Elaine Harris Spearman discusses ministers in politics

Prolonged discussions of religion and politics are like oil and water. They just don’t mix. When these talks ensue, there are no winners. Prolonging the expression of opinions does not produce favorable results.

Disguising opinions as “separation of church and state” alienates most people at best and, at worst, spreads misleading and misleading information to those who have not studied this constitutional concept.

It goes without saying, but we will say it: lawyers and courts are always grappling with religion and politics. Suffice it to say that regular discussions can become heated and unproductive unless the parties involved are civil and agree to disagree.

The United States Supreme Court has recognized that total separation of church and state is not really possible. The government adopts a “benevolent neutrality” toward religion that neither promotes nor inhibits it. This is something of a reasonable accommodation; hence the tax-exempt status accorded to religious organizations.

Much of the discussion centered on the fact that Gadsden voters duly elected several pastors to public office. Two pastors are elected to the municipal council. A pastor was re-elected to the school board. A pastor was elected county commissioner. There may be others that we are not aware of.

All who serve as pastors won their races on the spot. Those who voted judged them to be the most qualified for the position they sought.

I hasten to say that just because you’re good at one thing doesn’t mean you’re good at another or everything else. This is true for any profession or “calling”. All men are created equal, but not all talents, gifts and skills are.

Those who venture into the world of politics may find that they are unable to bear the kind of theft and dealings that occur. They may decide that the arrows of disgruntled citizens come too hard, too often.

Again, they may see an opportunity to restore civility and do the right thing on behalf of everyone, regardless of what others may think.

Sometimes it takes courage to step out of your comfort zone if you want to make a difference and are committed to doing so.

Reverend Randy B. Kelley was recently elected chairman of the Alabama Democratic Party. Reverend Raphael Warnock of Georgia was elected to the US Senate and is now being challenged in his efforts to help Democrats retain their Senate majority by another African-American candidate.

Bishop William J. Barber II is president of the Poor Peoples Campaign. Despite crippling physical condition, he and others lead an effort, “If we ever needed to vote for democracy and justice, surely we need to vote now.” They get people to rally around issues, not personalities.

There is a call that has gone out for moral scrutiny in 15 states, including Alabama, for voter education. Millions of disgruntled voters are being told that to “change policy, it means you have to get involved in the political process.”

Ministers and lawyers have long been at the forefront of change for all people in this country. Since the days of the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr., the Honorable Thurgood Marshall, and the Honorable Margaret Bush Wilson, the number of eminent people in public service has diminished.

What if any of the appointees had bowed to the virulent naysayers and critics. Restrictive covenants (attached to housing and land) would still be enforceable. Education would always be separate and unequal. (There is more to say on the subject of education in modern times). Poll taxes and other restrictions on the right to vote would be worse than the new restrictions imposed across the country.

Perhaps ministers duly elected to public office will use the power of the people to effect positive change for everyone. They will remember to treat others as they want to be treated. They will not forget the oppressed and the ongoing struggle for fairness and justice no matter who needs it.

Pastors, like judges, are human and have the same emotions and feelings as any other person. They are not super beings and sometimes they need a word, just like you and me.

The standard they should be held to in public office is the same as everyone else: do the right thing on behalf of the people with honesty, truth, integrity and openness, no matter what the naysayers keep bragging about.

I have often said that certain things must be said, no matter who says them. A few weeks ago, Pastor Sam Hayes of First United Methodist preached a sermon: “What says it matters.” With the election of these ministers, I no longer say that.

It doesn’t matter who is speaking and what they have to say.

Elaine Harris Spearman, Esq., a native of Gadsden, is an attorney and retired legal counsel to the St. Louis City Comptroller. The opinions expressed are his own.

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