Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Christians Insulted

This article is reprinted from Catholic Online. I chose to reprint it in its entirety because it is important, and the author asked his readers to do so.

Catholic Online

Opinion: Barry Lynn/'Americans United' Insult Rick Warren and Christians

By Deacon Keith Fournier
Catholic Online

Barry Lynn impugned Rev. Rick Warren, disparaged orthodox Christians of every confession,promoted an anti-faith agenda and misrepresented the Civil Forum at Saddleback Church.

CHESAPEAKE, Va. (Catholic Online) - I was driving down the road in Chesapeake, Virginia and decided to turn on National Public Radio for their spin on the news of the day.

While turning the dial (even the expression dates me in the digital age)I happened upon the “Diane Rehm Show” just in time to hear her guests opine on the now famous Saddleback Forum, where evangelical Protestant Pastor Rick Warren hosted both Senator Barack Obama and Senator John McCain for an historic event during the Presidential campaign of 2008.

The topic of the hour-long program was “Religion in the 2008 Presidential Campaign”. The guests were John Meacham, an editor of Newsweek and co-moderator of "On Faith”; John Green, senior fellow in religion and American politics, Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life and a director of the Ray C. Bliss Institute of Applied Politics at the University of Akron in Ohio; and, Reverend Barry Lynn, the Executive Director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State and the author of "Piety & Politics".

Rev. Barry Lynn is the self appointed watch dog who runs “Americans United for the Separation of Church and State”; a well funded 501 c3 exempt public policy and educational organization. I am well acquainted with Rev. Lynn.

For years, while I served as the first Executive Director of the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ), in the 1990’s, a public interest law firm committed to an authentic view of religious freedom, we crossed paths quite a few times. He still regularly debates my friend, the Chief Counsel for the ACLJ, and noted Supreme Court Advocate, Jay Sekulow.

I will admit something up front.

I believe that Barry Lynn’s interpretation of the Establishment Clause, Free Speech Clause and Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution is simply wrong. It is not faithful to history, it is not a proper reading of Constitutional law, it is not good for the public order and it does not promote or serve the common good.

This clause was never intended by the American founders to prevent religious groups from full participation in the public square not to censor out religious speech or the religious speaker from civic participation.

The “Establishment Clause” is better understood as an “anti-Establishment Clause” because it was intended to prevent the erection of a National Church. Of course, as a Catholic, I am quite sensitive to the fact that the early colonies were not, for the most part, very Catholic friendly. However, over time, that changed.

And, properly understood, the First Amendment to the United States Constitution has allowed for a robust diversity of religious expression (or non-expression) and the flourishing of a dynamic model of religious freedom in America. That is, when it is properly interpreted and applied.

Sadly, Rev. Lynn wants to erect a Wall far greater in scope than the metaphorical wall which has been used in Establishment clause jurisprudence to explain the American notion of separation. His notion of a wall would expunge religious expression from the public discourse and impede the freedom of the Church to speak to the great moral issues of the age.

That became quite obvious as he excoriated Rev. Rick Warren and the Saddleback Forum in his comments and responses on this radio show.

Please, do not misunderstand me. Barry Lynn is a rather likeable fellow in person. He is just plain wrong on the Constitution and he is, unfortunately, an anti-Christian bigot in Christian clothes. He has failed repeatedly in his efforts to frighten people into thinking that anyone who believes that religious practice and expression is a “good” which promotes the common good is, in reality, some kind of nut and a threat.

Fortunately he has also failed in his tiring efforts to persuade the public to accept his own apparent belief that orthodox Christians and other religious people can not really make good Americans.However, on this radio program he tried again. It reminded me of the old "No Name" party, the virulently anti-Catholic group which tried to disparage catholics in America for so many years.

In the early days of my own work as a Constitutional lawyer, my Catholicism was a problem for Rev. Barry Lynn. Because of me, and others like me, he was unable to convince folks that all Christian people with whom he disagreed over the Right to Life and a host of other issues were all “fundamentalists”. He wanted to denigrate us all by assigning us to what he hoped to argue was a small segment of Protestant Christianity, the "fundamentalists', who were a threat to the Republic.

So, Barry Lynn joined the ranks of those back then who came up with the phrase “religious right” and then slowly expanded its definition in order to use it as a verbal weapon against most orthodox Christians, be they Protestant, Evangelical, Orthodox or Catholic.

