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Life out here by Bret Kofford: The battle within

October 17, 2001

In the wake of the horror on the East Coast, nothing is better than many Americans returning to church and prayer.

In the wake of the horror on the East Coast, nothing is worse than certain people in this country trying to take advantage of that return to church and prayer for their own political ends.

Religion is a wonderful, wondrous thing. It makes people happy, it makes people want to do the right things. It is good.

The minute religion takes over government, religion is nowhere near as good. Soon the dictates of those in charge are imposed on everyone, usually forcefully. That is not religion. That is tyranny. Religion's role is saving souls, not running governments.

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Think of why this country was founded. Think of Iran a decade ago. Think of the Taliban now.

Name one place in world history where a theocracy worked?

OK, Vatican City. That's it.

If we were to become a theocracy, as some are pushing for in our nation with more vigor and resolve than ever, which denomination would we choose? Catholicism had the numbers, but those pushing for church taking over state don't exactly seem to be papists, do they?

There are some wonderful religious leaders in this country. Billy Graham and Robert Schuller are two genuinely good men of God. Don't let Jerry Falwell, Pat Roberston and their ilk fool you. They may pose as preachers but first and foremost they are politicians. And their goal is to take over this country and mold it — more like bend it — in the way they see fit.

They do their planning every day in their emirates in Lynchburg, Virginia Beach, Colorado Springs and other places. They have blamed our being savaged by a foreign evil on us not changing the country in the way they have prescribed.

I know this column is going bring some nasty calls, angry letters and canceled subscriptions, and I know friends who are of the religious right will be mad at me — again — but sometimes things have to be said. I am writing this column because I love this country. Yes, it may be a bad time for such dissension in our ranks, but I didn't start this fight. It has been going on for weeks on the pages of this editorial section and beyond. And frankly, it is frightening.

A fine Christian preacher, apparently hearing some of the overtures about making this nation a theocracy in the wake of the Sept. 11 horrors, sermonized Sunday that we are a nation of freedom, not of laws regarding morality. Fortunately, he said, we as a people usually choose not to abuse that freedom and choose to be moral beings. The last thing we need is the imposition of moral strictures via government laws, he said. We have seen what government-imposed morality can do. All we need to do is look to the oppression in the Middle East, he said.

World events have shown that those of us who have pushed against the fundamentalist movement in this country are right in fear of what it could do. How different, really, would our nation be from a certain nation led by bearded mullahs if our own blow-dried mullahs took over here?

Would women's rights, roles and wardrobes be greatly restricted?

Would dissent be squelched by force?

Would there be discrimination and sanctions against "non-believers"?

Would there be limitations on what we could read, hear, watch?

Would there be harsh penalties, including death, against homosexuals and other "deviants"?

Would there be dictates and restrictions on what could be taught to our children and in our universities?

Would the state dictate grooming standards?

Would we have a free press?

Would our Constitution be torn asunder?

The answers to all those questions are "yes." Robertson has said he wants to hack away at our great Constitution, particularly the First Amendment. And we know how such folks feel about what is taught in schools, what some people wear, sodomy laws, the airing of perspectives other than their own and women's place in our society. For an example in microcosm of how our country would be under the control of such men, just look to Falwell's university.

Basically, these people want to take over our government and dictate everything we do because they think they are the only ones who understand what God wants.

How different, really, are they from the Taliban?

Whether you like or hate or are indifferent about the following, these are just a few things that would go away in this country under such rule:

Heller, Salinger, Sublime, satire, Al Sharpton's hair, Vonnegut, birth control pills, Chris Rock, hip-hop, irreverence, dreadlocks, "Seinfeld" reruns, end zone dances, Phil Hendrie, Spike Lee, Mike Myers, our Constitution, "The Simpsons," muscle shirts, miniskirts, Steinbeck, Springsteen, "Schindler's List," Mormons, Steve Earle, Paul Rodriguez, Martin Scorsese, Budweiser, anthropology, Mark Twain, Muslims, Conan O'Brien, Oscar Wilde, Mormons, all the old and future dance crazes, "Chocolat," Buddhists, Pearl Jam, Walt Whitman, the Coen brothers, Jehovah's Witnesses, George Carlin, "South Park," Neil Young, most Methodists, "Cool Hand Luke," civil rights, women's rights, gay rights, the right to free expression, this column, and me … unless you wanted to visit me in jail.

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