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Our View: Boebert far off on church, state

In fairness to U.S. Rep. Lauren Boebert, we imagine she says what people are thinking. Her conservative base, that is. In this case, it was her comment on Sunday to worshippers that she is “tired” of the U.S. separation of church and state, an accepted constitutional principle, from a “stinking letter” penned by one of the Founding Fathers, Thomas Jefferson.

Speaking to a congregation at the Cornerstone Christian Center in Basalt, Boebert said: “The church is supposed to direct the government. The government is not supposed to direct the church. That is not how our Founding Fathers intended it.”

Excuse us for asking, but where exactly did Boebert pull this intention?

According to The Denver Post, Boebert then added: “I’m tired of this separation of church and state junk that’s not in the Constitution. It was in a stinking letter, and it means nothing like what they say it does.”

Whoa. We take issue with this. The “stinking letter” from 1802 was sent from Jefferson, author of the Declaration of Independence and champion of the Bill of Rights, to the Danbury Baptist Association. In quoting and breaking down the First Amendment, he wrote: “I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people, which declared that their legislature should ‘make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,’ thus building a wall of separation between Church and State.”

Meaning the state wouldn’t interfere with the church and the church wouldn’t mess with the state. Based on Boebert’s track record, with god on her side, we imagine she would like to dismantle fundamental tenets of U.S. government. Boebert saying, “It means nothing like what they say it does,” is completely off. And it’s arrogant. The separation of church and state is embedded within this country’s bedrock.

Steven K. Green, a professor of law, history and religious studies at Willamette University, responded in The Washington Post to Boebert’s comments. “While the phrase separation of church and state does not appear verbatim in the Constitution, neither do many accepted constitutional principles such as separation of powers, judicial review, executive privilege or the right to marry and parental rights, no doubt rights that Rep. Boebert cherishes,” Green said.

Green would know. He wrote the book on it (“Separating Church and State: A History”).

This could be a good place to insert the argument that the Second Amendment isn’t being understood as intended. It wasn’t meant to include assault weapons to literally decimate Americans, even our smallest and most innocent. But that’s a different editorial for another day.

We’re going out on a limb, but we’re guessing church for Boebert means Christian. If this church/state principle were to be squashed, she would have to scoot over and make room for people of all faiths that make up this country. Muslims, Jews, Buddhists, Hindus, Pagans and more. Because church in this context applies to faith in one’s religion. Worshippers who, at this time, may be invisible to her.

Their prayers and chants in Arabic, Hebrew, Tibetan, Sanskrit, Hindi and Gaelic would be in our schools and courtrooms, too. Not just Christian prayers. Boebert would have to actually see these people – foreign in their cultures yet deeply, profoundly American – and their love and praise for their own gods. And they would require representation in government.

Who knows, maybe the crumbling of this church/state separation business would give her a chance to smooth things over with her colleague U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), who is Muslim, wears a hijab and who Boebert has joked is a terrorist or terrorist sympathizer.

One of the pesky things about the separation of church and state is that one can’t be forced on the other. It applies to all Americans and all of our institutions. All of the time.