Kerry’s See-Through-Monk’s Robe


I’m a Nader fan, but I have to warn my cothinkers of the awful responsibility we have assumed. If Kerry loses & liberals can show that Nader’s vote did him in, we will be blamed for aborting what would have been a golden age of comedy. Yes, think of the endless hours of pleasure we will enjoy if Kerry wins, as Jay Leno does nightly imitations of Kerry imitating Bush.

Kerry apparently previously entertained media folks with a samurai Senator skit. But its his Bush imitations that really leave the critics laughing. His problem is that they are laughing at him, not with him.

If Bush got religion after 1 too many drinks, Kerry got piety after looking at 1 too many polls. They show that the overwhelming majority of Americans believe in god, so politician Kerry’s buzz words are now “faith” & “values.” Except that he uses them so often that nasty journalists clock him. Once they started doing that, his demagoguery was obvious.

In July, the Democrats ran a Spanish TV ad, “Faith,” in 10 states. Staff writer Jim Rutenberg did a “scorecard” on it in the 7/22 NY Times:

“Mr. Kerry is playing defense as much as offense. The repeated use of the word “faith” seems to be an effort to appeal to religious values, even though in two of the three instances, the context was clearly not religious. Mr. Kerry’s campaign is obviously trying to beat back President Bush’s bid to gain Hispanics’ support by appealing to their Roman Catholic values. Though Mr. Kerry is Catholic, Mr. Bush would seem to have an advantage on this score because he has been speaking publicly about his Christian faith since before the 2000 election. Mr. Kerry goes to church most weekends, but his religious faith has not been a prominent part of his campaign. And his support for abortion rights puts him at odds with the Vatican. Yet this spot could help him score points on immigration policy.”

However, one profound religious pandering ploy didn’t get covered by mainstream media, pro or anti-Kerry. In July, he spoke at the African Methodist Episcopalian convention. Democrats before Black churches isn’t unusual & the event was covered as a Black campaign story without focus on the AME or the Democrat’s latest religious revelation. But James Besser caught its significance & wrote it up in the 7/16 Jewish Week, a New York ‘community’ paper.

The AME is in favor of Bush’s federal amendment banning gay marriage. It is also in favor of his “faith-based initiatives.” So Kerry sweet-talked them:

“‘I know there are some who say that the First Amendment means faith-based organizations can’t help government,’ he said. ‘I think they are wrong. I want to offer support for your efforts, including financial support, in a way that supports our Constitution and civil rights laws and values the role of faith in inspiring countless acts of justice and mercy across our land.'”

“In a ‘fact sheet’ distributed to Jewish activists after the speech, he called for a ‘Presidential Advisory Group on Expanding Faith-Based Initiatives.'”

But not to worry. Kerry promises to correct Bush’s Executive Order on Faith-Based Initiatives, “to ensure that it encompasses all necessary constitutional and civil rights considerations and does not unnecessarily subject small faith-based organizations to litigation or other administrative difficulties.”

John Green, an Akron U. poli-scientist, explained Kerry’s strategy. “This is surely part of an effort to appeal to African Americans, but it may help him with other moderate to liberal groups.” If he goes over board, it could alienate Jews and other church-state separationists but “on balance, this kind of appeal may help him.”

The prof is correct. Kerry’s Advisory Group is as unconstitutional as feeding Christians to lions, but some liberal secularists don’t care. They will vote for him even if Kerry is caught in bed with an underage same-sex lamb.

A well-known atheist writer isn’t worried. “In any election, the guy on the left bends to the right & the reverse, to win undecided votes. He’s bullshitting those fools. Nothing harmful will come of it.” Another ‘secularist’ explained his unconcern: “The courts will strike it down.”

My friends write about religion. But neither is involved in any secularist organization or party politics. Its easy for cynical spectators to rationalize voting for a demagogue with the excuse that he is the lesser evil. But you can’t build a sustained movement for a secular America – or for any other intellectually serious cause – by telling people to vote for a candidate who you know is a liar, or who will trick folks into voting for him with a bogus advisory group, relying on the courts to clean up after his assault on the constitution he will promise to uphold.

Let’s assume that AME community efforts are commendable. That doesn’t make government “financial support” for its work constitutional.

