John Hawkins: The First Amendment starts out with, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;”. Do you think that we as a society pay too little attention to the “prohibiting the free exercise thereof” portion of that Amendment?
David Limbaugh: Absolutely. There are indeed two religion clauses in the First Amendment. As you said, the Establishment Clause and the Free Exercise Clause. Ironically, they are both designed to promote religious liberty, not suppress it. The only reason to prohibit the establishment of a national church would be that it would suppress people’s religious liberties. That’s why the (Founding Fathers) prohibited that. Because they had lived under a national church or their ancestors in England did. But, they also affirmatively guaranteed the free exercise rights for people with the Free Exercise Clause.
So absolutely, these clauses have been misinterpreted in American jurisprudence because the Establishment Clause has been expansively interpreted to effectuate almost a complete separation of church and state to the point where students in schools aren’t even allowed to conduct voluntary religious activities. Which in effect means that in the name of protecting religious liberties under the Establishment Clause, they in fact suppress their religious liberties instead.
John Hawkins: Speaking of “separation of church and state”, do you think a lot of people misunderstand what Jefferson actually meant by, “separation of church and state”?
David Limbaugh: Regardless of what Jefferson meant, the issue I think is what the Constitution meant…
John Hawkins: Now one quick thing. I have read that letter before and I as I read it and to me “separation of church and state” appeared to be nothing more than another way of phrasing, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion”…
David Limbaugh: Yeah, I agree with that. But I think to me, the more salient point is that the Jefferson letter is not binding on anyone. You can read all kinds of other writing that will indicate that the purpose of the Establishment Clause was to prohibit the federal government from establishing a religion and to keep it from interfering with any established religions that the states had set up. But, not to completely create a separation between church and state. There was no intent to completely divorce the government from religious matters.
John Hawkins: Given that, do think school prayer should be constitutional?
David Limbaugh: Yes. According to the original intent of the framers, of course it’s constitutional. The Constitution was never meant to prohibit voluntary student activity, voluntary prayer, or even prayer led by a school board. It’s fine as long as the students weren’t forced to pray to a God they didn’t believe in because that would be an encroachment on their free exercise rights.
But that’s not what happens in most of these cases when student’s religious liberties are shot down. If a student wants to give a prayer at a graduation, if they want to invoke the name of God saying that Christ was central to their life, there’s absolutely nothing in the Constitution that prohibits it. We’re talking about voluntary student action, not endorsement by the state. The same thing applies when high school students join hands in prayer or kindergarten students join hands in prayer over their snack table in their free time, there’s nothing wrong with that. Yet, the courts have sometimes outlawed it. It’s just outrageous.
John Hawkins: Just because I know I’m going to hear this follow-up question, I’m going to throw it out to you. Of course, it would also be constitutional if for example a school board decided to have a whole school say Muslim prayers or Hindu prayers? People may or may not want to do it, but it’s constitutional right?
David Limbaugh: I think it would probably be constitutional, but I will say this; the framers were Christian men. They had no problem with the government endorsing a degree of Christianity. Would they have had a problem with the government endorsing another major religion? Yes. Would it be technically unconstitutional? Not if it was voluntary, but I’m going to tell you, we’d raise all kinds of cain about it as matter of practice, not as a matter of constitutionality.
When somebody tries to trap me by saying something like, “if two Muslim kindergartners were praying, you would totally object to that, so don’t be a hypocrite,” I say, “No I wouldn’t”. I wouldn’t object to two Muslims praying during their private time. Religious freedom is granted to everyone in the United States and Christians believe not in a theocracy, but in religious freedom for everyone.
John Hawkins: Like you say, there’s a big difference between disagreeing with something and disagreeing with something on a constitutional level.
David Limbaugh: You’re exactly right and I’m glad you’re making that distinction too.
John Hawkins: Here’s another related question. I was reading a promo for your new book “Persecution” and this passage jumped out at me,
“Looking honestly at the dominant influence of Christianity in America’s colonial culture and schools, where the Bible was routinely used as a textbook, Limbaugh makes a compelling case that the education students receive today is not what the Founders would have endorsed.”
If the Bible was routinely used as a textbook back in the days of Jefferson, Madison, and Hancock, isn’t that a pretty good indication that the way that most people look at “separation of state” in an incorrect way?
David Limbaugh: Absolutely. In fact, the first common schools in this country were established for the express purpose of Christian, religious, instruction. They wanted their kids to go to school to learn how to read the Bible because they believed the doctrines contained therein were essential for salvation.
John Hawkins: Let me go in a different direction here. The sub-title of your new book “Persecution” is, “Liberals waging war against Christianity”. I’m sure there are probably liberals who think that’s unfair and judging by your appearance on Hannity and Colmes, Alan Colmes would be one of them. But in all your research for the book, were you seeing conservatives making the same sorts of attacks on Christianity and Christian symbols that we commonly see from people on the left?
David Limbaugh: That’s my point. This book is not an indictment of liberals, it’s an indictment of secularists. But I will say that most secularists are liberals. The purpose is not to demonize liberals anyway. It’s to point out that we’re under siege. I don’t care who’s attacking us, we just need to understand that we’re being attacked. But you’re right, the ones who are attacking us are predominantly liberals. You won’t see them standing up for John Ashcroft and Rick Santorum and other Christians who are under assault every day in our culture, in the media, in Hollywood, in our public schools, and in almost all other place in our society.
John Hawkins: Now that we’ve established that almost all of the attacks on Christianity are coming from left-wingers, why do you think that is given that there is certainly no dearth of Christians on the left?
David Limbaugh: I think it’s a world view issue. I think most people with a true Christian world view are different from people with secularist world view. Many of the people who call themselves Christians on the left may not share the same world view we do. I’m not questioning the authenticity of their faith, but I don’t understand why if they’re truly Christian they take the position they do about suppressing Christian’s religious liberties. I mean, I have no idea what makes liberals tick.
John Hawkins: Here is a quote from Hugh Hewitt about the left and religion,
“My analysis is that most faith based systems depend upon an absolute moral order. The declaration of things as absolutely evil or absolutely good, as sin or virtue, puts liberalism into a horrible position because it’s founded on no judgement on anything. As a result, any faith that is seriously practiced or understood is a challenge to the politics that depend on constituencies that would rather not be told that their choices are bad and their lives are not virtuous.”
What do you think about that quote, any ring of truth to it?
David Limbaugh: Absolutely, but with one qualification. While they subscribe to moral relativism and no absolute truth, they betray their standards when it comes to judging Christians. They apply an absolute standard when it comes to Christians and they condemn us for our beliefs, so they’re completely hypocritcal on that.
You know, I think Hugh Hewitt is correct though. The Judeo-Christian ethic is one that is undergirded by absolute truth. Liberals, by and large, don’t subscribe to any such value system. So I don’t understand how they reconcile their moral relativism with Christianity’s moral absolutism.
John Hawkins: Here’s another quote about the left and religion from Ann Coulter. She said,
“Liberals hate religion because politics is a religion substitute for liberals and they can’t stand the competition.”
David Limbaugh: I’ve said that liberals approach their politics almost as a theology too. They adhere to their liberal principles much as religious people adhere to their theology and their religion.
John Hawkins: I agree with you. A while back, Orrin Hatch said, “the left is trying to enforce an anti-religious litmus test” against judges. Do you think Hatch was on target when he said that?
David Limbaugh: Yeah and I’ve written columns about it. Judicial nominees in particular and nominees to the FDA like David Hager, or Jerry Thacker to the Presidential Advisory Commission on HIV and AIDS, are Christians and they get lambasted by the secular left. When it comes to judicial nominations, there is a de facto litmus test applied against pro-lifers and people with strong Christian values. Yes, I think that’s what has happened although they deny that’s what’s going on and they get indignant about it. But if you look at its core, they have an antipathy towards Christians who articulate their views in the public arena.
