Despite calls from sponsors to disinvite Jim Wallis as keynote speaker at next week’s Lifest, an Evangelical music event in Wisconsin that attracts tens of thousands of young attendees, the organizers of the event have decided to keep him on. One sponsor, radio station Q90 FM, chose to end their support of the event after 12 years of continuous annual sponsorship. Said station general manager, Mike LeMay, about Wallis and his organization Sojourners:
“They propose the church and government working very closely together to help the poor. We believe that our founding fathers wisely built a strong wall which doesn’t allow the government to interfere with religious freedom. We’re afraid these sorts of alliances will lead to a slippery slope.”
While it’s reassuring to hear support for the separation between church and state — wall-bashing is in vogue yet again! — it’s hard to tell whether Q90 is a station for Anabaptists or for Beck-heads? After all, Beck has been poking at Wallis with a hot stick, er hammer, for months and Wallis points to Beck as instigator of the boycott. In March Beck challenged the premise of social justice as nothing more than a Marxist ploy to redistribute wealth. He encouraged parishioners to leave any church that preached social justice – but he never has stood up for a solid wall between church and state. (And how could he when palling around with “God-given-and-not-government-given” David Barton?) Wallis, took up Beck’s challenge and it’s been contention ever since.
But Q90’s LeMay has a particularly good point — at least in the above quote — that has little to do with Glenn Beck. What slippery slope does the collusion of government and religion puts us on? Jim Wallis is an advisor to the White House’s much-contested Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships (other advisors/members are listed here), established by Bush W. and strategically, if not cynically, kept on by the Obama Administration to prove that the Left can get religion too. One vocal opponent of the continued program is Barry Lynn of Americans United for the Separation of Church and State:
In a Feb. 2 letter to the White House, Americans United Executive Director Barry W. Lynn observed, “As the one-year anniversary of your creation of the White House Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships approaches, I urge you to restore the religious liberty and civil rights protections that were removed by the Bush administration’s ‘faith-based’ initiative.”
Lynn reminded Obama that President George W. Bush had allowed publicly funded “faith-based” groups to discriminate in hiring on religious grounds and had failed to enforce federal rules against proselytizing. Obama, at a July 1, 2008, campaign stop in Zanesville, Ohio, had promised to fix those problematic policies.
“[I]f you get a federal grant,” Obama said then, “you can’t use that grant money to proselytize to the people you help and you can’t discriminate against them — or against the people you hire — on the basis of their religion. Second, federal dollars that go directly to churches, temples, and mosques can only be used on secular programs.”
Wallis has responded to the Lifest “controversy” by writing an open letter, at the behest of Bob Lenz, the organizer of event. But he fails to address concerns for separation of church and state noted by sponsors. You can read the letter here.