Two recent columns in The Daily News brought to mind the age-old social caveat, “Never discuss religion or politics in polite company.”

The adage endures because religion and politics are easily the most personal of choices and the most emotionally charged topics of discussion. As such, they can transform even the most polite conversation into a fiasco of trash talk and tears. And turn even the politest of “polite company” into frothing warriors ready to do verbal — and sometimes physical— battle in defense of their beliefs.

Margaret Battistelli Gardner: (409) 683-5227;

Deputy Managing Editor

Margaret joined The Daily New in December 2019, bringing more than 20 years of editorial experience to the team. A Philadelphia native, she lives in Galveston County with her husband, Steve, and their dog Nanook.

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(43) comments

Don Schlessinger

Wow that was pretty bad, and to think the first paragraph showed promise.

Carlos Ponce

Margaret needs to understand the First Amendment and this country's religious history. The phrase "separation of church and state " is not in the Constitution nor in the First Amendment. The First Amendment states, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof..." Nowhere in her column is "Congress" mentioned. A person is entitled to express his or her religious views in this country and that right does not exclude those seeking political office nor their supporters.

She quotes the phrase "separation of church and state " without realizing what that phrase actually means. The phrase comes from Thomas Jefferson's letter to the Danbury Baptists. The state of Connecticut had established a state religion, Congregationalist, to the exclusion of other sects including Baptists. While the Federal government could not do this, individual states could and many did in the early part of this country's history.

Margaret is correct when she writes, "Is it wrong to consider and discuss a candidate’s religion and how he or she chooses to practice it (or not) when deciding whether or not to support that candidate? Of course not."

She asks, "But how does that make the Jewish child feel?" If that prayer mentions God I have found they have no problem with that. And if "Jesus- Yeshua" is mentioned, He's Jewish. He studied Torah, went to temple, was called "rabbi", had a prayer shawl and worshiped the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

"Or the atheist child?" They may grow up in a non-religious home but realize it's part of American culture. He or she she hears religion, sees religion all around in buildings, movies, television, popular songs. The "atheist child" sees it as part of the American background.

margaretgardner Staff
Margaret Gardner

Thank you for reading, Carlos. While I don't agree with your comments, I appreciate you taking the time to response and share your thoughts.

Carlos Ponce

I recommend you read the Danbury Baptists' Letter to Thomas Jefferson and Thomas Jefferson's reply. The phrase "separation of church and state" is often misunderstood and misused.

"I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should 'make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,' thus building a wall of separation between Church & State."

By "wall of separation between Church & State" President Jefferson referred to the First Amendment: the "establishment" clause and the "free exercise" clause. It's FREEDOM of RELIGION, not freedom from religion.

And Jefferson ends his letter with:

"I reciprocate your kind prayers for the protection & blessing of the common father and creator of man, and tender you for yourselves & your religious association, assurances of my high respect & esteem." Looks like President Jefferson did not keep his religion to himself.

Craig Mason

It really is freedom from religion on a governmental level, meaning the government will not establish a religion. It is amazing that the founding fathers had so much forethought when our government was established. I marvel that documents written over 200 years ago are still relevant, with very little change today. It does make me proud to live in this country.

Ray Taft

No, thank you Margaret.

I hope you really did read Carlos’ comment, and that you actually thought about it.

Most of those on the left/Democrats don’t bother to read anything conservatives write. And they don’t think about it. Which is one reason why they are so ill-informed.

Charles Douglas

Ms. Gardner indicated when God chooses someone for his purposes, that individual has to do and say things as a Christian would, which is NOT necessarily true. God chose the Apostle Paul along side of a road ...and he surely was NOT a Christian then! God chose a Persian King to work for him, 150 years BEFORE that KING was born of a woman, that KING ( Cyrus The Great) was not a Christian, nor Jewish, or Godly! What make anyone so sure God did not choose Trump? Let me finish by saying this, When God has a man working for Him, this is in effact: No man can hurt who GOD is HELPING, and no man can CURSE ..who God is Blessing!!! You can try all you want to, as the LIBERALS are now, but Trump is still in the Oval Office ...ain't that right? No man stopped the Apostle Paul from accomplishing his tasks. No man stopped KING Cyrus from doing his tasks, and up to this day, NO MAN HAS STOPPED DONALD J. TRUMP...from doing what he came to office to do,...Nor is anyone going to!! Your Honor, If it pleases the Court........The Defense Rests.

Emile Pope

The Cyrus Defense...the excuse these evangelicals are using to justify their support of some who not is only isn't a Christian and never was, but does totally un-Christian things. Their blatant hypocrisy is telling...

