Paul  Kengor

“George W. Bush is a [EXPLETIVE] theocrat!”

If I had a dollar for every time I heard that over the past eight years. Having written a book on the faith of George W. Bush, I was pummeled by liberals for not conceding that Torquemada had risen from the grave and was now running America from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

The evidence proffered ranged from the comical to the deranged, and was infused with an astonishing dose of historical illiteracy. This was ironic, given that those leveling the charge—whether the run-of-the-mill angry left-wing emailer or the predictable professor from some secular university—prided themselves on their brilliance, in obvious contrast to Bush’s ignorance. Never mind that George W. Bush’s presidential remarks on religion were mild compared to the musings of liberal icons like FDR and Woodrow Wilson.

The left’s favorite example of President Bush’s looming theocracy was his faith-based initiative. This sent secular liberals over the edge, a bloody bludgeoning of the bright, unmistakable, thousand-foot-high wall separating church and state.

It began with one of the first acts of Bush’s presidency: he signed an executive order creating a White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives. The goal of the office is to provide local community “helpers and healers” (Bush’s words)—who operate within religiously affiliated organizations—with federal money to help advance their work.

Not everyone shared Bush’s enthusiasm for the office; it came under fire in his first press conference, where he was lectured by veteran reporter (and noted Constitutional scholar) Helen Thomas, who reacted as if the new president had authorized an Office of Christian Crusading:

Thomas: Mr. President, why do you refuse to respect the wall between the church and state? And you know that the mixing of religion and government for centuries has led to slaughter. I mean, the very fact that our country has stood in good stead by having the separation—why do you break it down:

Bush: Helen, I strongly respect the separation of church and state----

Thomas: Well, you wouldn’t have a religious office in the White House if you did.

Bush: I didn’t get to finish my answer, in all due respect. I believe that so long as there’s a secular alternative available, we ought to allow individuals … to be able to choose a faith-based program…. [S]ome of the most compassionate missions of help and aid come out of faith-based programs. And I strongly support the faith-based initiative that we’re proposing, because I don’t believe it violates the line between the separation of church and state, and I believe it’s going to make America a better place.