Either someone needs to teach Sarah Palin a few lessons about the constitutional separation of Church and State or else the state of Alaska marches to the beat of a different drummer than the U.S. Constitution. I’ve reported here on Palin’s address to the Wasilla Assembly of God church in which she called the Iraq war a “task from God,” and similarly called a pipeline she favored a divinely blessed project (“I think God’s will has to be done, in unifying people and companies to get that gas line built, so pray for that”). She added that her goal as governor was to ensure that Alaskans get right with God:
…The people of Alaska’s hearts [must be] right with God. And that’s going to be your job…Your job is going to be: to be out there, reaching the people…throughout Alaska, and we can work together to make sure God’s will be done here.”
The speech she gave was an address to the Church’s “Master’s Commission” which is an intensive brainwashing-evangelizing program which brings teenagers to places all over the state to testify to their intimate relationship with their Lord and Savior:
“The Master’s Commission program is something that’s going to take a young person and lead them for the rest of their lives in passionate journey for Jesus,” the [Church] video says. The instruction is “designed to take students in from around the nation and…mold disciples of the lord Jesus Christ.”
The program isn’t just inward looking — the graduates are expected take the message to people around the state.
“We seek him in the morning with worship, with live worship, with intimate worship, to know him face-to-face,” the video says. “The first part in the morning is to know God, and then from that afternoon you go out and make him known.”
In words similar to Palin’s, the video stresses the program’s ties to Alaska:
“God has a destiny for the state of Alaska, and we know that master’s commission is one of the keys that God is going to use to unlock his glory for that state,” a speaker says.
In other words, Palin was furthering an evangelical project.
The Anchorage News reports that the state of Alaska paid for Palin’s jaunt to Wasilla to the tune of a $520 airline ticket and $120 in meal money. The governor’s spokesperson replied that she spoke at the event as the governor and not as a private citizen. Therefore the state SHOULD reimburse her.
That’s not the point. Of course, she went as the governor. The video of the event makes clear that she’s there in that capacity. But the question is: why was she there in the first place? Why should a governor actively engage in religious proselytizing? Further, if she did this as governor why shouldn’t we expect her to continue doing precisely the same thing if she’s elected vice president?
Here again Palin’s representatives are tone-deaf about the difference between a politician expressing solidarity with religious groups within their constituency (something American pols have done since the founding of the Republic) and becoming an advocate of one particular religion and doing so with the state’s apparent blessing:
“Public officials travel and speak to a religious group as part of their official duties,” Leighow said. “Virtually every day there is a state or federal public official who speaks to members of the faith community. The governor can speak to secular audiences as well as faith-based audiences, and Republicans and Democrats routinely do this.”
Leighow compared Palin’s urging on of the young evangelical students to her attending the 2007 installation of Rabbi Michael Oblath at Congregation Beth Sholom in Anchorage.
“What’s the difference?” Leighow said.
Here’s the difference: if Palin went to Rabbi Oblath’s installation and told the congregation that it was Jewish destiny to turn Alaska into a state dominated by Jews doing the Jewish God’s will, then sure there’s no difference. But if she went to his installation to politely express her support for the state’s 6,000 Jews and show them a dash of solidarity–then hell yes there’s a big difference. Only a Christian evangelical deaf and blind to the nuances of state-church relations would not understand that there IS a difference.
And make no mistake, this is much more than an issue about a misappropriation of $600. This is a story revealing much bigger constitutional questions which the U.S. media and American voters (especially Jews) should be pondering as they consider sending her to Washington as their vice-president.