Yesterday, ThinkProgress noted the anti-Constitution stance taken by the Republican Senate candidate in Colorado Ken Buck, who said that “I disagree strongly with the concept of separation of church and state.” The story quickly gained mainstream media attention.
BUCK: My problem isn’t with separation of church and state. It is with how far we have gone in that area. I think when you have a soup kitchen for example that is run by the Salvation Army which has religious ties in town and you have another soup kitchen in town which is purely secular. For the federal government to give one organization money but not the other because one has ties with a religious group is wrong. The idea is that we need to have compassionate programs for people. And if religious organizations are performing some of those functions without proselytizing then I think the federal government should include both.
Buck’s comments were not taken out of context. The original post included the entirety of his comments on the separation of church and state. A video of his entire answer — which was not about the First Amendment, but rather the government’s role in preserving culture — can be found here. As Denver Post columnist Mike Littwin observed, noting Buck’s recent attempt to take back comments he made about global warming, the campaign’s “default position” is “that whenever Buck is quoted as saying something he wished he hadn’t said, he must not have actually meant it.” (As the Wonk Room noted, Buck also said he wanted to privatize Social Security, then insisted that he didn’t.)
Moreover, much like the deceit in his original comments, which falsely suggested that Obama renamed the White House Christmas tree, Buck is completely wrong with his Salvation Army example. According to their 2010 Annual Report, the Salvation Army received over $392 million in government funds last year. They are simply not allowed to use that money to proselytize, exactly as Buck recommends should be done, but certainly can use it to provide “compassionate programs” for people.
Buck has consistently said that the government has “gone too far” with the separation between church and state, yet he’s been unable to give a valid example. Perhaps he’s misinformed about current federal policy and would find it satisfactory. Alternately, perhaps he would like the government to get much more actively involved in promoting religion, but is afraid to give real examples of what that would look like.