Wednesday, November 18, 2015

No, John Kasich. I Don't Think You Are Allowed To Do That

Apparently GOP Presidential candidate John Kasich wants to create a new government agency to promote Judeo-Christian values.

Kasich is going to take a lot of heat for this idea, as he should.  If I understand him correctly, he wants the United States government to be a missionary agency to convert people to Judeo-Christian beliefs.  The assumption, of course, is that the United States is founded solely on Judeo-Christian principles and is a Judeo-Christian nation.  I have argued that the United States has always understood itself this way.  This belief has informed both domestic and foreign policy for most of American history.  So Kasich definitely has American history on his side here. Although I can't think of an example in which the U.S. government was so overt about spreading religious beliefs abroad. There has never been any kind of government agency devoted to this purpose.  Such an agency would be a clear violation of the first Amendment's establishment clause.

As I listen to Kasich talk about this, I don't think he understands that the Judeo-Christian heritage is not the only source of American liberal ideas.  The Enlightenment played a significant role in the kinds of liberty and freedom that Kasich wants to promote around the world.  Again, Americans have been in the business of promoting liberal ideas around the world for a long time.  Why does he feel it is necessary to focus specifically on an agency committed to spreading "Judeo-Christian" values? All of the stuff he mentions in this video: freedom, liberty, women's rights, religious freedom have very complex roots.

It is also ironic that Kasich wants to transport Judeo-Christian values around the world at a particular historical moment in the United States when many pundits--even conservative Christian pundits--have suggested that America is no longer a Christian nation.  These Christians are now seeking religious liberty (an ideal that has always been defended by religious minorities) for their beliefs against what they believe to be a series of threats from "secular progressives" who have captured the culture of their country.

If Kasich wants to engage in an ideological war against ISIS, he is better off just arguing on the basis of Western liberal values and forget about bringing religion into it.