Conservative christian activists have often been unwise or shortsighted in pushing their moral and religious claims in the public square, but their efforts have reminded secular folk that religious belief is decisive for individuals, institutions and societies. They have persuasively made the case that the constitutional disestablishment of religion does not mean the establishment of irreligion.
When Pope John Paul II spoke at World Youth Day in Toronto a month ago, he touched on the current crisis in the Catholic Church, admonishing his young audience to not be “discouraged by the sins and failings of some.” Instead, “think of the vast majority of dedicated and generous priests and religious whose only wish is to serve and do good.” That most priests and religious are worthy servants of
Imagine a state-run voucher program that allows parents to use their vouchers at any public or private school—a Montessori-style school, say, or a John Dewey–inspired “progressive” school, or an avowedly atheistic school, or a Catholic or Jewish school. Would such a program, by including religious as well as secular schools, constitute an illegal establishment of religion?
The U.S.’s stated plan to take out Iraqi president Saddam Hussein is deeply troubling. To begin with, the American people, including the leaders of Congress, have not been offered convincing evidence that Hussein is an imminent threat to the security of the U.S. or of Israel or of Iraq’s other neighbors. Further, it is not clear what would happen if Hussein were removed.
A massive public outcry greeted the ruling last month by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals declaring that the words “under God” in public school recitations of the Pledge of Allegiance violate the “no establishment of religion” clause of the First Amendment. Congress rushed to condemn the decision. President Bush termed it ridiculous and Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle called it “just nuts.
Dr. Paul Farmer, an infectious disease specialist known for his work in Haiti, has been to Liberia and planned to go back again in the fight against Ebola. According to Farmer, the outbreak of Ebola is a symptom of a very poor and weak health-care system in the three West African countries where it is spreading. In Liberia there is one physician per 100,000 people, compared to 240 in the United States. The president of Liberia points out that the Dallas Cowboys stadium uses more electricity each year than her whole country. Vaccines and drugs don’t exist because Ebola’s victims are poor and—so far—not very numerous (London Review of Books, October 23).