James Madison was the cofounder of Kerry’s party. He also authored the Bill of Rights. In 1811, as President, he vetoed “An Act incorporating the Protestant Episcopal Church in the town of Alexander, in the District of Columbia.” He gave several reasons re the specifics of that immediate situation. But he closed with a statement that is obviously still applicable:

“Because the bill vests in the said incorporated church an authority to provide for the support of the poor and the education of poor children of the same, an authority which, being altogether superfluous if the provision is to be the result of pious charity, would be a precedent for giving to religious societies as such a legal agency in carrying into effect a public and civil duty.”

Madison was a separationist because he saw Virginian & American politicians use religion for their purposes & priests using politics for theirs. Scroll him up to our day & America & what would he see in the center ring of our political circus? The same ol’ same ol.’ Two rich politicians, representing 2 parties awash with campaign contributions from the greed lobbies, who never stop telling us how Christian they are. Yes, when Kerry voted to authorize Bush to go to war he was – let’s be honest – Christlike, when Bush went to war he was Christlike, & the winner of our next presidential election will be Christlike as he orders more American troops to certain death in Iraq & elsewhere.

Truth to tell, us lefts ought to give a shout to be heard in high heaven for such as Howard Dean with his wonderful New Testament Job, & motormouth Kerry with his “faith” & “values.” Their hypocrisy is so transparent that even mainstream journalists report it as such. Of course their editors won’t learn from their reporters. The Times, etc., will endorse Kerry. But some of their readers do learn.

As of this day, it is impossible to say if Nader will be on the ballot in many states. But if Kerry keeps racing to the right, reaffirming his vote to authorize the Iraq war, calling for neighborhood anti-terrorist watches, Presidential advisory groups on battering down the wall of separation between church & state & Co., we may be in for a big electoral surprise: A substantial vote for Nader in states that aren’t in doubt for either Bush or Kerry, & mayhaps a significant vote for him in contested states.

In any case, the antiwar movement will grow between now & November & beyond, regardless of which demagogue wins on election Tuesday.

* * *

James Madison, Veto Message to the House of Representatives of the United States, February 21, 1811

[Note – Readers should be aware that Madison slightly misquotes the 1st Amendment, which literally reads “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.” – LB]

Having examined and considered the bill entitled “An Act incorporating the Protestant Episcopal Church in the town of Alexander, in the District of Columbia,” I now return the bill to the House of Representatives, in which it originated, with the following objections:

Because the bill exceeds the rightful authority to which governments are limited by the essential distinction between civil and religious functions, and violates in particular the article of the Constitution of the United States which declares ‘Congress shall make no law respecting a religious establishment.’ The bill enacts into and establishes by law sundry rules and proceedings relative purely to the organization and policy of the church incorporated, and comprehending even the election and removal of the minister of the same, so that no change could be made therein by the particular society or by the general church of which it is a member, and whose authority it recognizes. This particular church, therefore, would so far be a religious establishment by law, a legal force and sanction being given to certain articles in its constitution and administration. Nor can it be considered that the articles thus established are to be taken as the descriptive criteria only of the corporate identity of the society, inasmuch as this identity must depend on other characteristics, as the regulations established are in general unessential and alterable according to the principles and canons by which churches of the denomination govern themselves, and as the injunctions and prohibitions contained in the regulations would be enforced by the penal consequences applicable to the violation of them according to the local law.

Because the bill vests in the said incorporated church an authority to provide for the support of the poor and the education of poor children of the same, an authority which, being altogether superfluous if the provision is to be the result of pious charity, would be a precedent for giving to religious societies as such a legal agency in carrying into effect a public and civil duty.

LENNI BRENNER is the editor of 51 Documents: Zionist Collaboration with the Nazis and a contributor to Alex Cockburn and Jeffrey St. Clair’s new CounterPunch collection Serpents in the Garden: Encounters with Culture and Sex, where he recounts his personal role in 1961 in liberating Dylan from the arftistic and political blind alley of petit-bourgeois boll-weevilism. His next book, Jefferson & Madison: Religion & Secularism, will be published in October by Barricade Books. He can be reached at


Lenni Brenner is the author of Zionism In The Age Of The Dictators. He can be contacted at