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Jewish World Review Sept. 5, 2000 / 4 Elul 5760

Don Feder

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Lieberman is Moses only on the stump -- THERE'S A SCENE in the George Burns' movie "Oh, G-d!" where John Denver (grocery-store manager turned messenger of the Almighty) tells a particularly obnoxious televangelist: "G-d wants you to stop making money off Him. He says you should sell earth shoes."

Pity we can't find another line of work for Holy Joe Lieberman. The Democratic vice-presidential nominee is using G-d to hustle votes. His talk about a place for religion in public affairs is soothing as a stained-glass window and ultimately empty as a collection plate after it passes from Bill Clinton's hands.

Since he was tapped as Vice President Al Gore's running mate, it's been nonstop G-d talk by the prophet from New Haven.

In a speech at a Detroit church last week, the senator called on Americans to "reaffirm our faith and renew the dedication of our nation and ourselves to G-d." He noted the importance of faith in the founding of America and correctly observed that, "The Constitution guarantees freedom of religion, not freedom from religion."

"There must be a place for faith in American public life," the senator solemnly intoned.

The Anti-Defamation League, which hears the hoofbeats of Cossacks in appeals to G-d on the campaign trail, protested. It needn't worry. In the political realm, Lieberman sees G-d essentially as a campaign prop.

Responding to the ADL's criticism, the senator explained that he wasn't talking about "programs or legislation" (rolling back the tide of court-mandated secularism), but "giving respect to the constructive role that faith can play in the lives of individuals and in the lives of the community."

In other words, it's OK to acknowledge the value of religion, as long as we never act politically on that judgment. In his Senate career, there is a complete dichotomy between Lieberman's faith pronouncements and liberal positions.

The senator opposes school prayer, even a moment of silent meditation. He praised the Supreme Court's June ruling that held student-led prayers at football games unconstitutional.

Chief Justice William Rehnquist charged that the majority opinion in the case "bristles with hostility to all things religious in public life."

Apparently, it's fine for politicians to wrap themselves in a prayer shawl, but wrong for kids to pray on public property.

The senator -- who bravely denounces Hollywood smut -- is a reliable vote for National Endowment for the Arts funding. "Lieberman has a sterling voting record" on federal funding of the arts, says Nina Ozlu of Americans for the Arts.

The NEA is a patron of obscene, scatological and sacrilegious art. In 1998, through the Manhattan Theater Club, it supported the play "Corpus Christi," which depicted Jesus having sex with his disciples. This year, through grants to several theater projects, it supported "The Pope and the Witch," another theatrical contribution to anti-Catholicism.

According to an aide, Lieberman doesn't like government "being the judge and jury of what's acceptable art." No, government should simply supply the money, no strings attached, and let the notoriously anti-religion arts community do what comes naturally with funds forcibly extracted from Catholics, Evangelicals, and Orthodox Jews.

Lieberman told his Detroit audience that if not for the Bible, the Constitution would never have been written. Then why isn't he supporting the Ten Commandments Protection Act, which allows the Decalogue to be posted in federal buildings? Despite his splendid sermons on the role of religion in shaping America, when it comes to public policy, the senator is a thoroughgoing skeptic.

"Thou shalt not kill," said the G-d with whom the senator seemingly is on a first-name basis. Lieberman opposes a ban on partial birth abortions -- the killing of a child four-fifths out of its mother's body.

Choosing the senator as his running mate was a stroke of genius for Gore. There is a widespread public yearning for an acknowledgment of G-d and faith in the course of national affairs. Lieberman cleverly taps into that sentiment.

But it's all talk. Joe Lieberman may be Moses on the stump, but when it comes to policies and votes, he boogies with the Golden Calf.

JWR contributing columnist Don Feder's latest books are Who is afraid of the Religious Right? ($15.95) and A Jewish conservative looks at pagan America ($9.95). To receive an autographed copy, send a check or money order to: Don Feder, The Boston Herald, 1 Herald Sq., Boston, Mass. 02106. Doing so will help fund JWR, if so noted. He is also available as a guest speaker. To comment on this column please click here.


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© 2000, Creators Syndicate