Editorial: Bush Administration Makes Personal Faith Public Policy

April 12, 2004

Source: Los Angeles Times


On April 12, 2004 the Los Angeles Times reported in an editorial, "One of the pious maxims of American politics for the last 40 years has been that a candidate should never be attacked on religious grounds. This stricture is eminently fair insofar as private faith is concerned. But when personal faith begins to determine public policy, then the issue becomes fair game... President Bush's candidacy deserves the same level of scrutiny — not because of what he might do in the future but because of what he has already done on behalf of an ultraconservative, mainly Christian constituency that has no qualms about trying to turn its faith into the law of the land. There is no precedent in American history for the Bush administration's determination to infuse government with a highly specific set of religious values. Thomas Jefferson, a champion of strict separation of church and state even though his private religious beliefs remain a subject of debate, refused the request of evangelical religious supporters that he issue a presidential proclamation of thanksgiving to God for his blessings on America. James Madison vetoed a bill to grant public land in Mississippi to a Baptist church. And in the 1870s, Ulysses S. Grant made what would be an unthinkable suggestion for a president today — that all church property be subject to taxation. For nearly all American presidents before the current era of political piety, it would have been truly unimaginable to endorse a constitutional amendment dealing with any divisive religious issue."