Faith and Values Coalition

According to Baptist minister and political activist Jerry Falwell, the organization he has just founded, the Faith and Values Coalition, has as its three main goals: confirmation of pro-life, strict constructionist U.S. Supreme Court justices and other federal judges; the passage of a constitutional Federal Marriage Amendment; and the election of another socially- fiscally- and politically-conservative president in 2008, along with other state and national candidates. The organization is a reincarnation of the old Christian Coalition, founded by Falwell in 1979 and disbanded in 1989. The CC was largely instrumental in the election of Ronald Reagan in 1980 and 1984.

The new organization will play well with conservative evangelicals but will further antagonize liberal Christians, who see it as an ominous threat leading to a joining, rather than a separation, of church and state. At least, this is the argument they will put forward, since the FVC comes out squarely against abortion, same-sex marriage, and what many liberals see as some sort of usurpation of the government by religious fanatics. Members of the mainline, long established denominations that lean to the left, such as those of the United Methodists, Presbyterians (USA), Episcopal Church, Christian Church (Disciples), as well as the national organization National Council of Churches, are in the throes of often acrimonious and schism-threatening issues such as whether or not to approve marriage between homosexuals and/or ordination to church offices of practicing homosexuals. These denominations have been on the decline, member-wise, for some years, and it may be correctly surmised that their inability to resolve and dispose of these matters is part of the reason.

The argument that will be used by most of Falwell's opponents is that his new organization, which they claim is comprised of the religious right, whatever that is, threatens to blur, if not destroy, the concept of church-state separation, perhaps the most fundamentally important aspect of governance in this country. Plainly, it will not do that. The Supreme Court's approval of Roe vs. Wade in 1973, making abortion on demand legal, inveighed against the strongly held convictions of millions of people, especially conservative Christians, that this decision nullified the constitutional protection of every life, defining a fetus as a person and therefore a citizen; however, the decision was not claimed at that time to be any sort of threat to the separation of church and state, even though millions of "liberal" Christians may have supported it, the connotation that can be drawn simply being that the liberal wing of the church was using the court to work its will. Actually, other organizations which lobbied almost frantically for approval of Roe/Wade, such as the National Organization of Women, could have been more accurately described as creating a police state, denying the rights of unborn citizens, than the religious right can be in this case as pushing for a theocracy, denying the same rights. The thinking in this corner is that Roe/Wade is needed, not for the convenience of the fetus-carrier, but for the welfare of a child possibly doomed to mistreatment and abuse because of being fundamentally unwanted.

The obsession with the same-sex-marriage issue, precipitated in largest part earlier this year by a Massachusetts judge's decision to allow homosexuals to legally marry each other, never mind the ludicrousness of such a thing, eventuated in a number of states placing the issue on ballots with a view toward amending their constitutions to disallow such marriages, even though in some of those states there were already civil laws on the books that did just that. In all eleven states with such a ballot in the last election, same-sex-marriage bans as mandated constitutionally were approved. Liberals have claimed that this circumstance is one of negating church-state separation constructed primarily by the religious right, thus inculcating a theocracy, though such bans were approved in states like Oregon and Ohio, certainly not bastions of fundamentalist/evangelical Christians. The thinking in this corner is that same-sex marriage, besides being a contradiction in terms, should never be allowed for a plethora of reasons.

Liberals also claim that the dissolution of the church-state wall will be further accomplished through the appointing of strictly constructionist judges to the federal courts, including especially the Supreme Court. This attitude is strange in that it at least strongly implies that the Constitution, which has successfully been used to govern the country for over 200 years can, ipso facto, no longer be effective in the case of differing opinions with respect to a few specific matters, never mind that the nation has withstood, or even encouraged, the vagaries occasioned by governance dominated by different political parties and/or highly-placed officials, such as the president. The First Amendment is still in place, and not even the most rabid of liberals or conservatives will accede to its nullification, not least because there is never any guarantee that one party or another will be dominant in governing. Indeed, it is not unusual for the three main branches not to be presided over by the same party, although this has been and is now the case. For much of the time since World War II, all three branches were presided over by the democrats, with no harm at all to the Constitution and the separation of church and state, though such an arrangement leaned, sometimes precipitously, to the left.

With regard to conservative approaches to government - socially, politically, fiscally - it merely needs to be remembered that the genius of the system is that governing philosophies change with administrations and/or the realigning of the membership of the other two branches. In other words, when one extreme is being dangerously allowed to threaten the well-being of the citizens, the voter backlash kicks in and the nation is turned away and toward the opposing extreme. The prevailing instrument for governing remains the Constitution, which is extremely hard to amend, especially during the tenure of any branch operating on one philosophy or another.

Regardless of the motivations of Falwell or of any other individual or group, the checks and balances are in place. If anything, the nation has moved dramatically away from even a suggestion of theocracy for a number of years, no matter which party has been in power. This is not likely to change, though methodology in government will, and should. The foundation is still here and will remain so.