Monday, December 24, 2007


Recent news out of England is that former Labor Party Prime Minister and current ad hoc Middle East envoy Tony Blair has converted to Catholicism from the Protestant Anglican state church. That in itself is not remarkable. My own father made the same kind of conversion from Protestantism. As kids we use to call the American equivalent of the Anglicans, the Episcopalians, left-wing Catholics. They just followed Henry the VIII rather than the Pope. The point for now is that until we create a society where the need for religious solace is not a driving force such individual decisions are neither here nor there.

What is relevant, however, is a piece of information in the article I am referring to is that Blair had not previously announced his formal conversion while Prime Minister as there was a question on whether he could continue in that office as a Catholic. I have noted elsewhere (see below earlier commentaries) that various statutes passed mainly in the 18th century excluded Catholics, dissenters and others from political office and other institutions. Part of the fight for a democratic secular republic here in America was on this very question of religious tests for office. Apparently, despite the fact that the British political landscape today, unlike the American scene, frowns on public discussion of religion in political circumstances- remember the famous statement by Blair’s press secretary stating that “We do not do God” not all obstacles to democratic secular discourse have been removed. Thus, a basis democratic fight in the British Isles needs to add a slogan calling for no religious tests for public office. That, along with abolishing of the monarchy, the Anglican state Church and the moribund House of Lords will go a long way toward that condition I mentioned above about not needing religious solace to face this wicked world.

I cannot resist one parting shot at brother Blair now that he has sworn fidelity to Rome. The above-mentioned article noted that Mr. Blair had been taking instruction for a while from the personal secretary of the British Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor. I learned Catholic ‘just war’ theory at my late mother’s knee (and have since moved on from that constricted theory). Apparently, given Mr. Blair’s bizarre and poodle-like devotion to George Bush’s war in Iraq while in office, a clear case of ‘unjust war’, he must have been absent the day the good secretary gave that lesson. All of which let’s me close on this Christmas Eve with the call for Immediate and Unconditional Withdrawal of All Troops, American and British, along with their mercenaries from Iraq.

Below are a common of other relates commentaries on the question of religious tests, of one sort or another.



Every once in a while left wing propagandists, including this writer, are forced to comment on odd ball political or social questions that are not directly related to the fight for socialism. Nevertheless such questions must be addressed in the interest of preserving democratic rights, such as they are. I have often argued that socialists are, or should be, the best defenders of democratic rights, hanging in there long after many bourgeois democrats have thrown in the towel, especially on constitutional questions like abortion and searches and seizures.

A good example from the not too distant past, which I am fond of citing because it seems so counter intuitive, was opposition to the impeachment of one William Jefferson Clinton, at one time President of the United States and now potentially the first First Ladies’ man. How, one might ask could professed socialists defend the rights of the Number One Imperialist –in Chief. Simple, Clinton was not being tried for any real crimes against working people but found himself framed by the right wing cabal for his personal sexual preferences and habits. That he was not very artful in defense of himself is beside the point. We say government out of the bedrooms (or wherever) whether White House or hovel. We do no favor political witch-hunts of the highborn or the low for their personal predilections. Interestingly, no one at the time proposed that Clinton be tried as a war criminal for his very real crimes in trying to bomb Serbia, under the guidance of one Wesley Clark, back to the Stone Age (and nearly succeeding). Enough said.

Now we are confronted with another strange situation in the case of one ex-Governor of Massachusetts and current Republican presidential contender Mitt Romney on the question of his Mormon religious affiliation and his capacity to be president of a secular state. Romney, on Thursday December 6, 2007, fled down to Houston apparently forced to deal with the issue by his vanishing prospects in Iowa, and made a speech about his Mormon faith, or at least his fitness for office. This speech evoked in some quarters, at least formally, Jack Kennedy’s use in the 1960 presidential campaign of the same tool concerning his Roman Catholicism as a way to cut across anti-Catholic bigotry in a mainly Protestant country and to affirm his commitment to a democratic secular state. I pulled up that speech off the Internet and although Kennedy clearly evoked his religious affiliation many times in that speech he left it at that, a personal choice. He did not go on and on about his friendship with Jesus or enumerate the virtues of an increased role for religion in political life.

