Wesley Clark is clearly the man to watch in the Democratic presidential primary.
Two days after he announced his candidacy, a Newsweek poll had him leading the pack of 10 Democrats seeking the White House.
While the nation has been engulfed in a debate about church-state relations this summer, Clark was sounding off in a radio interview about the subject.
Here’s what he said on WGCU 90.1, a public radio station in southwest Florida:
Well, I am concerned like many people are. I grew up believing that the whole … one of the basic principles in our country is that we would keep church and state separate. And this is because everyone is entitled to freedom of religion, and that is why people came to America in the first place. … And we learned that in order to have freedom of religion, you’ve got to protect the state from the church. You don’t want an established church that we’re all being taxed to support, or at least that’s the way it was put then. But it’s a little more complicated than that. I think that it is a wonderful thing for people to have values and religious, their religious faith, and I certainly have mine. But I think that it is better for our democracy and better for our religion if we keep the two separate.
Actually, most non-revisionist historians will recognize that Clark has the uniquely American concept of freedom of religion exactly backward. The founders weren’t trying to protect the government from the church – far from it. They were trying to protect the church from the government.
Even more to the point, none of our founding documents – not the Constitution, nor the Declaration of Independence – mentions “separation of church and state.” Therefore, it is difficult to imagine how this might be “one of the basic principles in our country.”
Is this what they learn at West Point? Is this what they learn at Oxford?
Notice that Clark goes even further in this interview – further even than the most immoral president the country has ever known, William Jefferson Clinton, would ever dare go in such remarks. He adds: “I think that it is a wonderful thing for people to have values and religious, their religious faith, and I certainly have mine. But I think that it is better for our democracy and better for our religion if we keep the two separate.”
Keep what separate? Not just religion and government, but religious values and government. I guess that’s how Clark, supposedly a Catholic, justifies and rationalizes his support for abortion on demand and homosexual domestic partnerships with all of the rights, privileges and responsibilities of marriage.
Clark apparently wants to go further than any prominent member of even the God-phobic Democratic Party has gone – excluding religious values from the public square and from public policy.
Now, you might write this statement off as just something the general said in a radio interview before he even announced his candidacy. You might say no one should be held to his impromptu words in a spontaneous broadcast interview.
However, Clark and his supporters are apparently very proud of this particular interview as they have posted it for all to see at Women4Clark.com.
If not clarified or repudiated by Clark, this is such a stunning statement that I can scarcely even bring myself to quibble with Clark over the fact that this country never was, isn’t and, God willing, never will be a “democracy.” After all, most everyone running for office makes that mistake – including the incumbent president and most journalists.
But the very idea that this presidential candidate seeks to strictly separate government and morality, government and religious values, government and faith should illustrate just how far we have descended as a political culture.