Former President Jimmy Carter has a new book out that derides erosion of the wall of separation between church and state.
Discussing the book, Our Endangered Values, on National Public Radio’s “Fresh Air” program Nov. 2, Carter was asked by host Terry Gross if the wall of separation has been under attack lately.
“Well, this separation of church and state, which Thomas Jefferson ordained as a wall between the two, has been severely breached in the last 15 or 20 years and particularly in the last five years, so the answer’s yes,” Carter replied. “When I was president, and I think all my predecessors and most of my successors have been meticulous in trying to separate church and state and not inject religious aspects into policy and not let the churches or any religion dominate or heavily influence the political decisions made by this government. So this is a radical departure from what we’ve seen in our country since its founding.”
Gross asked Carter if he believes President George W. Bush has breached the church-state wall.
Carter responded, “Well, yes. I don’t think there’s any doubt that the nation knows that President Bush, as president, strongly favors the Religious Right Protestant Christians in our country. There’s no doubt about this in my opinion.”
Carter, a life-long Southern Baptist, recalled that as a child he was taught that separation of church and state was an important tenet of Baptist beliefs. He criticized “the rise of fundamentalism [that] has affected both politics, including national policy in domestic and foreign affairs, and also has affected the religious community much more than it ever did when I was in politics.”
Carter then spoke out against government funding of religion, telling Gross, “At the same time through various means, some of them not well-publicized, there has been a tremendous amount of taxpayers’ money that is being sent directly to churches in our country, and the argument has been, ‘can the churches be discriminatory against people who receive services through them from taxpayers’ money,’ and the present administration’s policy is that we should not make the churches declare non-discrimination. Let them discriminate. So these two factors are unprecedented in our country, and I think they contravene the basic premises on which our country was founded, as espoused most clearly by Thomas Jefferson, who advocated a wall between church and state.”