The Separation of Church and State: an American Revolutionary Tradition

The suspected origin of the catastrophic terrorist attacks on NY and
Washington is a grouping of extreme Islamic fundamentalists. Much has been
written about their goals and why they hate America.

While talking to a friend in NYC, a mom who volunteered at St.
Vincent’s Hospital the day of the attacks, she said, “What did we do to
these people to make them hate us so much? Please tell us so we can
apologize. I like our freedoms here. I work hard for what I have.”

This mom’s sentiment is typical. She is an open-minded, progressive
person. She’s a working class New Yorker who went to the Million Mom’s
March against gun-violence. She’s an African American woman who also knows
the limitations of our freedoms. It made me think about the nature of
freedom. It made me think about the freedoms that people fought and died
for in wartime and in peacetime’s social struggles.

In our class divided society there are two sides to freedom. I’m
thinking about the hundreds of years of struggle for historic democratic
and human rights. I’m talking about the abolitionists and the soldiers of
the North who fought and died to end slavery. Or the “Greatest
Generation,” who fought and died to end fascism and in union organizing
drives.

Those who took unpopular stands in the early days of internment of the
Japanese and against McCarthyism. Those who carried the flag in the civil
rights movements of the South as the police hosed them and set attack dogs
on them.

The women and men of all races, nationalities and religions who took
stands for immigrant rights, women’s rights, the right to vote and gay and
lesbian rights.

The American revolutionaries who founded U.S. democracy built upon the
fight against the British monarchy and for religious freedom. They
established a concept of a government with the separation of church and
state at it’s center.

The cornerstone of the American revolution is still a cornerstone for
democratic society, which came out of the fires of struggle against
religious persecution, so common-place in 18th century Europe.

This revolutionary content of freedom is the opposite of the rhetoric
and the actions of Bush and the ultra right. They push even in this time
of crisis for measures that will turn back freedoms won over decades. The
content of their freedom is to silence dissent and strike fear in those
who want to stand for a peaceful and just solution to the threat terrorism
places before all humanity.

The content of their freedom is the freedom to oppress and exploit for
private profit, the enemy of the people’s struggles for freedom. The
freedom’s in our country come from the fires of class and social
struggles. Freedoms that working class people, communists, progressives
and the left have to fight to continue from attack by the ultra right of
all persuasions.

Our own ultra right or the Zionist or Islamic ultra right — the ultra
right worldwide — have a commonality. Staunch anti-communism is one such
tie that binds. Their merger of church (mosque or temple) and state is
another. The Islamic extremists merge their interpretation of Islamic law
with the state. It is their rationale for the oppression of women, the
outlawing of trade unions, denial of democratic and minority rights. They
impose a religious justification for their reign of terror.

Their hatred for America is many-sided. They may hate American
imperialist control of their land and resources, but it’s not because they
are revolutionary. They hate it because they want to control it for the
dictatorship of their Islamic states.

The overwhelming majority of the world’s people – including the
majority of Muslims – oppose this fanatical interpretation of religion.
But we can’t have illusions that the Bush administration’s anti-terrorist
policies are based on defending democracy. Their corporate interests have
intersected with the ultra-right Islamic billionaire interests of bin
Laden on the front of “fighting communism” in the 1980s. Now their
interests clash. Yet their anti-people programs are still the ties that
bind them together.

The ultra right push their own agenda — make workers suffer, continue
racial, gender, minority and religious oppression and get rid of
separation of church and state. Look at the Christian Coalition and its
influence in the Bush administration on abortion or vouchers.

Some may say that being against terrorism is taking the side of the
Ultra right — or if you oppose war and imperialism you are sympathizing
with Islamic extremists. Working class and oppressed people of the world
have their own agenda, too, and that’s the side to take: peace,
democracy, equality and economic justice.