While the debate regarding the DNC’s platform (as analysed here at the Gates by Vera) focused mainly on the issues pertaining to Jerusalem, and the voting process at the convention, I wanted to highlight another feature: That God made it back in to the text, albeit in a round-about way as “God-given potential”
Yes, everybody pointed out that it was likely a way for the Democrats to reclaim the values issues and prevent accusations from the Republicans that they were godless. Didn’t help though (Republican vice-presidential candidate Paul Ryan said the wording “is not in keeping with the country’s founding documents and principles”). The GOP’s platform mentions God 12 times, by the way.
It’s an interesting phenomenon, seeing that the US still insists on a separation of Church and State. As a native European, I also shrug at explicit mentions of any deity in the realm of politics (watch out for future post on how that’s done in Israel). For comparison, consider the EU’s Treaty of Lisbon. That’s the closest the EU is to a constitution at the moment (yes, I know the party platforms for the DNC and GOP are not constitutions. But this is. And they are symptomatic of the political rhetoric in America)
There is absolutely no reference made to God, god-given, Creator, creator-endowed etc etc (full text here). But that is not to say that RELIGION didn’t make it into the text.
Article 16 C
1. The Union respects and does not prejudice the status under national law of churches
and religious associations or communities in the Member States.
2. The Union equally respects the status under national law of philosophical and nonconfessional
3. Recognising their identity and their specific contribution, the Union shall maintain an
open, transparent and regular dialogue with these churches and organisations.
However, and this is my real point: There is a difference between talking about religion as the EU does, as a social institution, and talking religiously – as the US texts do – about values. ‘Religion’ is a fact on the ground in Europe as well as America and it make sense for the state to enter into dialogue with this group, just as they do with other interest groups. But there is no need to let the god of the religion into the legal text. Unless of course you are trying to sacralise your own value system.
If ‘secularism’ is taken to cover only separation between church and state then EU-member state Denmark is not secular, since the State Church is part of the state and its special status guaranteed by the constitution. But secularism is not so clearly defined by scholars of religion these days (read for example this great interview with sociologist Peter Berger – who came out with a secularisation theory in the 1960’s, and later on renounced it). So while the EU on the surface opens the door to religious institutions, it shuts it effectively for God. In the States, it’s the opposite. But I wonder if you can really keep religion (and religious institutions’ influence) out of your government if you have God in your texts…