John Hawkins: Let’s me play devil’s advocate here for a couple of questions. What would your reply be to someone who says, “I’m an atheist and my child shouldn’t have to see any Christian symbols at school, listen to prayers at a high school football game, or listen to Christmas songs at a school function”?
David Limbaugh: I would say that there is nothing in the Constitution that guarantees you the right to be totally comfortable, not offended, and to have your way at the expense of a majority. I would also say there’s nothing in the Constitution that prohibits the voluntary expression of religious speech and religious ideas by a majority or by individual students. You ought to be more tolerant of the views of other people. You know it’s a major religion, the religion that dominated at the time of this nation’s founding, and it’s not hurting you. So you should just lighten up and get over it. That’s what I’d tell you.
John Hawkins: Here’s another one. What do you say to the people on the left who claim that conservative Christians want to turn the US into a theocracy?
David Limbaugh: I’d say that’s absolute hogwash. Christianity stands for freedom, we don’t want to impose our religion on everyone else. We just don’t want secular humanist values or homosexual values to be forced upon us under the guise of anti-harassment laws, speech codes, hate crime laws, or sensitivity training. We want to be free to think and express our views in the public arena or anywhere we want to. We want to be free to practice our religion with impunity because that was central to our founding in this country. We will accord you the exact same rights, whoever you are. You have the right to freedom of worship, but we just want a level playing field. We don’t want to be singled out, discriminated against, or treated without tolerance by those for whom tolerance is the highest virtue.
John Hawkins: Do you think the Catholic church received fair treatment in the press during the recent sex abuse scandals?
David Limbaugh: No. I think the dominant media culture has used those incidents of sex abuse by priests as an excuse to lambaste the Catholic church in general. No other institution besides Catholic and other Christian institutions are permitted to be castigated, ridiculed, and impugned like Christian institutions. If any other institution is criticized even, the politically correct police will stand up and cry, “foul”. But not when the institution being assaulted and impugned is a Christian institution. They ought to get rid of their different standards and start according all institutions, all peoples, and all religions fair and common treatment.
John Hawkins: Now I agree with most of what you’re saying there, but don’t you think the Catholic church sort of exacerbated the problem with the way they handled the whole thing?
David Limbaugh: Some people would argue that they didn’t tackle the problem head on and they should have, but I don’t want to take on the Catholic church, I want to defend the Catholic church. I know some Catholics have said the church should have been tougher on the violators and that’s a very reasonable position. But, I don’t want to pile on the Catholic Church, they’ve been under siege. I have a lot of respect for the Catholic church even though I’m not Catholic. We all ought to clean up our owns houses and we all have problems in our churches including evangelical Protestants, so I don’t want to be throwing stones at any other Christian institutions. I want us to all band together and fight against this religious discrimination that’s occurring against us.
John Hawkins: Speaking of evangelicals, do you think some of the attacks that have been made against evangelicals for supporting Israel are fair? What they say is, and I’ve heard this said about Tom Delay for example, is that Evangelical Christians only support Israel because they think it’s prophecy. They have to support Israel so that Israel will expand and then all the Jews will die when (Jesus) comes back.
David Limbaugh: That’s so absurd. One reason Evangelicals support Israel is because we have common cause with the Jews, we come from the Jews, the messiah comes from the Jews, God selected the Jews as his chosen people, he entrusted them with the law and because of the Abrahamic covenant we’re honor bound to support Israel and not turn our backs on them. Israel is guaranteed by God to have that land and that’s why Christians ought to rally behind Israel among other reasons. Israel is a democracy, it’s an ally of the United States. If you believe in scripture, if you believe in the Abrahamic covenant, we ought to support them because God tells us to, that’s why. It’s not for some sinister purpose. That sort of charge is so outrageous, I don’t even want to dignify it with a response.