Charles Douglas

You know what? I'm going to overrule my self imposed rule to not respond to your posts, just in case someone else on this board will take off on what you have no idea about concerning bible theology. I mentioned that Cyrus was not a Godly man, ...he was not a Jew,...and he was NOT a Christian, meaning he most probably said many unChristian things and did many UnChristian things! Where does that differ from what Liberals are saying about TRUMP, yet God Chose Cyrus anyway. That shoots down the idea that you have to be perfect in order to be chosen of God. Somebody gave me some good advice years ago when they told me to, "STICK TO WHAT YOU KNOW!" I suspect that would be good advice for you also. Also for your ability to be troubled or NOT be troubled by my posts or my beliefs not under my control, seeing as how I do not control your feelings, your emotions, nor anybody else's on this board. I hope this clears everything up, because unless GDN tells me to move on, the only other alternative left is for you to purchase the GDN. Then I'd be compelled to move on. Now, I will regress back to my self imposed rule where you are concerned. Make it a good day.

Emile Pope

I would respond if I had any idea what you were talking about. Maybe someone could tell you...

Charles Douglas

Everybody has a right to spend eternalty in the Lake Of Fire! My job given to me when I was saved from the penalty of sin by justification, and delivered form the power of sin by sanctification, is to share the Word of God with as many who have ears to hear directly or indirectly by supporting others doing the same in my stead. I am God's workmanship created in Christ Jesus onto Good works, which which God before ordained that I should be rich in. The problem with many of God's people is they fail to know the difference between positional sanctification and progressive sancitification or the difference between remaining an infant in Christ juxtaposed to progressing to be a disciple of Christ, skilled in the word, and knowing and operating in his/her New Covenant rights. The difference between the two can be very detrimental and consequential.

Emile Pope

And they have the right to be left alone and not bothered by your beliefs...

Emile Pope

Excellent, excellent article Mrs. Battistelli...

margaretgardner Staff
Margaret Gardner

Thank you, Emile

Mike Meador

ANOTHER [thumbdown]

Paula Flinn

Excellent article—thoughtful, and just common sense. Thank you for writing it.

margaretgardner Staff
Margaret Gardner

Thank you, Paula

Bailey Jones

There is no separating religion from politics in America, because religion and politics can't be separated from ethics and morality. It's like a triangle, with religion, politics, and morality (ethics) as the three corners. This is why it is imperative to keep religion out of the realm of public service - whether public school, the justice system, or the administrative bureaucracy, in just the same way we would expect a teacher, judge, or county clerk to check their political affiliation at the door while performing their pubic duties.

To the larger point here, which I think is something along the lines of "how can you be a "insert religion" and still support "insert politician or policy"? To which I'll just refer you back to the triangle. There is no morality so heinous that it hasn't received both religious and political support at some point in history, be it holocaust, slavery, or authoritarianism. You can't make sense of it, I wouldn't even try. And I shouldn't try, since freedom of thought and conscience is fundamental to any kind of real freedom. The field of battle in our discourse should always be policy, not party or sect.

Carlos Ponce

"There is no morality so heinous that it hasn't received both religious and political support...." You can't fix stupid, Bailey. Using religion to justify "holocaust, slavery, or authoritarianism" is just a crutch for their own lack of civility and morals. Distortion of religion is not religion. Think Jim Jones.

Bailey Jones

I was actually thinking of Martin Luther's call for the extermination of the Jews, and American Christian (both Catholic and Protestant) support of slavery.

Carlos Ponce

I cannot speak for Martin Luther but as for the support of slavery that was done by INDIVIDUALS using religion as a crutch. You cannot fix stupid. Pope Eugene IV condemned the enslavement of peoples in 1435. Pope Paul III in 1537 in the bull "Sublimis Deus" (1537) described the enslavers as allies of the devil and declared attempts to justify slavery null and void. In the "Response of the Congregation of the Holy Office, 230, March 20, 1686, slavery was rejected and the Holy Office declared slave owners were obliged to emancipate and even compensate blacks unjustly enslaved. Pope Gregory XVIs 1839 bull, "In Supremo" repeated papal opposition to enslaving Indians, blacks and others. Slavery continued in South America and Africa so Pope Leo XIII condemned slavery and sought its elimination in 1890. And many Protestant ministers and lay people were behind the abolition of slavery and ran the "Underground Railroad" in this country.

Sublimus Dei On the Enslavement and Evangelization of Indians

Pope Paul III - 1537

Response of the Congregation of the Holy Office, 230, March 20, 1686

Pope Gregory XVIs 1839 bull, "In Supremo"

Bailey Jones

“Slavery itself, considered as such in its essential nature, is not at all contrary to the natural and divine law, and there can be several just titles of slavery and these are referred to by approved theologians and commentators of the sacred canons.... It is not contrary to the natural and divine law for a slave to be sold, bought, exchanged or given”. Pope Pius IX (Instruction 20 June 1866 AD).

Or I could simply point to Brazil.

But my point isn't to demonize Catholicism or any other -ism. My point is that religion, like party, is no guarantee of morality, so rather than argue about what someone's policy positions "should be" based on how they spend their weekends, we should stick to debating policy. To defend one of Trump's policies because a belief that he's God's chosen leader is as idiotic as attacking one of his policies because of the belief that he's a moral reprobate. The efficacy of policy is what matters.

Emile Pope

I've not seen any of his policies attacked because of trump's morals (or lack of them). But I have seen his policies attacked because they are non-Christian and in some cases downright cruel. And I have seen evangelicals criticized for supporting him and those policies when they use some bizarre interpretation of scripture to justify their position. And efficacy of policy is not what matters when the policy is wrong...

Diane Turski

Thank you for writing a good reminder article about why separation of church and state is so important to protecting our democracy. It is especially relevant to this election year!

Casey Alan

Yes separation from church and state. That’s what our founding fathers wanted. They didn’t want some government telling them what religion they had to believe in.

Carlos Ponce

Actually our Founding Fathers did not want a state sponsored religion such as the Church of England.

Richard Illyes

It is time to De-Monopolize education.

The problem is not that there are intensely held beliefs. The problem is that the government monopoly public school system is involved.

What if, instead of pouring funding in at the top, we created educational endowments for each K-12 student. Student endowment funds would pay out for students who achieved grade level knowledge. Instead of endless fights over charter schools, home schooling, etc. etc., all students would become customers for educational services and be treated accordingly. Providers for students who did poorly would not be paid, leaving twice the annual amount available next year to educators who could catch them up.

Instead of leaving dropouts to fend for themselves, the funds would remain on deposit indefinitely, allowing those who got their act together to get an education.

Troubled students would have teachers and mentors who had a financial stake in the outcome. The dramatic difference in quality based on differences in community income levels would end.

Free market provision of K-12 educational services would see dramatic cost reduction. Expanded offerings would make full use of technology. Gamification would create educated kids and make learning fun. At some point tax funding of education could end. Educational services would become as inexpensive as other services provided by the free market.

It can happen. All we need to do is endow individual students instead of pouring money in at the top.

I am running for State Representative in District 24. If elected I will make every effort to de-monopolize public education.

Rodney Dunklee

It won't work. It's the same as saying we could get rid of obesity and eliminate the need for restaurant inspections by having the government give a Lone Star type card with enough money to eat all their meals at the restaurant of their choice. The more seemingly "free" government money you pass out, the more unscrupulous you attract who make it much more difficult to produce a quality outcome for all.

Richard Illyes

It is the same money that is already being spent, not new money. Just structured to benefit individual students instead of enabling beaurocrats and teachers unions, and requiring actual results before being paid out..

Richard Illyes

Although I am a product of public schools, I had used paragraph breaks in the previous post and apparently there is no way to edit posts. When I pasted the text it appeared to have paragraphs but when I posted they vanished.

Kelly Naschke

I like your ideas Mr Illyes.

Richard Illyes

When my original post appeared without paragraphs I wrote the above, then the post appeared with paragraphs. Not sure what goes on with longer posts.

Paul R Heinrich

This is an excellent article.

margaretgardner Staff
Margaret Gardner

Thanks you, Paul

Maris Helfrich

Thank you, Margaret, for this excellent and pertinent article. I am a lifelong Catholic/Christian and understand that our nation was founded by Judaeo-Christians, yet the founders were brilliant in their determination to give equal rights to ALL with no prejudice to any particular organized religion.

"Do unto others as you would have them do unto you", is a foundational principle of any religion and it is also very "practical" to understand the need to keep the separation of Church and State.

Put yourself or your children in the place of someone who is subjected to prayers and services imposed on them in school or the work place. It is so short-sighted to think that OUR religion is primordial and can imposed on others, and it is also not what our Constitution expresses. We are a "Nation under God", and each person gets the freedom to decide who that God is or not.

Carlos Ponce

"It is so short-sighted to think that OUR religion is primordial and can imposed on others" Not imposed, not short sighted, Maris, but we Catholics are obligated to proclaim the Good News which is Jesus died for our sins and rose from the dead. Through Him we have the promise of eternal life.

Catholic Catechism:

74 God "desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth": that is, of Christ Jesus. Christ must be proclaimed to all nations and individuals, so that this revelation may reach to the ends of the earth.

The Second reading I proclaimed in Mass on Sunday December 29, 2019 - Holy Family Sunday was from Paul's Letter to the Colossians 3:12-21. It included:

"Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly,

as in all wisdom you teach and admonish one another,

singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs

with gratitude in your hearts to God.

And whatever you do, in word or in deed,

do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus,

giving thanks to God the Father through him."

You may have heard those words but from your post it doesn't look they are in your heart. "[W]hatever you do, in word or in deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus" is to be applied even outside the church doors.

Dalton Logan

So I would assume you are pro-life and will vote accordingly?

Carlos Ponce

I am pro-Life in terms of being against abortion. I will vote for candidates that best reflect my values.

Dalton Logan

Sorry Mr. Ponce, I know where you stand, my comment was for Maris Helfrich.

margaretgardner Staff
Margaret Gardner

Thank you, Maris

Emile Pope

Not that I try to bring scripture into the discussion, But Matthew 6...

Cary Semar

Well done, Maggie!

Keith Gray

A whole lot of opinion for a column... and the response is as divisive as the person who wrote it.

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