Separation and the Senator

The Forward - August 30, 2000


Justice4JP does not endorse or oppose any candidate in the Presidential elections. Justice4JP does however see it as our responsibility to the public to reveal how any candidate's position on the Pollard case is a reflection of that candidate's commitment to the truth, or alternately a reflection of his willingness to subvert principles of honesty, justice, and fair play to political goals. See Justice4JP Release 08/16/00.

Senator Lieberman stumbled badly this week with his reckless declaration, in a Detroit church, that the Constitution guarantees "freedom of religion, but not freedom from religion." The Supreme Court has long since settled that question the other way. There are those who disagree with the current constitutional environment, with its high wall of separation between church and state, and they are entitled to their dissent. But that dissent should not be coming from a standard-bearer of the party of Jefferson.

From the outset, Mr. Lieberman's nomination to the vice presidency represented an intriguing gamble. It was not just that he is Jewish, challenging the presumption that latent anti-Semitism in the electorate might doom any ticket that included a Jew. The gamble was also in the decision by a Democratic ticket to choose a running mate with a record of deep religious conviction.

Such convictions are usually associated, in the political arena, with Republicans. By choosing a man of faith, Vice President Gore clearly sought to blunt Republican efforts to capitalize on the moral failings of the Clinton administration. It went without saying, or should have, that the nominee would have to manage a delicate balancing act. He would have to frame his religious faith in a way that would not undermine the Democratic Party's fundamental, two-century-old commitment to church-state separation. He would have to articulate a vision of morality in public life that does not engage the state in dictating matters of conscience.

With his statements last Sunday, Mr. Lieberman flubbed that balancing act. He will have to do much better. Much is riding on his success, for Jews, for all minorities and for America.

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