I’m trying not to be defensive here, but can you tell me why Attorney
General John Ashcroft’s morning Bible study in his offices at the Justice Department
is newsworthy? Didn’t Christian bashers sufficiently quench their appetites during
Ashcroft’s confirmation hearings?
Monday morning the Washington Post ran a story titled "Ashcroft’s Faith
Plays Visible Role at Justice." Keep in mind that the morning Bible and prayer
meetings, led by Ashcroft, are behind closed doors in his personal office or an
adjacent conference room -- so they’re only visible to those in attendance.
Also, these meetings do not involve the Justice Department or any role for it
whatsoever, as the title implies. All employees are welcome, but not required to
attend. The Attorney General is merely continuing a practice he has engaged in for
years, including while serving as a U. S. Senator. His meetings are no different from
those conducted by scores of congressmen everyday on Capitol Hill.
General Ashcroft considers the meetings to be personal and to have no
bearing on his job or those of his employees. Such assurances, however, are not
satisfactory to critics.
Some of the 135,000 Justice Department employees who do not share
what the Post describes as "Ashcroft’s Pentecostal Christian beliefs" are, according
to the story, "discomfited by the daily prayer sessions." Why? "Because they are
conducted by the nation’s chief law enforcement officer, entrusted with enforcing a
Constitution that calls for the separation of church and state."
One Justice Department attorney supposedly told the Post that the purpose
of the Department of Justice was to do the business of the government, not to
establish a religion. Another lawyer described the meetings as "alienating."
Anti-Christians seem to be gaining more and more confidence to muzzle
Christians by seeking to expand the Establishment Clause light years beyond its
intended scope by the framers of the Constitution. It stretches credulity to argue that
voluntary prayer meetings in General Ashcroft’s office beginning and ending before
the workday begins constitute an establishment of religion by the government.
Let’s also not forget about that other little religion provision in the First
Amendment. To deny Ashcroft the right to hold such meetings on public property
just because he is the nation’s chief law enforcement officer (below the president) is
repugnant to the Constitution and its First Amendment Free Exercise Clause.
Constitutional analysis does not require us to abandon common sense. In no
way is Ashcroft seeking to coerce or even gently encourage his subordinates to
adopt his religious beliefs. He neither rewards those who attend, nor punishes those
who do not. Indeed, the meetings are open to non-Christians as well. Shimon Stein,
a Jewish Justice Department program analyst, regularly attends the meetings and
says of Ashcroft, "He’s made every effort to make everyone and everything feel
But radical secularists are not satisfied with the facts. They are anxious to
eradicate God from every facet of public life, regardless of whether or not
constitutional implications are involved.
They know they are on shaky constitutional grounds in objecting to Ashcroft’s
morning meetings so they resort to the absurd reaches of political correctness.
Secularists now contend that Ashcroft has a responsibility not to offend employees
of different faiths.
Let me get this straight: John Ashcroft and other Christians are not even allowed to
express their faith in private meetings on public property for fear of offending
people who are not there?
If you haven’t already figured this out, this isn’t about John Ashcroft
encroaching on the rights of other people. It’s about other people muzzling
Christians and Christian conservatives because they are vehemently opposed to
their views. In fact, this entire Post article, in my opinion, is contrived to create a
controversy to further dog John Ashcroft.
When I occasionally use this column to discuss religious issues, sometimes
fellow Christians tell me that Christians should avoid being confrontational. I agree
that we should try not to be confrontational about matters of faith if at all possible.
On the other hand, Christians and Christianity are under systematic assault by
our culture and those who advocate passivity in the face of such attacks are doing
nothing to defend the cause they purport to serve. We cannot ignore the problem in
the name of collegiality and expect it to go away. Tolerance is a two-way street.
By refusing to stand up for our rights as Christians, we are inviting further
abuse. If our forefathers had adopted that approach this nation would never have