Two stories reported in today's New York Times brought home what we've come to as a result of the ever growing dominance of religious rightists in our troubled polarized country. The first is the attempted intervention of Congress to prevent the peaceful death of Terri Schiavo who has spent years in a helpless vegetative state. Most macabre of this disgraceful act was the issuance of a subpoena for Ms. Schiavo to come before a committee to "testify" which these self proclaimed protectors of human life seem to think accords respect and dignity to one of our least powerful and defenseless citizens. It's an act so astounding, so despicable and so cheaply political that it boggles the mind. The second story, which is totally different but has undeniable linkage to the first, is a report that a number of Imax theaters have opted not to show Galápagos a film about the islands where Charles Darwin developed his theories as well as a number of other scientific documentaries that suggest evolution. The theaters involved, mostly in the South, are concerned about protests by radical Creationists, the same good people who are also seeking to expel Professor Darwin from our public schools.
As troubling as these two stories are, they are only a very small part of what's happening in a country that is increasingly influenced and in many cases co-opted by a retrogressive religious agenda, a kind of creeping Talibanism. The recent anti-abortion speech by Hilary Clinton and the urging on Democratic politicians across the country to soften their pro-Choice rhetoric is all cut from the same cloth. From Reverend Bush through Reverend Frist and Reverend Delay our ministers of state have taken it upon themselves to speak for God and to straighten out those among us who aren't part of their ideology and its metaphorical church. It's not a question of whether we favor abortion (which the vast majority of people do not), but whether people like Senator Clinton are being compelled to use unseemly political code, a "you don't have to worry about me" message in our "are you with us or against us" environment.
The separation of Church and State is not some crazy notion, some anti-religious conspiracy. It is the only way in which to insure true religious freedom, not to mention speech and thought. It was promulgated by the Founders (most of them personally deeply religious) to protect the country from becoming a religious state. They had good reason, because the record of religious states was not good then and is not good today. The ironic thing is that the very people who profess great concern about Islamic Iran, who fear the possibility of religious rule in Iraq and who rightly were appalled at the religious tyranny of the Taliban are the very same people who think their religious ideology ought to be imposed on fellow citizens in the United States. That includes entering not only our bedrooms but our hospital rooms as well. These are people who think that if our children would only read from Genesis rather than Darwin all those silly theories of how we really evolved, which includes real science, will simply go away.
I don't know why people worry so much about global warming, the threat of WMDs and all those other twenty-first century things. We have to get out of the Middle Ages before that happens. Thank God we have so many wonderful and powerful people around to keep us there, not to mention all those who silently sit on the sidelines and let it happen; both equally complicit in our systematic and frightening retrogression into Talibanism American style.