Dear Sir, WHEN U.S. President George W. Bush told a group of Amish (Mennonites) in July in Smoketown, Pennsylvania that “I trust God speaks through me. Without that, I couldn't do my job.” He probably did not consider for one moment that these are the words which could lose rather than win him next week's election. I say this because this statement by Bush, taken with his evangelical fervour of having been saved by God and his religious righteousness over the Iraq war, will be a step too far for many Americans.

What he said to the Amish signals either that the President has gone a bit “loopy” or, even more worrying, that he no longer understands the essential separation of church and state, which is the basis of the Constitution of the United States.

In speaking to this small group of rarely voting Amish he may in fact have finally alerted even many previously staunch Republican supporters to the alarming fact that a second George W. Bush presidency could, and probably will, signal the end of secular government in the United States. It could lead to the ascendancy of religious fundamentalism and, in effect, sweep away the Supreme Court as a secular pillar of the Constitution and destroy more than two centuries of striving for democracy. It could also pave the way for a religious war such as this earth has never seen before.

Bush told Texas evangelist James Robinson even before he ran for the Presidency: “I feel like God wants me to run for President. I can't explain it, but I sense my country is going to need me. Something is going to happen... I know it won't be easy on me or my family, but God wants me to do it.” After the Iraqi invasion, Bush said, “God told me to strike at al Qaeda and I struck them, and then he instructed me to strike at Saddam, which I did...” Winning next week would, for Mr Bush, reaffirm this intimate relationship with God, cement his conviction that he is God's messenger on earth and reinforce his certainty that everything that he does is for and by God's will.

In an article in The London Times, entitled “Bush's God”, Robert B. Reich recently wrote: “There is a larger pattern here. In its eagerness to promote the teaching of creationism in public schools, encourage school prayer, support anti–sodomy statutes, ban abortions, bar gay marriage, limit the use of stem cells, reduce access to contraceptives, and advance the idea of America as a 'Christian nation',” the Bush administration has done more to politicise religion than any administration in recent American history. “It has already blurred the distinction between what is preached from the pulpits and what are the official policies of the United States government, to the detriment of both.

Right–wing fundamentalists – including not a few high–level Bush–administration officials – charge us secularists with being 'moral relativists' who would give equal weight to any moral precept. In so doing, they confuse politics with private morality. For religious zealots, there is no distinction between the two realms. And that is precisely the problem.” He goes on: “As fundamentalism gains strength, as Bush removes barriers that prevent government from funding religious groups and as the churches become more and more engaged in direct politicking, its power to change the surface of American society should not be underestimated.” In fact, a startling and frightening parallel can be drawn between the increasingly religious fervour of President Bush and his zealots and the Bin Laden and his bunch of Wahhabi–trained warriors. They all believe that they are guided by God and that they can kill and murder at will: be their victims, women, children, aid workers or soldiers on the other battle front in Iraq or Afghanistan.

Francis Beckett wrote last week in the New Statesman: “That is why, as Bush said of Blair, 'he doesn't need a poll or a focus group to know right from wrong.* That is how they (Bush and Blair) feel able even to defy their own religious leaders. Islamic terrorists are condemned by the leaders of Islam; and Blair was left in no doubt, when he visited the Pope last year, that the leader of his Church was opposed to the invasion of Iraq. They believe, as the Christian saints and martyrs used to say, that God will be their judge.” Beckett added: “And that is why religion, and religious teaching, should be kept as far away from democratic politics as possible. There is no reason why democratic leaders should not have their own, private religious faith, so long as they understand that, for what they do in our name, they are responsible to us, not to their God.” If all of the above is not scary and does not worry most Americans, it certainly should, but I believe in fact that, no matter what the polls say at this moment, there is far more common sense beneath the average American psyche than is at present showing.

That is why those words of Bush to the Amish could be his undoing.
Kerry, although he may not be everybody's ideal presidential candidate has, while acknowledging that he is a practising Catholic, made it very clear that he is an American and respecter of the Constitution first.

Meb Cutlack


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