Reclaiming our history

Reclaiming our history

Dershowitz takes on the religious right

Alan Dershowitz would like us all to read the Declaration of Independence.

"I want people to read [it] so they won’t be fooled by the way the religious right has deliberately misused" this document, trying to turn it into a "baptismal certificate for a Christianized America," Dershowitz told The Jewish Standard this week.

Alan Dershowitz

Felix Frankfurter Professor of Law at Harvard Law School and author of New York Times bestsellers "Chutzpah" and "The Case for Israel," Dershowitz will speak at Temple Emanu-El in Closter on Sept. 30, where he will discuss his most recent book, "Blasphemy: How the Religious Right is Hijacking Our Declaration of Independence" (John Wiley and Sons, ‘007).

Disputing assertions by the Christian right that the Declaration was founded on biblical law, "Blasphemy" presents arguments and documentation intended to demonstrate that there is no relation between "Nature’s God," cited in the document, and the God of the Hebrew and Christian scriptures.

Dershowitz said he will tell the Closter audience that "we need to maintain a high wall of separation between church and state."

"It’s good for the state," he said, "and it’s good for the church. Nothing is broken," he added, pointing out that the level of church attendance and belief in God is extremely high in the U.S. "A high wall protects religion," he said.

Noting that the founding fathers were not Christians but rather deists, influenced by the Jewish philosopher Baruch Spinoza, he said, "They did not believe in an intervening God who could decide the outcomes of wars — or football games. It was a universal religion [holding] that God is nature, manifested everywhere."

Dershowitz pointed out that Jefferson was a strong advocate of church/state separation. "His greatest fear was that there would be war between religious sects and that the state would be asked to choose one," he said. In fact, Dershowitz noted, Jefferson requested that only three of his accomplishments be cited on his tombstone — all reflecting his philosophy: authorship of the Declaration of Independence, his founding of the University of Virginia, a secular institution, and his responsibility for Virginia’s Statute of Religious Freedom.

"In sum," said Dershowitz in his book, "the Declaration of Independence was designed to protect us from exactly that kind of Christianized America advocated by those who are now seeking to hijack the Declaration for their own sectarian purposes."

While the author told the Standard that the power of the Christian right is diminishing as its agenda becomes increasingly exposed and the public begins to "catch up," he said that the motive of this group, "to Christianize America, turning it into a theocracy where non-fundamentalist Protestants will be second-class citizens," is being implemented by "stealth. They run for office without openly declaring their philosophy," he said.

Dershowitz said he will urge listeners in Closter not to support those candidates whose views threaten their civil liberties in areas such as stem-cell research, freedom of choice, and sexual orientation.

His book argues strongly for self-awareness, contending that "if the Religious Right can convince enough gullible Americans that the United States was founded as a Christian nation, they can require religious control of public schools, federal funding of churches and church-based programs, religious tests for elected and appointed officials, and much more."

Dershowitz acknowledged that while adherents of the religious right are not likely to read his book, he hopes the publication will appeal "to the middle — the deciding voters. Even if they’re very religious, they’re better off with a wall of separation," he said.

For further information about the Closter event, call (’01) 750-9997.

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