by Rey Barry
For that I used the term "joystick Resident," someone occupying the White House whose arrows are aimed and whose buttons are pushed by others.
Early in the Bush Residency I came to realize that government by hidden agenda is a wonderful thing. It will put us face-to-face with what we stand for. I like that.
Others, notably Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz and my 91-year-old mother, commented at length and with anguish about the Bush inauguration being bracketed between two prayers invoking the trinity and Jesus Christ.
By freezing out all but Christians, critics saw this as an attempt - naked, foolish, macho, bumbling, unconstitutional, or merely callous - to restore Christianity to its "rightful place in America" as the national religion.
To that end the Bushmen embarked on a program to give churches our tax dollars to pay for their social service programs, allowing churches to conserve their own money for church affairs.
The Pat Robertsons and Jerry Falwells are jumping for joy but while they're in the air they might ask themselves a few questions. They may not want to come down.
The 1st Amendment bars Congress from establishing an official religion. The Supreme Court has always interpreted that to mean all religions must be equal in the eyes of the law. Whether the church enrolls 50 million people or fifty people, it is entitled to the same legal rights.
Thus a bishop of the Episcopal Church, and the holder of a $10 mail order Certificate of Ordination, share identical legal rights in the US to preach, marry, bury, etc.
Shortly we will have a program in place for "church officials" to apply for government money to do good works. Beyond question nearly all churches will find they have programs that qualify as good works in the enabling definitions. Those that do not will adjust their programs to qualify, as they should.
Under the Constitution all churches would be entitled to funds.
It will inevitably happen in the competition for limited funds that some of the faithful feel they are more entitled because their church is older or larger or serves in Bush's shadow cabinet. Certainly every religion will feel uniquely entitled because it is closer to god. And just as certain it is clearly unconstitutional for bureaucrats to act like one religion is "above" another.
Under the law, Catholics and Jews, Buddhists and Shintos, Hindus and Mormons, Muslims and Episcopalians, are the same and must be treated alike. Each has lawyers who will sue that they are, should their church perceive itself short-changed. Money does that.
And it is certain, bureaucrats not being perfect, that some churches really will be short-changed and their lawyers will take to the courts with the Constitution firmly on their side.
In America lawyers are ready to represent any church no matter how tiny, obscure, or eccentric, should its program of good works not receive its share of funds. To fund some churches and not others - no matter their beliefs - reeks of "Establishment of religion" and religious elitism.
Bush seeks to allow churches to save their own money for church affairs by giving them tax money for food programs. With some religions this assists in paying for holy wars and boot camps, er, religious retreats, to train the fighters. Great Satans beware.
A Residential administration that began by celebrating the triumph of Christianity above other faiths seems almost sure to be the one that creates the firmest legal foundation yet that America must abide by its pluralism.
The legitimacy of Presbyterianism and Scientology are equal under the law. Southern Baptists and the Islamic Brotherhood are equal peas in the legal pod. They are all legally entitled to a fair share.
It is the fulfillment of his campaign promise. The joystick Resident will be a uniter and not a divider.
Rev. Robertson and Rev. Falwell can come down to earth now. The 43rd Resident expects their support.
A sobering thought that someone who thinks so poorly on his feet not only occupies the highest office of the most powerful nation in the world, but was only one candidate away from being the people's choice.
Popular Vote in 2000: