Although the Ten Commandments have been banned from the Alabama Supreme Court building, the Christian faith is still firmly in control of policy in the heart of Dixie. By now, most readers know that Alabama’s conservative Governor Bob Riley is putting his political life on the line to reform the state’s income tax system. Alabama currently taxes all income north of $4,200. Most states provide a more generous exemption, which keeps more poor taxpayers off the rolls. Thus, Alabama has been labeled a regressive tax regime.
Governor Riley, urged on by a University of Alabama law professor, has explicitly said he aims to reform the regressive system because his understanding of Christian theology demands it. Under his plan, the poor would see more of their income shielded from taxation, while more well-heeled Alabamans would experience a tax increase. The Cotton State is buzzing like a field full of June bugs as the debate rages on whether Riley is correctly reading the will of Christ. Most folks in Alabama have listened to enough sermons to qualify for ordination, so everybody has an opinion.
Some in the media have been amused at the difficulty groups like the Christian Coalition have had in forming a response, as conservatives go on about varying interpretations of Scripture and what rendering to Caesar means in context. But less noticeably absent, however, has been even a scintilla of complaint about the much-despised marriage of church and state from the left’s usual suspects.
Where, one might reasonably inquire, is the ACLU? Where are those People for the American Way? Where the heck is the Most Annoyingly and Questionably Reverend Barry Lynn? The Governor of a Bible Belt state is rewriting the Code Annotated in accordance with the New Testament and we’ve heard nary a peep from the usual suspects!
One possible answer is that they are tired. The ACLU, PFAW, and the Reverend Barry toiled so tirelessly to force removal of Justice Roy Moore’s monument to the Ten Commandments from public space, they may now be pausing for a breather. But how can they be sure the Ten Commandments controversy wasn’t merely a brilliant diversion designed to keep them busy while some serious church-state mixing is underway? I advise them to finish their break and get back on the field. Dear Heaven, don’t they know religion and taxation are engaged in heavy petting down in Dixie??!!!
Some, of course, have faith the longtime watchdogs of church-state separation have a very good reason for their absence from the current controversy over Jesus and the tax code. A more cynical soul might wonder whether the AWOL groups and persons in question are purposefully avoiding comment on Governor Riley’s Christ-inspired plans. Could it be they just can’t quite bring themselves to battle the marriage of church and state when a liberal child results from the match? Is that a whiff of hypocrisy rising from the campfire of the secularist left? Say it ain’t so, Reverend Barry. Say it ain’t so.
One hopes astute observers will be moved to ask questions about the sudden need of secular marchers to take a long break from their normally ceaseless battle. But I doubt the much needed cross-examination will occur. After all, this isn’t the first time the urgent concerns about church and state have mysteriously vanished. Think of the lack of interest by strict separationists when Catholic bishops speak out against the death penalty or when liberal Protestant clergy used to flack for liberalized abortion laws. Remember again how His Eminence Jesse Jackson regularly entertains Democratic Presidential nominees in black churches in urban areas around the country.
There’s a lesson to be learned here and one hopes fair-minded people will learn it. That finely tuned note of outrage trotted out by the secularist-left is very selective and not terribly principled. The opportunists of church-state separation have put themselves on the bench when a big fight is raging. For the sake of a more nuanced public discussion, let’s hope they stay there a while.
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