An Open Letter to the Transition Team of President-Elect Joe Biden

Posted: November 17, 2020 in Uncategorized
Pin on Cornerstone 1: Faith

To the Transition Team of President-Elect Joe Biden:

As you prepare for and select the multi-facetted leadership required in a new administration, I would like to register but one of the many concerns you will be facing: This administration’s relationship to diverse American religious communities.

The First Amendment of our Constitution protects the free exercise of religion even as it limits the governmental establishment of any one religion. This understandable and yet sometimes uneasy tension is there for a reason; our founders had experienced both the curtailing of religious liberty and the establishment of theocratic church-state structures. Neither were desirable. Their constitutional outcome included provisions that prohibited both.

Nevertheless, religious life has always been and continues to be an important force in American life. As your administration decides how it wants to build bridges to religious communities I would like to provide some modest observations and suggestions.

First, let us not fall into the errors of the previous administration. We should avoid governmental alliance with one slice of the religious community to the exclusion of all others. During the Trump administration that slice primarily included one stream of white evangelical Christians. Only those leaders had the ear of the administration. Their concerns were narrow: End Row v Wade (by seating conservative judges), provide tax-payer dollars to private religious schools (by placing a Secretary of Education who favored private schools and not public education), and conduct policy with Israel in such a way that it reinforced their own Christian end-times scenarios (with a Secretary of State and Vice President who were those white evangelicals).

In return, the administration was paid handsomely with votes and blind allegiance, regardless of the actual irreligious nature of the President.

We do not want this for our country or our religious communities. Constitutionally speaking, we want to avoid even the appearance of the establishment or even preferential treatment of one religious community. It is an error to do so in such a diverse religious nation as our own. Morally speaking, we want to regard our neighbors as ourselves, making sure that all religious voices are around the table.

Rather, we should strive to secure a broad and diverse council of religious representatives that reflects the true religious diversity of our nation. These religious representatives need not agree in doctrine, practice or ethical issues. But they do need to be able to speak for their own communities, express respect for other traditions, and exhibit a willingness to pursue the common good of our democracy.

This religious diversity should include Jews from their several traditions, Christians of many denominations, Muslims both Shite and Suni alike, Hindus, Buddhists, Taoists, Bahais, indigenous religions and many others. They should engage in conversation that illumines both unique and shared concerns. And let it be said: This religious diversity must include religious ethnic representation at the same time that it considers historic religious identities.

There needs to be a director of this interfaith religious council, an experienced person who is able to gather the tribes together and foster a sense of unity.

This has been done before in past administrations. In that sense, it is nothing new. But in contrast to what we have just lived through, it will seem almost revolutionary. Which is why it should be done soon, confidently, and well.

Mr. President-Elect and Ms. Vice-President-Elect: Reach out to the broad religious communities of this nation in a generous, inclusive and truly interested way and you will touch much of the soul of America. It is an opportunity you dare not miss.

  1. acampbell329 says:

    This is spot on perfect!

    Is there someone specific to send it to?

    Great job. It really nails the problem and what should be done.

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