John Hawkins: Now there has been a lot of controversy about Mel Gibson’s movie, “The Passion” and I understand that you have seen it.
David Limbaugh: Yes.
John Hawkins: Can you give an opinion of the movie and of course there has been a lot of criticism of the movie, claims that it is anti-semitic, do you agree with that?
David Limbaugh: I did see it, it was fabulous. I think it tries to stay true to the scripture and it absolutely is not anti-semitic. Mel Gibson said that he doesn’t look at the Jews culpability, he doesn’t look at the Romans culpability, he looks at his own culpability. Christ came to die for all sinners who placed their faith in him. It has nothing to do with the Jews. Jesus came to earth for the explicit purpose of dying. We’re not looking to cast blame on anybody. If Christ hadn’t died a substitutionary death, Christians believe, we wouldn’t have eternal life. So it wouldn’t be like we were casting stones.
This notion that the Anti-Defamation League and others have that Mel Gibson’s movie is going to incite a new round of anti-semitism is ill founded. I don’t think the Jews are depicted as venal, murderous, or particularly bad at all. It just tries to present the historical account. I think what people ought to understand is that when someone tries to present a historical account of something in the Bible, they are lambasted. But when they try to distort the Bible, such as the “Last Temptation of Christ” which depicts Christ as lustful and sinful, depicts the apostle Paul as a liar, and Judas Iscariot as a hero, they are celebrated as enlightened people. I think that’s an outrage; it shows what kind of value system we have. That’s an example of how our culture is upside down.
John Hawkins: Can you tell us a little bit about your new book, “Persecution: How Liberals Are Waging War Against Christianity“?
David Limbaugh: In the book I chronicle the discrimination against Christians in all levels of society. From the public schools, to the universities, to the media, in Hollywood, in the public square, and even the private sector. I show how this is a comprehensive, systematic assault on Christians and their liberties and how in the name of enforcing a strict separation between church and state, they suppress Christian religious liberties. While touting tolerance, they show no tolerance towards Christians. They demand Christians treat their ideas as equally valid rather than simply to treat them with civility and respect, which is all the dictionary definition of tolerance requires. But it isn’t tolerance they want, they want to force their ideas down our throats. So I document that in the schools and universities, and I show how they try to scrub away Christian symbols and expression from the public square and government property using zoning laws to do it. Then I show how the media and Hollywood elite have tried to demean Christianity and demean other religions. I also show how the secularists are fraudulent. While they say they don’t want the government to endorse religion, they are fully accepting endorsing anti-Christian values, secular humanism, and the values of other major religions. I also go into a chapter on America’s Christian roots and document the overwhelming Christian influence on our founding. Finally, I go into a chapter where I interview six Christian leaders and ask them about the current situation and the assaults on our freedoms and how these freedoms are foundational to our liberties and what they believe might happen in the future with regard to the restoration of the Judeo-Christian ethic at the core of our culture. The book varies in scope, but it documents with almost 800 footnotes and sources, the type of discrimination we’re talking about.
John Hawkins: We’re winding down here David. Are there any blogs or websites you’d recommend for our readers?
David Limbaugh: Well, I like National Review, Free Republic, Lucianne,WorldNetDaily, Newsmax, Human Events, The Washington Times…let’s see, what else? RealClear Politics and of course the Drudge Report, OpinionJournaland one last one, CNSNews. Those are the ones that come to mind. There are probably some obvious ones I’m omitting.
John Hawkins: Last but not least, is there anything else you’d like to say or promote before we finish up?
David Limbaugh: I would just urge people to get my book “Persecution” because it is a call to arms for Christians to understand that we are in the throes of a culture war. The other side is fighting with vigor and we need to fight back if we want to preserve our religious liberties.
John Hawkins: Outstanding! Thank you for your time.