Well, as this radio program unfolded, it became clear that Barry Lynn is still singing the same old tired song.

He quickly fell into his habit of verbal abuse, calling Reverend Rick Warren, the Pastor of Saddleback Church who hosted the Forum, a member of the “Far Right”. He accused him of having only a veneer of concern for issues other than abortion.He consigned him to what Lynn considers the narrow “right wing” and he ridiculed him.

He actually dismissed the commendable concerns for the poor demonstrated by Rev. Warren and his congregation and his teaching on other issues such as environmental stewardship as some kind of subterfuge on his part. It was just plain awful!

As the questioning unfolded, Rev. Lynn continued to mock Rev. Warren rather than to actually discuss the issues which came up in the Forum. He referred with disdain to the Pastor’s best selling book, “Purpose Driven Life”, dismissing its phenomenal sales in a peevish way. He noted that he had written books and never sold that number.

Of course, the comment gave rise to the obvious. I found myself speaking in my car and saying "earth to Barry, maybe your books were not as helpful to people". In fact, they are filled, as is all his communication, with bigotry against classical, orthodox Christians.

He lumped Rev. Warren and those who attended the event at Saddleback Church among thos he has consigned to that favorite boogeyman class of his, the “religious right”. Again, it was interesting to see that never once in this interview did Barry Lynn deal with people like me, Catholic Christians who were delightfully surprised as the evening at the Saddleback forum unfolded.

Instead he issued his dire warnings, indicating that this helpful event was some kind of threat to America. The tenor of his responses to the host’s questions and his answers to call ins to the show were all aimed at perpetuating his favorite tactic of guilt by association.

Anyone who watched the event, attended it or spoke favorable of it were consigned to irrelevance as a part of the small minority of Evangelical Protestants he views as being “on the fringe”.

Diane Rehms’ repeated efforts to call these folks “Values Driven” voters did not resonate with Lynn. He took every opportunity to paint them instead as a threat to the American order. He disparaged both Presidential candidates for even participating in the Forum, attributing their participation an example of the danger of some kind of creeping “theocracy” in America.

I tried to call in to the show from my cell phone but was unable to get through. So, I did something I have never done before. Once I returned to my office I sent an E-Mail to the show which I now set forth for my readers:

“I am appalled that Barry Lynn is allowed to go unchallenged in his effort to dismiss the Saddleback Forum as promoting some kind of "theocracy" and playing to some fringe of "evangelical" Protestant voters.

"I am a Catholic Deacon, a constitutional lawyer and a trained theologian. I am whole life/pro-life (accepting the entire spectrum of life issues from the womb to the tomb) pro-poor, pro-peace, pro-marriage and family. I opposed the Iraq war. I have always opposed capital punishment.

"In opposing every induced abortion as the taking of innocent human life, I insist that Science has only confirmed what our conscience has already told us all along, these children are our neighbors and it is always wrong to kill your neighbor.

"These kinds of positions are not simply based on the teaching of my Church, though I do seek to inform my life by my Catholic faith. Rather, my pro-life position, respecting every lifefrom conception to natural death, my insistence on giving a love of preference for the poor, my opposition to misguided militarism is all based upon reason and the Natural law.

"I am neither "liberal" nor "conservative" in the common political parlance. I am offended by Barry Lynn trying to marginalize the role of Catholics, other Christians, and other people of faith and people of good will who are simply exercising their faithful citizenship.

"Barry Lynn kindles fear. He mocks those with whom he disagrees, a sign of his inability to truly debate the issues he has made a living off of re-presenting over all these years like a broken record. His latest effort on this program to compare orthodox Christians to militant Islamic extremists with his absurd innuendos of censorship and to charge them with such insane notions as wanting to destroy books is an example of his own bigotry and his desire to feed the misguided fears of others.”

Barry Lynn impugned Rev. Rick Warren, disparaged orthodox Christians, promoted an anti-faith agenda and misrepresented the Civil Forum at Saddleback Church.In this interview and in his responses to listeners, he also showed his errant misunderstanding of the meaning of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution's protection of the freedom of speech, the free exercise of religion, the freedom of assembly and the proper role for people of faith and religious institutions in the American experiment in ordered liberty.

- - -

Deacon Keith Fournier asks that you join with us and help in this vital mission by sending this article to your family, friends, and neighbors and adding our link (www.catholic.org) to your own website, blog or social network. Let us broadcast, we are PROUD TO BE CATHOLIC!

No comments: