The highest-ranking openly atheist member of the US government, Representative Pete Stark (D-Fremont, California), once again is raising eyebrows and making waves in Washington, simply by asking reasonable questions – as usual, trying to remind the President and others that we have a "wall of separation" between church and state in this country.
One of the surprising, and somewhat disappointing, features of the Obama presidency is that he advocates government support of faith-based initiatives. It is wonderful when groups of citizens get together to help the less fortunate, whether they are churches, schools, or civic groups. And there is nothing wrong with the government supporting these efforts. But when the government specifically targets faith-based initiatives, it is plainly unconstitutional.
One of the hardest tasks of being American is to avoid pragmatism, and embrace our constitution. It's so easy to lock up the Japanese during wartime, or to create blacklists of "communists" during the cold war, or to deny access to a fair trial at Guantanamo when terrorists attack our country. Whether it's fear, or loathing, or hatred, all too often Americans have been willing to give up their principles for expedience, all down through our history.
Fortunately, in each generation, there have been a few courageous individuals who understand that our Constitution requires sacrifice, and are willing to stand up and say so. They remind us that we can't take the easy road, the simplistic road, any time something bothers us. Rep. Pete Stark is one such individual.
The faith-based initiative, though not as damaging as other failures in the past such as the Japanese internment camps, is still another example of expedience. Most Americans don't really care that much about the separation of church and state, they don't see the dangers, nor do they appreciate the role of religious governments in America's own history. They've forgotten the lessons of the past, the very foundations of this country.
Faith-based initiatives seem harmless, they get the job done, and since the majority of Americans are religious, they don't see the problem. But it IS a problem: it's a plain and egregious violation of our constitution.