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Onward, Christian Panderers

By Ted Rall

10/18/07 "ICH' -- -- WASHINGTON--A poll finds that 55 percent of Americans think the U.S. was created as a Christian theocracy. "The strong support for official recognition of the majority faith appears to be grounded in a belief that the United States was founded as a Christian nation, in spite of the fact that the Constitution nowhere mentions God or Christianity," says Charles Haynes of the First Amendment Center.

Sadly, these morons are allowed to vote. Tragically, one of them is a major presidential candidate. "The Constitution established the United States of America as a Christian nation," John McCain recently told an interviewer.

Here's an offer that an erstwhile front-running shoe-in, now low on cash, ought not to refuse. Senator McCain: If you can show me where the Constitution makes us a Christian nation, I'll donate $10,000 to your campaign. If you can't, please explain why we should trust your presidential oath to preserve, protect and defend a document you haven't read.

Lest you think McCain's comment was an isolated brainfart, check out his pandering morsel from the same interview: "We were founded as a nation on Judeo-Christian principles. There's very little debate about that."

Speaking of war criminals, Bush won 80 percent of the Christian fundamentalist voting bloc in 2004. (If they can show me where Jesus advocates the murder of hundreds of thousands of people, I've got another ten grand set aside.) This year, however, the Christian soldiers are in play, dissatisfied with the entire field of presidential candidates.

It's not for lack of sucking up.

Mitt Romney is one-upping McCain, misrepresenting Mormonism as well as the secular nature of American government. "The values of my faith are much like, or are identical to, the values of other faiths that have a Judeo-Christian philosophical background," he said in New Hampshire. "They're American values, if you will." Or if you won't. As The New York Times notes, "Mormons do not believe in the concept of the unified Trinity; the Book of Mormon is considered to be sacred text, alongside the Bible; and Mormons believe that God has a physical body and human beings can eventually become like God." Also, the Mormon Jesus will eventually return to Independence, Missouri. "Much like." Right.

McCain, Romney, Rudy Giuliani, Fred Thompson, Mike Huckabee, Sam Brownback have all signed up to address this week's right-wing Christian "Values Voter Summit." So has Democrat Bill Richardson. But when it comes to indulging the whims of Christianists, these guys have nothing on the Big Three Dems.

Hillary Clinton has hired an "evangelical consultant" to court the quarter of voters who tell pollsters that God favors the United States in foreign affairs. Barack Obama deploys evangelical imagery at campaign stops in the Bible Belt. At an evangelical church in Greenville, South Carolina, he said he wants to be an "instrument of God" and expressed confidence "we can create a Kingdom right here on Earth."

"That terminology," said the Rev. Welton Gaddy of the Interfaith Alliance, "has a very specific, indisputable definition that is exclusive rather than inclusive." On the campaign trail, Gaddy continued, Obama "has sounded precisely like George W. Bush."

Even John Edwards, the most reasonable person running, isn't above whoring his faith for votes. "I think that America is a nation of faith. I do believe that. Certainly by way of heritage--there's a powerful Christian thread through all of American history," he told BeliefNet. To his credit, he doesn't go as far as his opponents. Yet he can't bring himself to condemn prayer in public schools: "Allowing time for children to pray for themselves, to themselves, I think is not only okay, I think it's a good thing."

Between 10 and 14 percent of Americans are atheists. Devoting a "moment of silence" in schools sends a message to their children: you and your parents are out of step with American society.

If people want to believe in God, the Great Pumpkin, or a Jesus who lives in Missouri, that's up to them. But religion has no place in the public life of a democracy. None.

Right-wing Christians started questioning their support for the GOP last year, when former White House staffer David Kuo published "Tempting Faith," a bestselling book that revealed that Bush Administration officials privately ridiculed evangelicals and ignored them between elections. Bush betrayed "the millions of faithful Christians who put their trust and hope in the president and his administration," wrote Kuo, who was the White House's deputy director of the Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives until 2003.

Who knew? Bush isn't all bad.

McCain, meanwhile, is getting ready to get soaked to score Christian votes. "I've had discussions with the pastor about [undergoing a full-immersion baptism] and we're still in conversation about it," he says.

Ted Rall is the author of the new book "Silk Road to Ruin: Is Central Asia the New Middle East?," an in-depth prose and graphic novel analysis of America's next big foreign policy challenge.

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