Lieberman's Pulpit

The Jewish Week (NY) - Editorial - September 1, 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.

To its credit, the Anti-Defamation League was not daunted by the prospect of criticizing Democratic vice presidential candidate Joseph Lieberman this week for championing religion in the public square. After the senator's speech on Sunday at a Detroit church, asserting that "there must be a place for faith in America's public life," Abraham Foxman, national director of the ADL, called on Lieberman to stop making "overt expressions" of his faith in his political speeches. Such talk makes some people squeamish, or as Foxman put it more delicately, there was "a point at which an emphasis on religion in a political campaign becomes inappropriate and even unsettling in a religiously diverse society such as ours."

A number of observers have noted that when conservative Christian politicians speak as Lieberman has of late, invoking religious motifs and calling for an infusion of religious values into society, liberal Jews cry "foul."

But the issue here is not so much about protecting the separation of church and state as it is about the wisdom of protecting religion from becoming political fodder. Lieberman has been sufficiently, and purposefully, vague in his remarks so as not to make any direct connections between faith and political action, such as support for school prayer. (He does favor a moment of silence.) He says there should be "a place" for religion in public life but doesn't say where that place should be.

The irony here is that what has been particularly admirable about Lieberman's years in the U.S. Senate until now has been his decision to keep his religious beliefs to himself, whether or not those beliefs have motivated his public decisions. By veering from that path and basking in his new role as the Democrats' preacher-in-chief - surely the result of a party decision to narrow "the God gap" with the Republicans - Lieberman turns personal faith into political sloganeering, which should offend him more than anyone.

See Also:
  • Separation and the Senator
  • The Lieberman Page