From AU's Wall of Separation blog:
I made it through the State of the Union last night, although I must admit that by the 70-minute mark, I was wondering if President Donald Trump was ever going to stop talking.
Trump’s address went on so long that at one point, I fell asleep on the couch for a bit and had a short dream. During that dream, I heard a very different speech, one I wish Trump had given.
Here are some excerpts:
“My fellow Americans, our nation is a beacon for religious freedom. Our founders bequeathed that gift to us. I have tarnished their legacy with an ill-considered Muslim ban that judges people not on the content of their character but on the basis of stereotypes, misinformation and fear. I did this to pander to a base of people who are motivated not by American values of acceptance and tolerance but on the basis of hate and division. I was wrong to do that, and as of tonight, I will stop. The ban is being rescinded.
“Friends, I recognize that birth control is a vital component of women’s healthcare and equality. We need to make access to it easier, not harder. I will not allow an employer to use his religion to interfere with the personal and private healthcare choices of women. Nor will I permit healthcare providers to refuse treatment to people on religious grounds. Healthcare policy and religious freedom do not have to clash. We will find ways to respect the rights of all.
“Along the same lines, I realize now that I have been wrong to allow my administration to use the noble concept of religious freedom as a weapon to attack the rights others. I see now that for-profit, secular businesses have an obligation to serve all members of their communities, including those who may be gay, bisexual, or transgender. Anything else relegates our loved ones, family members, friends, and associates to second-class citizenship and does damage to their inherent dignity. Going forward, my administration will labor to stamp out these noxious forms of discrimination, not give them aid and comfort in the courts.
“I want to say a few words about our public school system. It serves 90 percent of our children, and it must have the support of every American to succeed. We’re going to make sure it has the resources to thrive. We will not siphon so much as one dime to private and religious schools that are not required to serve all students, that may discriminate in admissions and that teach dogma. These private institutions will stand on their own and look to the members of their faith communities for support, not the taxpayer. Accordingly, I have accepted the resignation of Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos. She will be replaced by an advocate of public education.
“During my campaign, I vowed to ‘totally destroy’ the Johnson Amendment, a provision in federal law that protects the integrity of America’s houses of worship by keeping them out of partisan politics. I can see now that I was badly misled on this issue. This provision is important because it prevents religious communities from behaving like political action committees. Were that to happen, it would divide the congregations in our churches, temples, and synagogues. Our clergy and the American people support the Johnson Amendment. My new vow is not to destroy this law but to strengthen it.
“In conclusion, I want to say that if you are a person of faith, I’d appreciate your prayers for our nation. But I also want to make it clear that this nation respects and values all of its citizens, believers and non-believers alike. In this country founded on freedom of conscience, the right to question, to doubt and to change your mind about religion must be safeguarded. Starting tonight, my administration will do that. We will support all Americans’ right to worship, or not, as they see fit. But we will acknowledge that religious freedom is about fairness and that this vital principle grants no one the right to use their faith as an instrument to control others, take away their rights, or discriminate against them.”
When I woke up, there was the same old Trump on my television, glaring, full of bombast and self-congratulation. He was saying nothing like what I had just heard.
I really wish things had been different last night, but, alas, they were not. But take heart because Americans United will continue working doggedly to oppose Trump’s twisted version of religious freedom.
Our America is a place where freedom of conscience rests on a high and firm wall of separation between church and state. It’s a country where the government protects all faiths but promotes none. It’s a nation where we’re all equal in the eyes of the government no matter what we believe or don’t believe about God.
That’s our dream. With your support, we’ll work toward it every day.