Barry Lynn talks religion, politics

Rakiah Bonjour

Barry Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State and ordained minister in the United Church of Christ, spoke on campus Sunday about the separation of church and state in the Great Hall of the Memorial Union.

Lynn said the 2016 election is “the most religion-soaked campaign” he has seen in his life. While some politicians have their catchphrases, Lynn said Republican candidate Donald Trump’s is one he can identify with the most.

“I actually agree with 75 percent of [Trump’s] message,” Lynn said. “You know, his hat says, ‘Make America Great Again.’ The hat I have says, ‘Make America Great,’ and then the ‘Again’ part has a Band-Aid over it because I don’t honestly think America has ever been that great. “We’ve never been in a golden era when everyone was doing well in America.”

A big fan of comedian David Letterman’s “top-10 lists,” Lynn has his own top 10, which he said every person in America should follow when it comes to religion and politics in order to make America great.

His first point was, “If you’re running for office, please do not say that God wants you to be elected.”

Lynn described Republican candidate Ben Carson feeling the fingers of God, Republican candidate Rick Santorum’s wife speaking to God about his campaign and Republican candidate John Kasich pondering what God wants him to do.

“That would mean … these people have had, what is called in ‘Cool Hand Luke,’ a failure to communicate,” Lynn said.

Lynn’s second point was directed toward members of the press.

“Please don’t ask the candidates what their favorite book is,” he said.

Lynn referenced Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton and Trump identifying their favorite book as the Bible.

“Who would say anything else after these two candidates have said the Bible,” Lynn said. “Can you imagine someone saying, ‘Let me think — The Count of Monte Cristo.’”

His third point is to “not act like a mini-theologian if you don’t know what you’re talking about.”

Lynn said Trump has incorrectly identified the Old and New Testaments and fails to identify his favorite passage because it is “too personal.” Lynn said this could be because he doesn’t actually know.

Lynn’s fourth point was, “If you’re running for office, or if you’re trying to explain what policy should be, don’t mistake and confuse the Constitution with the bible.”

Lynn’s fifth tip involves the freedom of religion clause of the U.S. Constitution, while his sixth tip, referencing some of Trump’s comments toward Muslim immigrants, is to not make disparaging remarks about people’s faith or lack thereof.

“[Respecting Muslims is] over because now, the current currency of those running for office or seeking to be commander in chief is just ‘Let’s get rid of these people, let’s not try to even understand them,’” he said.

While the majority of Lynn’s tips are advice to politicians on what they should and shouldn’t do, Lynn also has advice for the American people.

“We need to find the commonly shared values of the American people, not the specific values as interpreted by specific religious leaders in those holy books,” Lynn said. “This country does best when religion has the least impact on decision in government. Every one of us has beliefs and some of them come from scriptural sources and that’s OK for [the American people] … what’s wrong is to start having politicians make decisions based on their decisions of their understanding of the Bible or any other holy text.”