Sunday, September 26, 2010

Ken Buck and "separation of church and state"

A recent news story on the Tea Party movement refers to "Colorado’s Ken Buck, who says he opposes the principle of separation of church and state." That got me curious, in part because I have found other assertions about Tea Party backed candidates to be less than accurate, so I googled around and eventually found a video of Ken Buck speaking on the subject. I am guessing that this is the origin of the claim, but I actually don't know—I was unable to find anyone who made the claim and supported it with an actual quote from Buck.

The video is on a Huffington Post page; to their credit they do not claim that he opposes the principle, only that he "has called for a 'much closer relationship' between church and state." What he actually says in the video, after mentioning the existence of state religions in Europe at the time the Constitution was written, is:
… the freedom of religion in this country in my view was meant to be a freedom from state imposed religion. I can’t tell you what god you are going to pray to, you can’t tell me, and that is, that is one of the great things of, in this country. The idea that church and state should be separated is fine with me. The idea that there should be no interrelationship between the two is not fine with me. I think that the separation of church and state is much different than our founding fathers intended it to be and we would be much better off with a closer relationship between church and state. Not a state sponsored religion and not religion dictating to the state public policy but a much closer relationship.”
He goes on to speak of the fact that Bush had a number of “faith based programs” that “I think are appropriate.”

Perhaps there is some other evidence to support the claim that Buck says he opposes the separation of church and state—commenters are invited to offer some. As it stands now, it looks as though the claim is simply false, one more example of the willingness of journalists to say things without any good reason to believe they are true.

Provided, of course, that the things they say fit their own views.

I should probably add, given the earlier discussion of O'Donnell, that Buck looks, based on what I have found so far, to be a considerably more articulate and intelligent candidate than she is. That is based in part on the Huffington Post video, in part on an interesting piece by a liberal interviewer.


Miko said...

Sorry, no. He may have specific ideas about what the non-separation of church and state should look like, but to say that he simultaneously favors separation of church and state and wants a closer relation between church and state is an assault on both logic and the English language.

Anonymous said...

My guess is he might be supporting civic notions of religious freedoms, while also supporting economic nudges, favoritism of established religions. Distinction being religion/"church" (tax dollars, tax breaks etc) vs. individuals being free to pick any of major religions for evening prayer. (as opposed to, say, heresy trials)

But I doubt he'd allow Satanism or Witchcraft to get the same tax breaks as Christianity/Islam/Judaism

David Friedman said...

"to say that he simultaneously favors separation of church and state and wants a closer relation between church and state is an assault on both logic and the English language"

Are you suggesting that "separation of church and state" means no relation between them, or that for some reason the current relation qualifies but anything closer does not? One of those two seems necessary for your statement to make any sense.

"No relation" would mean no taxing of any church activities, no application of zoning restrictions to churches, no chaplains in the armed forces, no prayers in Congress, police not coming when a church is robbed, ... . Is that what you want?

Jehu said...

What an 'establishment of religion' means in the 1st amendment is a National Church that everyone has to support with tax dollars/tithes---much like what STILL exists in many countries in Europe. If memory serves, many states within the US retained State churches like that well into the 1800s. This was not forbidden by the 1st amendment. The reason all churches were exempted from federal taxation is because it is recognized that the power to tax is the power to destroy. The authors of the Bill of Rights would find the notion that churches should not engage in politics rather alien indeed---most would in fact wonder if a church whose beliefs never impinged on the national and local issues of the day was even a church.

Andrew said...


Seriously, don't you think doing this is a waste of time? Talking about how a handful of minor political candidates in irrelevant races are being mishandled by the media?

Jonathan said...

I don't think it's a waste of time. Bad reporting is in effect libel, and it can affect anyone, including you or me if we happen to get reported. It may hurt the little guys more than it hurts the big guys.