the more rural South and Midwest, the rise of evangelical Christianity has been well noted. It doesn’t take a survey to note, that when one is in South Carolina, Arkansas or Arizona, on a Sunday morning, most of the church parking lots are filled.

 

Therefore when one compares the United States to other countries with a comparable level of development and standard of living, these statistics stand out regarding the question of whether religion is important to one’s life:

 

·        53% United States

·        16% Great Britain

·        14% France

·        13% Germany

 

But even with this high level of religiosity in America, which seems to be concentrated in what we used to call “The Bible Belt,” and even with the rise of evangelical Christianity, a survey in 1998 reflected a definitive decline in church attendance. A study in 1993, and 1996, by C. Kirk Hadaway and PL Marler, noted that church attendance had reported that year after year, 40% Americans tell the Gallup Organization that they all attended church and synagogue in the past week. But if church and synagogue membership had remained flat for many years while the population continued to grow substantially, the 40% would seem to be quite inaccurate. In one study in 1993, Hadaway and Marler determined that at Protestant Churches in one county in Ohio and at eighteen Roman Catholic dioceses across the country, instead of 40% of Protestants attending church the figure was closer to 20%. In the Roman Catholic churches the announced figure of 50% attendance was actually 28%. In 1996, because of criticism of their work, they chose a 2000 member, middle-class, and white evangelical church in the deep South for their new research. This time, they posted researchers across the sanctuary and to count heads and then interview a sampling of 300 church members. They asked all of them if they attended church that past Sunday. The results confirmed their earlier conclusions. Of the 300 members interviewed 209 said that they had attended service or about 70%. If 70% of the members had really been at church, the attendance should have been approximately 1710. In fact it was 984.

 

It is obvious that even in the heart of the evangelical South, where church is still serious business, church attendance, though overstated is at the high level of 50%. Therefore, we seem to have reached a cultural and religious divide in America. The more coastal areas, in and around the cities and the commercial centers, are more secular, and their “community” standards are more, on the surface “liberal.” In other words, people are not generally going to church or synagogue. It is also a strong possibility that of the 40 million or so Americans, who consider themselves without religion, or would not comment, probably live in these areas. Therefore, the community standards are more “watered down” in these locales. Also, of course, in the religious identification survey, 25% of the Americans polled considered themselves not religious or somewhat secular.

 

Therefore, we can conclude that 25% of the population doesn’t really care about religious standards. Of the remaining 75%, who consider themselves religious or somewhat religious, a large percentage of those may be in more liberal religious churches or movements. Even among Roman Catholicism, where there is only one church and one dogma, there are followers with different degrees of adherence, belief, church attendance, political and social beliefs and mores.

 

With all this in mind, in the Northeast corridor and the West Coast where income, education and liberalism seem to be at the highest, religious adherence seems to be somewhat lower than the rest of the country. Therefore, the so-called “Christian Influence” is different in different places. For sure, with our community standards, “fundamentalism” has not made as an important impact as it has in our more rural areas. Therefore our media, our advertising, or acceptance of language and our basic standards are more secular. But on the other hand, many do not want “fundamentalism” to make an impact! In fact they fear it! Culturally speaking the secular society is not perfect either. There are many aspects of our society that infuriate and disgust much of the population. Our unrestricted and free press, seem to indulge and hyperventilate the public’s insatiable taste for material and celebrity. No one is wise enough to know which comes first; the chicken or the egg. Is it the public that demands and supports our unlimited taste for garbage or is it the media that encourages our darker side? There is no real answer to this age-old question that has been around since Adam and Eve. But for sure, we do benefit by the free market place of ideas and thoughts, and we always have the right of universal self-censorship. We can tune out and turn away. But a controlled press, marching to the tune of a theocratic-style government that promotes one intellectual or moral ideal will lead us back into the political Dark Ages.

 

But, after years of advancement, in the wake of the 2nd World War, we are on the dangerous precipice regarding the long term future of the “Establishment Clause” and a Supreme Court that could give credence one day to the flat-earth creationist thinking that is abound in the land. In one of the recent Republican debates, when the question regarding the belief in Darwin was raised, three out of the ten stated with their raised hand that they did not belief in the Darwin’s Theory. It seemed to this observer that a majority of the other seven wanted to raise their hand! Many of those seven, I assume, would certainly emphasize the “theory” aspect of Darwinsim.

 

Decisions on many of the legal cases regarding the Bush “Doctrine” regarding faith-based initiatives are starting to reach the courts. Last year, U.S. District Judge Robert W. Pratt strongly reprimanded and ruled against Iowa’s use of a Christian social service agency to administer its state prison. He stated: “For all practical purposes, the state has literally established a Evangelical Christian congregation within the walls of one of its penal institutions…There are no adequate safeguard present, nor could there be, to ensure that state funds are not being directly spent to indoctrinate Iowa inmates.”

 

Even a U.S. House of Representative report states that the majority of the abstinence-only sexual education programs contain incorrect or misleading information. The report claimed that 80% of the curricula used by the recipients of the “faith-based” grants contain incorrect information. In one report it was claimed that abortions cause sterility and condoms do not prevent sexually transmitted diseases. Of course, the federal government, under the Bush faith-based initiative, funds these programs. In fact research by Columbia University finds that 9 of 10 teenagers who had pledged abstinence from pre-marital sex had broken their vows in the six years since the pledges.

 

Unfortunately, the separation between church and state, regarding these faith-based initiatives, maybe difficult to maintain, since few federal agencies are monitoring them for compliance and the power of the Presidency is behind their existence. It will even be difficult to change this process with an election of a democratic President in 2008. These institutions have been bloated with billions over the past 6.5 years and if they are cut back or cut out, the political firestorm will be white hot. Many civil libertarians and secularists are starting to denounce the Faith-Based Community Initiatives as violation of the “Establishment Clause.”  It has been labeled by many, as the “Department of Faith.” Currently the Supreme Court has heard arguments in a case Hein v. Freedom from Religion Foundation on whether taxpayers can file suit regarding the use of funds by the Office of the “Faith-Based and Community Initiatives.”

 

Another issue that has been most alarming has been the spread of evangelical proselytizing to the military.  Presently there have been problems at Fort Leavenworth regarding Bible classes for US soldiers that appear to be anti-Semitic. The non-profit watchdog group, Military Religious Freedom Foundation has been alerted to a sharp rise in complaints from, not only Jewish soldiers, but also one’s from other faiths and branches of Christianity. The foundation chairman Mikey Weinstein, a former White House counsel, believes “It’s illegal for an arm of the federal government to push this ideology.”  There have also been numerous cases about the blurring of the “separation of church and state” regarding the service academies.

 

In summation, in most ancient cultures the political leader, whether he/she was a king or emperor, was the highest religious leader and sometimes thought of as divine or a god. Caligula in a very extreme case attempted to make himself one of the Roman gods. In ancient Israel the King and the priesthood were separate, and their roles were limited to their respective areas of responsibility and authority. Later on, when they were dominated by a foreign entity, their high priest held the highest position in their civil authority. Roman emperors were often considered divine and nominally held the highest religious office. In the Medieval Age, the Western Roman Empire considered the issue of the separation between church and state, and it was usually left to the discretion of the emperor. As an emperor’s secular rule impinged upon the church, power struggles ensued, and these conflicts led to crises, problems of succession and often war. Quite often these conflicts directly affected political development. In the Eastern Roman Empire, the Byzantine Emperors had complete control over the church and the Patriarch of Constantinople. Eventually with the fall of the Byzantines to the Ottomans, and the death of the emperor, the ruling Caliph controlled the appointment of the head of the Eastern Orthodox Church. In modern times, aside from the United States, European countries constitutionally mandated certain religious restrictions on their governments. As for example, in Norway, the king is also head of the state church, and their constitution requires more than half of the members of the Norwegian Council of State to be members of the state Evangelical Lutheran Church. Even though freedom of religion is guaranteed, Lutheranism is the official state religion.

 

In the modern states of Turkey and France, the separation of church and state is called laicite. The secular state protects the religious institutions from state control, but does exert some controls over religious expression. Therefore, historically, we have seen an evolution from the marriage between the state and the church to the secular state. In the western world we have therefore seen different configurations with regards to religious life within democracies.

 

Hopefully, America will continue to heed the sage wisdom of our Founding Fathers, and especially Thomas Jefferson when it comes to religious influence regarding the state. There should always be an understanding that moral law can be connected with religious belief. We must always understand the inalienable rights of life, liberty and happiness, and part of those rights, regarding liberty and happiness, is the right to worship G-d. That understanding should always be protected in our society. This delicate balance between the freedom of worship and the secular rights of others has been a subject of controversy for all of recorded history. We have seen, with the rise of the secular state, a consequential decline in that standing of all churches, and houses of worship. But has the decline of the religious institution come from a “loss of faith?” I am sure that many will think that is so. But, I believe it is indicative of a “new enlightenment” where people can believe in G-d, and therefore live their lives with a greater respect and acceptance of others.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Letter to the Editor-The Journal News -WestHELP 6-13-07

The Journal News

Letter to the Editor:

 

In your June 12, 2007, letters to the editor section, we saw two contrasting views regarding the WestHELP conflict that is affecting the taxpayers and the citizens of the Mayfair-Knollwood neighborhood of Greenburgh. The head of the local civic association has articulated the duplicity of the Greenburgh Town Board, who in its arrogance and self-serving ambition to run Greenburgh through its venal and legislative “dictatorship” has punished the children of Greenburgh, who attend the Valhalla schools.  In contrast we were exposed to a wanton political attack on Greenburgh Supervisor Paul Feiner by one of his opponent’s political hack friends. This is nothing new from Feiner’s challengers, who impugn his honesty and well-known integrity at every opportunity. But their baseless canards have been proven wrong time and again. Two years ago, his opponent defended two Board members in front of the Fair Campaign Practice Board and lost! Then it was an 11th hour smear that smacked of McCarthyism. When will the “boss” of the town Democratic Party resign?

 

Richard J. Garfunkel

Letter to the Editor of the Nation 6-5-07

Letter to the Nation

June 5, 2007

 

“The Two Wailing Walls!”

 

The tone of your June 18, 2007 edition of “The Nation” was, for my eyes, quite anti-Israel, and by my definition anti-Semitic. Many people, Jew and non-Jew alike, attack Israel and claim they love Jews or the Jewish people. But with fellow Jews like Brian Klug, most of the Israelis would be dead today. Even though Klug, Benvenisti, and Makdisi, believe that Israel, unlike any other country in the world, does not have a right of self-defense, a vast majority of Jews believe that they have that right. When Columbus, New Mexico was raided by Pancho Villa in 1916, we sent an army into Mexico to hunt him down. Every country has that right of self-defense. While your troika of apologists to terrorism excoriates Israel, no mention is written about the 1500 missiles that have hit a small border town named Sderot. It seems that Jews are allowed to be targets of opportunity and their right to protect themselves is criminal. Jews have lived in Israel for thousands of years before there was a Muslim religion and without their forced dispersal in 586 BCE and 70 CE they would be the vast majority of people in the region. No one, on your staff, seems to remember that they fought the Babylonian, Greek-Syrian, and Roman Empires. They were the first “People's Liberation Movement.” They purchased barren land from absentee Egyptian and Turkish landowners and pieced together settlements in their desire to escape from European persecution in the post Herzl era. In the Mandate area, which now includes modern Israel, the West Bank, Gaza and Jordan, Jews purchased all of the land they occupied up into 1948. When they sought a “two-state” solution, and accepted a tiny portion of the land, their Arab neighbors refused and declared war on them with the intent of wiping them off the face of the earth. Nothing new! Out of that victory, and subsequent triumphs, the modern state of Israel emerged, survived and prospered.

 

Israel took in 800,000 Jewish refugees, but did the 22 other Arab countries absorb there own 800,000? No! In fact, most of these Arabs ran from pre1967 Israel, accepting the promise that the Arab armies would crush the nascent country and all the land would be theirs. Their Arab brothers kept them in camps to make sure that they would never forget and never be assimilated. They are all Arabs by the way! They are the only refugees since WWII that were not re-settled! Why? Your authors know why. But your authors want to re-write history for their own purposes and hidden agendas. Have your authors forgotten the Nazi ally and Jew hater, the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, who fomented hate and murder for years against legitimate Jewish settlers? By the way, there is a Palestinian state already, it is Jordan. But these authors seem to have conveniently forgotten that Jordan kept the West Bank stateless for 19 years. Why didn't the Jordanians give independence to the West Bank? Because they encouraged them with the dream that they would eventually conquer and destroy the “Zionist entity.” In closing, your magazine does disservice to justice and democracy, of which Hamas, Hezbollah and Al Fatah know nothing about. The truth is as plain as your faces. Do your authors really blame the murderous fratricide in Gaza on Israel? Maybe they should blame the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait on the Jews! Maybe they should blame the age-old Sunni-Shiite struggle on the Jews, or the struggles between Muslim and Christian in the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Chechnya, Nigeria and Bosnia. If there were no oil in the Middle East, the Arab world and Palestinians would be forgotten in a nano-second. I suggest you spend more time on Darfur, or the other hot spots around the world, where radical Muslims are killing other peoples, rather than excoriating the one democratic and free country.

 

 

Richard J. Garfunkel