November 9, 2004
By Tim Keane
Born-again Christians did indeed have a huge and probably deciding
role in electing George Bush to a second term, and as a result we
may have as many as four conservative appointments to the Supreme
Court during the next four years; the first may be only weeks or
This provides an enormous opportunity for Democrats to redefine
the "Values" issue and stop the born-again conservative
movement from trying to rewrite history by stating that this country
was founded on Christian values.
You see, this is the United States of America, and its values were
established by the great men who founded this incredibly progressive
nation. This country was founded on a whole new set of values never
seen before - it was founded on American Values.
While many of the Founding Fathers were indeed of Christian faith,
they understood that separation of church and state was critical
to ensuring the freedoms of the citizens of this new and hopeful
nation - so critical that it is included as part of the first of
our American Values: the First Amendment.
Regarding the combination of government and religion Thomas Jefferson
went so far as to say:
I do not find in our particular superstition of Christianity
one redeeming feature... Millions of innocent men, women and children,
since the introduction of Christianity, have been burned, tortured,
fined and imprisoned. What has been the effect of this coercion?
To make half the world fools and half hypocrites; to support roguery
and error all over the world.
That being said, religion does play an important role in the lives
of most Americans, as do values. I grew up in a liberal Catholic
family that aspires to be closer to God through the teachings of
Christ. Charity, compassion, tolerance, and forgiveness are among
the highest ideals I learned from my Church, and my still-liberal,
The born-again Christians, though, believe that I will burn in
Hell because I do not worship as they do.
I must respectfully disagree. The great American Value that provides
each and every one of us with the right to worship as we choose,
has helped to foster one of the most beautiful and powerful forces
that has defined this country - the diversity of its people.
Also central to our American Values are freedom of expression
and equal protection under the law. These values, like all American
Values, are the values of all of us, the values of this great nation.
American Values are not reserved for people of a particular faith,
race, sex or sexual orientation.
American Values are what define this country, not born-again Christian
values. And these values are far from being void of morality. On
the contrary, American Values are amongst the most moral ideals
to which people of this world have ever aspired.
I know many moderate Republicans that voted for Bill Clinton because
of his economic policy and voted for George Bush because of security
issues. These same moderates find the born-again conservative agenda
of their party troubling.
I believe that if Democrats redefine the "Values" debate
in their opposition to the impending conservative Supreme Court
nominations, and do it in a constructive and inspirational way,
they will take firm hold of the moral high ground in this country
and recapture a wide swath of the middle of the political spectrum.
Finally, I would like to remind Mr. Keating that our American
Values as framed by visionary men over 200 years ago, in the Declaration
of Independence, Constitution and Bill of Rights, valued individual
freedom and responsibility above all else. Among these American
Values was, and still is, a firm belief that each individual is
capable and entitled to make moral decisions for themselves based
on their own faith and conscience.
Tim Keane, a former environmental planner and Assoc. Prof. of
Geographic Information Systems, is a software development manager
for the city of New York.