Opinion: Barry Lynn/'Americans United' Insult Rick Warren and Christians
Barry Lynn impugned Rev. Rick Warren, disparaged orthodox Christians of every confession, promoted an anti-faith agenda and misrepresented the Civil Forum at Saddleback Church.
In his mocking criticism of Rev. Rick Warren and his attacks against the Saddleback Church Civil Forum, Barry Lynn, the Executive Director of Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, showed a lack of courtesy, a hostility toward orthodox Christians of every persuasion and a misguided interpretation of the First Amendment.
While turning the dial (even the expression dates me in the digital age)I happened upon the “Diane Rehm Show” just in time to hear her guests opine on the now famous Saddleback Forum, where evangelical Protestant Pastor Rick Warren hosted both Senator Barack Obama and Senator John McCain for an historic event during the Presidential campaign of 2008.
The topic of the hour-long program was “Religion in the 2008 Presidential Campaign”. The guests were John Meacham, an editor of Newsweek and co-moderator of "On Faith”; John Green, senior fellow in religion and American politics, Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life and a director of the Ray C. Bliss Institute of Applied Politics at the University of Akron in Ohio; and, Reverend Barry Lynn, the Executive Director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State and the author of "Piety & Politics".
Rev. Barry Lynn is the self appointed watch dog who runs “Americans United for the Separation of Church and State”; a well funded 501 c3 exempt public policy and educational organization. I am well acquainted with Rev. Lynn.
For years, while I served as the first Executive Director of the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ), in the 1990’s, a public interest law firm committed to an authentic view of religious freedom, we crossed paths quite a few times. He still regularly debates my friend, the Chief Counsel for the ACLJ, and noted Supreme Court Advocate, Jay Sekulow.
I will admit something up front.
I believe that Barry Lynn’s interpretation of the Establishment Clause, Free Speech Clause and Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution is simply wrong. It is not faithful to history, it is not a proper reading of Constitutional law, it is not good for the public order and it does not promote or serve the common good.
This clause was never intended by the American founders to prevent religious groups from full participation in the public square not to censor out religious speech or the religious speaker from civic participation.
The “Establishment Clause” is better understood as an “anti-Establishment Clause” because it was intended to prevent the erection of a National Church. Of course, as a Catholic, I am quite sensitive to the fact that the early colonies were not, for the most part, very Catholic friendly. However, over time, that changed.
And, properly understood, the First Amendment to the United States Constitution has allowed for a robust diversity of religious expression (or non-expression) and the flourishing of a dynamic model of religious freedom in America. That is, when it is properly interpreted and applied.
Sadly, Rev. Lynn wants to erect a Wall far greater in scope than the metaphorical wall which has been used in Establishment clause jurisprudence to explain the American notion of separation. His notion of a wall would expunge religious expression from the public discourse and impede the freedom of the Church to speak to the great moral issues of the age.
That became quite obvious as he excoriated Rev. Rick Warren and the Saddleback Forum in his comments and responses on this radio show.
Please, do not misunderstand me. Barry Lynn is a rather likeable fellow in person. He is just plain wrong on the Constitution and he is, unfortunately, an anti-Christian bigot in Christian clothes. He has failed repeatedly in his efforts to frighten people into thinking that anyone who believes that religious practice and expression is a “good” which promotes the common good is, in reality, some kind of nut and a threat.
Fortunately he has also failed in his tiring efforts to persuade the public to accept his own apparent belief that orthodox Christians and other religious people can not really make good Americans.However, on this radio program he tried again. It reminded me of the old "No Name" party, the virulently anti-Catholic group which tried to disparage catholics in America for so many years.
In the early days of my own work as a Constitutional lawyer, my Catholicism was a problem for Rev. Barry Lynn. Because of me, and others like me, he was unable to convince folks that all Christian people with whom he disagreed over the Right to Life and a host of other issues were all “fundamentalists”. He wanted to denigrate us all by assigning us to what he hoped to argue was a small segment of Protestant Christianity, the "fundamentalists', who were a threat to the Republic.
So, Barry Lynn joined the ranks of those back then who came up with the phrase “religious right” and then slowly expanded its definition in order to use it as a verbal weapon against most orthodox ...
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