Friday, June 04, 2010

Glen Urquhart and the Nazis

Celia Cohen wrote earlier this week that GOP congressional candidate Glen Urquhart thinks that the separation of church and state originated with the Nazis:
"The exact phrase 'separation of church and state' came out of Adolf Hitler's mouth. That's where it comes from. The next time your liberal friends talk about separation of church and state, ask them why they're Nazis."
Urquhart's comments were captured on video and posted on YouTube. The usually genial Cohen departs from her breezy style and subjects Urquhart to a storm of well deserved sarcasm.

Beth Miller reports in the News Journal that Urquhart now says his remarks were "not as skillfully worded" as he would have liked. Skillfully worded or not, half of the crowd applauded.

Writing at Delaware Tomorrow, Michael Stafford refutes Urquhart's astonishing assertion in
a withering post titled "Mein Gaffe." Stafford admits that Urquhart is correct in saying that Thomas Jefferson did not use the exact phrase, "separation of church and state," in his letter to the Danbury Baptists. Instead, Jefferson wrote of “building a wall of separation between church and State.”

Stafford traces the phrase back to James Madison and Roger Williams, the founder of the colony of Rhode Island, and reviews the jurisprudence, including a 19th century prohibition on clergy holding public office here in Delaware. He takes us through the history for a reason:

Why this digression into the realm of state court opinions? Because it refutes the argument that the phrase “separation of church and state” did not become a part of our Establishment Clause lexicon until the Supreme Court’s decision in Everson v Bd of Education in 1947; an argument frequently made by those who claim the phrase originated with Hitler and the Nazis. As the reader can see even from this cursory summary, the Supreme Court was not creating a new concept out of whole cloth, nor grafting a foreign (Nazi?) principle on the First Amendment--the separation between, or of, church and state has very deep roots in our history.
The claims that Democratic policies or programs resemble the horrors of Nazi Germany have flourished in the last two years. And it has not just been a few tasteless images on the web or on signs at street demonstrations.

Jonah Goldberg, considered by some a serious thinker, wrote an improbable tome called Liberal Fascism. Glen Beck has garnered several million viewers with his spectacle of "Nazi Tourettes,"
as Lewis Black called it on the Daily Show. And Newt Gingrich, who styles himself to be an intellectual (he once taught history), shows he doesn't understand history in his new book, To Save America: Stopping Obama’s Secular Socialist Machine:
The President’s secular socialist machine represents as great a threat to America as Nazi Germany or the Soviet Union once did.
Glen Urquhart notwithstanding, I am not a Nazi, or even a secularist, for believing in the separation of church and state.

This paroxysm of Nazi allusions will eventually subside, though not before it inflicts further damage on our polity. I am glad there are Republicans who are willing to call out those who abuse history in ramping up the rhetoric.


Blogger Ed Darrell said...

Has Urquhart ever explained this statement more carefully?

4:32 AM, September 27, 2010  
Blogger JD Carruthers said...

Before Urquhart presumes to deliver any more lectures on how the Nazis coined the notion of "separation of church and state", he needs to Google the term "Reichskonkordat" and read the article. The one thing that I think is worse than a liar is someone who is too lazy and ignorant to aquaint himself with the truth.

7:03 PM, November 01, 2010  

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