Obama church-state adviser releases report on current law
By Michelle Boorstein
To see the subject of religion and politics on the TV talk shows, you'd think people only scream at each other over issues like whether pastors can endorse candidates or whether your town hall can display a Christmas tree on the front lawn. In reality, some of the best-known church-state experts agree on quite a bit and shmooze at conferences on this subject, co-author reports, that sort of thing.
In the past decade or so, there's been even more of an effort by some of them to -- at least behind closed doors -- diffuse some of the cultural heat behind some of these issues. I'm talking about people like Richard Land of the Southern Baptist Convention, Charles Haynes of the Freedom Forum, folks who are well-known for people who follow church-state law. I was at a conference with some of them a few years ago on the subject of how religion is handled in public schools, everything from whether teachers can wear religious symbols to when and how the school buildings can be used by bible study groups. The purpose of the conference was to see where there is agreement on what the current law says and to work toward public ways to show this -- that there is actually a lot of common ground that has been explosive particularly since the Supreme Court decisions of the 1960s involving school prayer.
Now there's a new effort in this arena.
On Tuesday, one of President Obama's advisers on church-state issues will unveil a report about the state of the current law -- a report signed by about 30 church-state activists and experts (some very well-known, some not, but their views span the spectrum). The purpose is to establish what's allowed and what isn't under current law, and to diffuse some of the hype around religious expressions in things like campaigning and political life.
Melissa Rogers sits on Obama's Advisory Council on Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships and is also director of the Wake Forest University School of Divinity Center for Religion and Public Affairs. She says while there are certainly debates about how people want the law to be, there should be public acknowledgment about what experts know the current law is. People misunderstand the state of play, she says.
Wake Forest has a mission of helping reduce some of the cultural tension around such issues so that's part of the reason for this new statement.
Michelle Boorstein| January 11, 2010; 7:57 AM ET | Category: God in Government Save & Share:
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