By Lou Dobbs
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Editor's Note: Lou Dobbs' commentary appears weekly on CNN.com.
NEW YORK (CNN) -- The separation of church and state in this country is narrowing. And it is the church, not the state that is encroaching. Our Constitution protects religion from the intrusion or coercion of the state. But we have precious little protection against the political adventurism of all manner of churches and religious organizations.
The leadership of the Catholic Church and many Protestant churches, as well as Jewish and even Muslim religious organizations, are driving that political adventurism as those leaders conflate religion and politics. And while there is a narrowing of the separation between church and state, there is a widening schism between the leadership of churches and religious organizations and their followers and members.
Conservative evangelical leader James Dobson recently said actor and former Sen. Fred Thompson wasn't Christian enough to be president. He instead chose to commend Newt Gingrich, who has been married three times and recently admitted to an extramarital affair. Five evangelical Christian leaders signed the "Land Letter" to President Bush in 2002 affirming a Christian theological basis to invade Iraq.
This week the head of the Los Angeles Archdiocese, Cardinal Roger Mahoney, basically threatened his faithful with denial of heaven if they don't support amnesty for illegal aliens. The good Cardinal said: "Anything that tears down one group of people or one person, anything that is a negative in our community, disqualifies us from being part of the eternal city."
The nation's religious leaders seem hell-bent on ignoring the separation of church and state when it comes to the politically charged issue of illegal immigration. A new coalition called Christians for Comprehensive Immigration Reform Wednesday will begin lobbying lawmakers with a new advertising and direct mail campaign on behalf of amnesty for illegal aliens.
The Rev. Jim Wallis of Sojourners Magazine put it this way: "If given the choice on this issue between Jesus and Lou Dobbs, I choose my Lord and savior, Jesus Christ."
But before the faithful acquiesce in the false choice offered by the good Reverend, perhaps he and his followers should consult Romans 13, where it is written: "Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves."
There is a more obvious and immediate judgment offered by the followers and members of both the Protestant and Catholic Churches. A Zogby poll last year asked churchgoers if they supported the House bill that would make illegal aliens return home and reduce future illegal immigration by securing the border and performing checks on illegal employers. Seventy-five percent of Protestants responded that was a good or very good idea, 77 percent of born-again Christians also agreed, and 66 percent of Catholics also backed tougher enforcement measures.
This schism between our church leaders and church members is just as broad and deep as that between our elected officials and their constituents across the country. Neither the state nor the church is exhibiting wisdom or fidelity to our national values in permitting the widening of that divide.
The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the writer.
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