Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Theocratic Wolf!

A few posts ago I noted that both sides of the political divide tend to run up their strawmen to raise support and visibility. For the right, we cry about confiscation of property or government mandated immorality. The left has been using (or overusing) cries of theocracy. Geek with a .45 looks into one such fundraising attempt.

The truth is that the US is far from theocracy nor is it ever likely to become one. In a true theocracy, the clerical priesthood has a direct role in government. They are typically wield both religious and civil authority. In Iran, the Imams have veto power over the government. Compare that to the US where religious leaders can, ummm, lobby with the same influence as anybody else. Well actually most religious leaders can't even do that because it would jeopardize their tax exempt status.

More importantly though, the American system of religious involvement is being copied abroad to avoid theocracy. This article over at the Wall Street Journal points out:
One of the principal leaders of the Supreme Islamic Council for Revolution in Iraq ... brushed aside the talk of a Shia theocracy. ... He was sure that the Najaf school of Shia jurisprudence would offer its own alternative to the world view of Qom, across the border. He wanted no theocratic state in Iraq: Islam, he said, would be "a source" of legislation, but the content of politics would be largely secular. The model, he added, with a touch of irony, would be closer to the American mix of religion and politics than to the uncompromising secularism of France.
The American model is that the values of the people, be they religious or social, are used to inform and motivate political discourse.

Now I'm not going to give conservatives a complete pass on this one. I still think our long term interests would be better served with an endorsement of limited government rather than the ham-handed moral authoritarianism advocated by people like James Dobson. But lets face it, we aren't theocrats here. Our ministers and priests may exert influence over the political process, but the only people wearing robes and speaking with authority from on high these days are members of the Judicial system.

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