Palin Ignored Separation of Church and State as Governor

Sarah Palin’s views on religion in government have been a concern since she was chosen as John McCain’s running mate. We have learned that she is a young earth creationist who believes she will see Jesus in her lifetime and who supports the teaching of creationism in the public schools. Palin’s religious beliefs have also impacted public policy in ways including her opposition to abortion rights and her attempts to ban books which offended the religious right.  AP had a story on Palin blurring the line between politics and religion yesterday:

The camera closes in on Sarah Palin speaking to young missionaries, vowing from the pulpit to do her part to implement God’s will from the governor’s office.

What she didn’t tell worshippers gathered at the Wasilla Assembly of God church in her hometown was that her appearance that day came courtesy of Alaskan taxpayers, who picked up the $639.50 tab for her airplane tickets and per diem fees.

An Associated Press review of the Republican vice presidential candidate’s record as mayor and governor reveals her use of elected office to promote religious causes, sometimes at taxpayer expense and in ways that blur the line between church and state.

Since she took state office in late 2006, the governor and her family have spent more than $13,000 in taxpayer funds to attend at least 10 religious events and meetings with Christian pastors, including Franklin Graham, the son of evangelical preacher Billy Graham, records show.

The story further discusses travel of this nature, followed by the concerns it has raised:

J. Brent Walker, who runs a Washington, D.C.-based group that advocates for church-state separation, said based on a reporter’s account, Palin’s June excursion raised questions.

“Politicians are entitled to freely exercise their religion while in office, but ethically if not legally that part of her trip ought to not be charged to taxpayers,” said Walker, executive director of the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty. “It’s still fundamentally a religious and spiritual experience she is having.”

Later in the article, after further examples and a defense given by Palin:

Still, a state worker who directs an Anchorage-based group that advocates for church-state separation, Lloyd Eggan, said Palin’s administration hasn’t done enough to assure voters that government money doesn’t support ministry.

“That sort of thing is exactly what courts have said is barred by the First Amendment,” Eggan said.

Since the campaign began Palin has tried to downplay her religioius beliefs, often providing misleading information about her past. There have also been concerns about Barack Obama’s religious beliefs during the campaign. Obama has dispelled such concerns with his discussions about the importance of separation of church and state, including a response to questions from the Christian Broadcasting Network. While Obama has been willing to answer questions about his views, including from conservative religious groups, Palin continues to avoid answering questions or providing an honest insight into her views.

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