I bet Bob McDonnell could tell you, were he so inclined.
You see, Bob McDonnell has used the office of the Attorney General of Virginia to intervene in a private religious dispute which, by its very definition, the government of Virginia can have had no legitimate interest in.
But Bob McDonnell doesn't acknowledge the separation of Church and State. To Bob McDonnell, it is acceptable for an elected official to used secular power to coerce others to fall in line with his own religious beliefs.
In 2008 [a] church property dispute was being litigated in a trial court in Fairfax County. Leaders at Falls Church CANA lobbied Attorney General McDonnell to use the force of his office to assist the conservative congregation in retaining ownership of the property.Bob McDonnell claims his graduate thesis is old news, but let's be perfectly clear. Just last year Bob McDonnell was using his political power as an elected official to intervene in a private religious dispute. Bob McDonnell isn't fit to be governor of the great Commonwealth of Virginia, the state where Thomas Jefferson passed his Virginia Statute of Religious Freedom. It is sickening to see just how Bob McDonnell has desecrated the legacy of Thomas Jefferson.
Attorney General McDonnell obliged by filing an extraordinary Motion to Intervene the Commonwealth of Virginia on behalf of the Falls Church CANA congregation. One of the issues disputed in the trial was the constitutionality of the so-called Virginia Division Statute (Virginia Code section 57-9). The statute is a Reconstruction Era law passed after the Civil War which was designed to prevent Northern interests from taking Virginia church property as war reparations. Virginia Attorney Generals routinely file amicus, or friend of the court, briefs in lawsuits where the constitutionality of a state law is at issue. A Motion to Intervene, however, expresses a specific interest in the outcome of the disputed property and seeks to make the intervening interest a party to the underlying disputed property.
Trial watchers were astounded by Attorney General McDonnell's willingness to take sides with a particular party in a private civil matter. The unusually brutal language McDonnell used in the Commonwealth's brief went far beyond a neutral explanation of the history of a state law. McDonnell went out of his way to ridicule the position of The Episcopal Church and bluntly opined in favor of the policies and positions of the conservative breakaway congregation.
Let's look at the text of the Virginia Statute of Religious Freedom to see how McDonnell violated both the letter and the spirit of the law:
VIRGINIA STATUTE FOR RELIGIOUS FREEDOMI've bolded the portions of Jefferson's statute that McDonnell trampled on when he chose to meddle in a religious dispute.
[Sec. 1] Where as Almighty God hath created the mind free; that all attempts to influence it by temporal punishments or burthens, or by civil incapacitations, tend only to beget habits of hypocrisy and meanness, and are a departure from the plan of the Holy author of our religion, who being Lord both of body and mind, yet chose not to propagate it by coercions on either, as it was in his Almighty power to do; that the impious presumption of legislators and rulers, civil as well as ecclesiastical, who being themselves but fallible and uninspired men, have assumed dominion over the faith of others, setting up their own opinions and modes of thinking as the only true and infallible, and as such endeavouring to impose them on others, hath established and maintained false religions over the greatest part of the world, and through all time; that to compel a man to furnish contributions of money for the propagation of opinions which he disbelieves, is sinful and tyrannical; that even the forcing him to support this or that teacher of his own religious persuasion, is depriving him of the comfortable liberty of giving his contributions to the particular pastor, whose morals he would make his pattern, and whose powers he feels most persuasive to righteousness, and is withdrawing from the ministry those temporary rewards, which proceeding from an approbation of their personal conduct, are an additional incitement to earnest and unremitting labours for the instruction of mankind; that our civil rights have no dependence on our religious opinions, any more than our opinions in physics or geometry; that therefore the proscribing any citizen as unworthy the public confidence by laying upon him an incapacity of being called to offices of trust and emolument, unless he profess or renounce this or that religious opinion, is depriving him injuriously of those privileges and advantages to which in common with his fellow-citizens he has a natural right; that it tends only to corrupt the principles of that religion it is meant to encourage, by bribing with a monopoly of worldly honours and emoluments, those who will externally profess and conform to it; that though indeed these are criminal who do not withstand such temptation, yet neither are those innocent who lay the bait in their way; that to suffer the civil magistrate to intrude his powers into the field of opinion, and to restrain the profession or propagation of principles on supposition of their ill tendency, is a dangerous fallacy, which at once destroys all religious liberty, because he being of course judge of that tendency will make his opinions the rule of judgment, and approve or condemn the sentiments of others only as they shall square with or differ from his own; that it is time enough for the rightful purposes of civil government, for its officers to interfere when principles break out into overt acts against peace and good order; and finally, that truth is great and will prevail if left to herself, that she is the proper and sufficient antagonist to error, and has nothing to fear from the conflict, unless by human interposition disarmed of her natural weapons, free argument and debate, errors ceasing to be dangerous when it is permitted freely to contradict them:
[Sec. 2] Be it enacted by the General Assembly, That no man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship, place, or ministry whatsoever, nor shall be enforced, restrained, molested, or burdened in his body or goods, nor shall otherwise suffer on account of his religious opinions or belief; but that all men shall be free to profess, and by argument to maintain, their opinion in matters of religion, and that the same shall in no wise diminish enlarge, or affect their civil capacities.
[Sec. 3] And though we well know that this assembly elected by the people for the ordinary purposes of legislation only, have no power to restrain the acts of succeeding assemblies, constituted with powers equal to our own, and that therefore to declare this act to be irrevocable would be of no effect in law; yet we are free to declare, and do declare, that the rights hereby asserted are of the natural rights of mankind, and that if any act shall be hereafter passed to repeal the present, or to narrow its operation, such act shall be an infringement of natural right.
If he is elected governor of Virginia, Bob McDonnell will use his position to meddle in the private affairs of Virginians, peeking into their bedrooms and their churches. McDonnell will set himself up as the judge of who is and who is not religiously worthy. Those of us who do not meet Bob McDonnell's standard of what a Christian should be will become second class citizens. Non-christians will--no doubt--occupy an ever lower status.