Monday, June 05, 2006
American Theocracy: Texas Republican Party PLATFORM declares "AMERICA IS A CHRISTIAN NATION." Calls Separation of Church and State a MYTH.
Republican convention draws religious conservatives
09:51 AM CDT on Sunday, June 4, 2006
By WAYNE SLATER / The Dallas Morning News
SAN ANTONIO – Lt. Col. Brian Birdwell offered a greeting to delegates to the Republican convention. "It's great to be back in the holy land," the Fort Worth native said to the cheers of the party faithful.For the 4,500 delegates at last week's biennial gathering, it was both an expression of conservative philosophy and religious faith, a melding of church and state.
At Saturday morning's prayer meeting, party leader Tina Benkiser assured them that God was watching over the two-day confab.
"He is the chairman of this party," she said against a backdrop of flags and a GOP seal with its red, white and blue logo.
The party platform, adopted Saturday, declares "America is a Christian nation" and affirms that "God is undeniable in our history and is vital to our freedom."
"We pledge to exert our influence toward a return to the original intent of the First Amendment and dispel the myth of the separation of church and state," it says.
Just off the convention floor, among the warren of booths selling buttons and T-shirts denouncing Democrats, the table for WallBuilders – founded by outgoing party vice chairman David Barton – was piled high with books and DVDs extolling religion in government. The Keys to Good Government was one DVD. America's Godly Heritage was another.
John Green, an expert on church-state issues at the University of Akron, said the GOP has defined itself against Democrats by making religion, particularly issues such as abortion and gay marriage, part of its politics.
"This is not a political disagreement. This is a religious disagreement," he said.
Recent studies have found a "religion gap" suggesting church attendance is a good indicator of party affiliation. A survey by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press found that among those who attend church more than once a week, two-thirds vote GOP. Among those who seldom or never attend church, two-thirds vote Democratic.
At Saturday morning's prayer meeting, ministers delivered prayers, gospel singers sang, and the Rev. Dale Young, pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Laredo, picked up the convention's dominant theme of immigration.
"Lord, your words tell us there's a sign that this nation is under a curse, when the alien who lives among us grows higher and higher and we grow lower and lower," he preached.
The night before, East Texas evangelist Rick Scarborough exhorted Christians at a "values rally" to get involved in elections: "We must do more than pray. We also must put sweat to our tears."
Delegates sought him out, taking snapshots and having him sign his book Liberalism Kills Kids.
Houston activist Bobby Eberle, a candidate for party vice chairman, organized the Friday evening rally. Taking the stage, he took aim at "the ACLU, liberal Hollywood, Democrats and these left-wingers" who have bedeviled the GOP.
"We need to continue to fight, whether for the pro-life movement or for decency in programming," said Mr. Eberle, whose Internet enterprise had its own recent dust-up over decency.
Talon News, a conservative Web site owned by Mr. Eberle, employed Jeff Gannon as a White House correspondent until publicity a year ago over Mr. Gannon's appearance on gay prostitution Web sites.
Mr. Eberle dropped Talon News, Mr. Gannon left the press corps, and the matter did not appear to be an issue in the vice chairman's race, although he lost.