By Sandhya Bathija
The Dalai Lama really gets it.
The Tibetan spiritual leader is in Washington, D.C., to lead a 10-day peace festival at a venue just a few blocks from Americans United’s national office.
The Washington Post has been reporting on the event. Yesterday the newspaper mentioned the Dalai Lama’s longtime support of the separation of church and state.
You may recall that the Dalai Lama gave up his political and administrative powers as the head of Tibet’s government-in-exile in March. At yesterday’s peace festival, he said saw the “hypocrisy” of advocating for church-state separation as a religious leader while also being involved in official political and government matters.
“Now I can tell people religious institutions and political institutions must be separate,” he said. “My statement is now honest.”
I wish more heads of government in the United States could follow the Dalai Lama’s example. Texas Gov. Rick Perry is definitely one who should be taking notes.
Perry thinks it’s his role to act as both a religious leader and governor and has used his political power to sponsor a fundamentalist Christian rally in Houston next month.
Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback, who has said he will attend Perry’s rally, is another government official who could learn from the Dalai Lama. He’s crossed the church-state line from his first day in office, turning his swearing-in ceremony into a religious revival. And now, Brownback has thrown his support behind a state-funded, “faith-based” proselytizing program that he believes will help parolees stay out of prison.
Harrisburg, Pa., Mayor Linda Thompson can also take a page out of the Dalai Lama’s book. She recently organized a prayer and fasting campaign to solve the city’s piling debt. Throughout her tenure as mayor, she’s continuously imposed her religious beliefs on her staff and the people of Harrisburg.
These are just the most recent church-state offenders. They think it’s appropriate to serve as both head of government and religious adviser. That doesn’t fly under our Constitution.
Our government leaders must stay neutral on matters of religion. If Perry, Brownback, Thomson and other elected officials want to preach, they need to rethink their line of work.