fair as Roger Williams

U.S. Soldiers Launch Campaign to Convert Iraqis to Christianity


as broad-minded, rigorous and fair as Roger Williams

liberty of conscience–the term she prefers to religion–as Locke and all the founders who followed. “We should not focus only on the eighteenth-century arguments of the framers,” she writes, “ignoring this prior, and distinctly American, tradition, quintessentially embodied in Williams’ The Bloudy Tenent of Persecution,” a 1644 text that was remarkable for the empathy it extended to persecutors and persecuted alike and its call for government to refrain from enforcing orthodoxy. Recognition of good-faith differences of conviction, he believed, revealed a surer path to civil peace and liberty of conscience. The two values, so often seen as pitted against each other, were in Williams’s account intertwined.

Williams, Nussbaum argues, is not only undervalued but also misunderstood, remembered, if at all, for “one (uncharacteristic) phrase he used once in a letter, the ‘wall of separation’ between religion and state.” He’s hardly remembered for even that; the phrase is most commonly attributed to Jefferson, who deployed it a century and a half later in his famous 1802 letter to the Danbury Baptists, a text that is such a scourge of Christian nationalism that a group of fundamentalist pastors from around the country recently sought to exorcise the spirit of Jefferson from the church’s foundation stones. It was Williams, as devout as Jefferson was skeptical but just as heretical according to the standards of his time, who coined the phrase along with another still in use, and far more important to understanding his thought: “soule rape.”

By this, Williams meant the imposition of beliefs or practices on another’s conscience, another’s ability to seek truth. Seeking truth, he believed, mattered as much–more, for the purposes of governance–than finding it.

Holy warriors in the US Armed Forces Separation of church and state being dissolved within the military, May 18, 2008

Active-duty military personnel are prohibited from taking part in partisan politics.

“The U.S. military must remain apolitical at all times,” wrote Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. “It is and must always be a neutral instrument of the state, no matter which party holds sway.”

Mullen’s essay appears in the coming issue of Joint Force Quarterly. Veteran officers said they could not remember when a similar “all-hands” letter had been issued to remind military personnel to remain outside, if not above, contentious political debate.eteran officers said they could not remember when a similar “all-hands” letter had been issued to remind military personnel to remain outside, if not above, contentious political debate.

“As the nation prepares to elect a new president,” Mullen wrote, “we would all do well to remember the promises we made: to obey civilian authority, to support and defend the Constitution and to do our duty at all times.”

“Keeping our politics private is a good first step,” he added. “The only things we should be wearing on our sleeves are our military insignia.” [story at IHT]

The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff noted that “part of the deal we made when we joined up was to willingly subordinate our individual interests to the greater good of protecting vital national interests.”