Romney’s play is another kettle of fish entirely. He WANTS to affirm that his Mormon beliefs rather than being rather esoteric are in line with mainstream Protestant fundamentalist tenets. In short, Jesus is his guide. Christ what hell, yes hell, have we come to when a major political party in a democratic secular state has for all intents and purposes a religious test for its nominee for president. A cursory glance at the history of 18th century England and its exclusion clauses, codified in statutes, for Catholics and dissenters demonstrates why our forbears rejected that notion. It is rather ironic that Romney evoked the name of Samuel Adams as an avatar of religious toleration during some ecumenical meeting in 1774. Hell, yes when you are getting ready to fight for a Republic, arms in hand, and need every gun willing to fight the King you are damn right religion is beside the point. Revolutions are like that. Trying to prove your mettle as a fundamentalist Christian in order to woo the yahoo vote in 2007 is hardly in the same category. Nevertheless on the democratic question- down with religious tests, formal or otherwise, for political office.

Now to get nasty. Isn’t it about time we started running these religious nuts back into their hideouts? I have profound differences with the political, social and economic organization of this country. However, as stated above, I stand for the defense of the democratic secular state against the yahoos when they try, friendly with Jesus or not, to bring religion foursquare into the ‘public square’. We have seen the effects of that for the last thirty or forty years and, hit me on the head if I am dreaming, but isn’t the current occupant of the White House on some kind of first name basis with his God. Enough. Look, this country is a prime example of an Enlightenment experiment, and tattered as it has become it is not a bad base to move on from. Those who, including Brother Romney, want a faith-based state- get back, way back. In the fight against religious obscurantism I will stand with science, frail as it sometimes is, any day. Defend the Enlightenment, and let’s move on.




In the normal course of events news from England’s Buckingham Palace, the seat of the British monarchy, does not directly concern socialist militants except in a propagandistic way. Most of the news lately has concerned the ‘plight’ of poor Prince Harry (or is it Prince William?) and his non-deployment to Iraq or Afghanistan with his tank unit. However another more recent piece of news permits me to make some points about the socialist attitude toward those ‘revered’ English institutions of British royalty, the established Anglican Church and the moribund House of Lords.

I will admit that I have received this news second hand but Queen Elizabeth’s eldest grandson Peter Phillips, son of her daughter Princess Anne, has become engaged to a Canadian woman. Nothing extraordinary there. However in the convoluted process of the British royal succession Peter Phillips stands number ten in line to the throne. That, again, would be neither here nor there except that the woman he proposes to marry, Autumn Kelly, is a strongly self-professed Catholic. And there is the rub. Although Peter's real chances of getting to be the ’once and future king’ are just a shade better than mine apparently if he marries the Catholic woman without some form of renunciation he violates British law. According to the Act of Settlement of 1701 (the one that brought Queen Anne, daughter of the papist James II, to the throne) no British monarch can marry a papist- a Roman Catholic. Thus, either Peter Phillips has to renounce his right to the throne or Autumn has to renounce her religious beliefs. Attempts, including one last year, to rescind that law have failed. And that is where socialists have a duty to comment.

Strange to have to say in the year 2007 but socialists, while hostile to religion on principal, are opposed to religious tests for anyone- including marrying into royalty. A great part of the struggle during the heroic days of the rise of the bourgeoisie and the fight for the Enlightenment centered on this very question of state support of, and interference in, the private realm of religion. But that is not the main point. In England the head of state, in this case the queen, is also the head of the state church. This brings me to the real argument. Despite the so-called aura of tradition and despite its alleged benign symbolic place the real fight here is to abolish the monarchy. When Oliver Cromwell and his friends established the Commonwealth during the English Revolution one of the important acts, if not the most important act, was the abolishing of the monarchy exemplified by the beheading of Charles I. I, however, do not believe that Cromwell spent enough time trying to round up Charles' sons, who later during the counter-revolution became Charles II and James II, in order to eliminate (or at least curtail) the chances of restoration. So here is my proposal. British militants take note. In order for the kids, Citizen Peter Phillips and Citizen Autumn Kelly, to get married life off to the right start-ABOLISH THE BRITISH MONARCHY, ABOLISH THE STATE CHURCH and ABOLISH THE HOUSE OF LORDS. In short, finish the tasks of the old English Revolution of the 1600’s. Those are our tasks, among others, in the British Isles.