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Sunday, June 9, 2013
Almost six years ago, Al Bedrosian penned an essay in this newspaper that a number of readers viewed as a statement of Christian jihad.
He kicked it off by declaring religious freedom in America was a hoax “on our Christian nation.” And that the Founding Fathers never intended protections for other faiths such as Muslims or Hindus.
The essay concluded: “The real battle is keeping the name of Jesus as Lord. The name Jesus is what makes us a Christian people and a Christian nation. This is why we must continue our heritage as a Christian nation and remove all other gods.” (You can read the whole thing at http://tinyurl.com/mb73ytn.)
This year, the married father of five is making his fourth run for public office, as the GOP nominee for Roanoke County supervisor from the Hollins District.
One of the reasons he’s running is to overturn a policy the board of supervisors adopted last year that encourages nonsectarian prayers to open its meetings. Others are to cut county spending, reduce its debt and stop the Vinton Library project.
In view of the first of those, it seemed apropos to give Bedrosian the chance to walk back the eyebrow-raising lines above and some of the other things he wrote in that 2007 op-ed piece. Over the past 10 days or so, we had a couple of lengthy conversations.
He said the premise of the essay “was to be a little provocative.” But there’s little he would change today.
When I asked him if he believes non-Christian faiths should be outlawed in America, Bedrosian replied no. But it’s clear he believes that at the least they should be suppressed in public life, in comparison with Christianity.
Bedrosian adamantly insists that the United States was founded as a Christian nation. He told me that’s clear and indisputable. The Founding Fathers never intended absolute religious freedom, he said, but rather, freedom to worship whatever Christian denomination they chose.
“We are a Christian nation. We’re not a Muslim nation,” Bedrosian said. “The Founding Fathers, they knew about Islam. When they came to America, they wanted the freedom to worship, but not the freedom to worship the devil, or Muhammad.”
What about the Treaty of Tripoli? I asked. It was prompted by George Washington, submitted to Congress by President John Adams, and unanimously ratified by the Senate in 1797. It declares “the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion.”
Bedrosian shrugged that off as language our forebears used to mollify another government, so they would keep pirates from raiding American cargo ships off the coast of northern Africa. (In many cases the cargo was slaves.)
“There is a mountain of evidence — several cases that went to the Supreme Court in the late 1700s, 1800s, that the United States was a Christian nation,” he said. One he cited was Church of the Holy Trinity v. U.S., an 1892 challenge to a federal immigration law.
The problem today, Bedrosian added is “as a Christian nation we’re bending over backwards to allow in every other nation’s religion … and Christians are being pushed out.”
But aren’t Christians still by far a majority in America? I asked. That’s the conundrum, Bedrosian replied.
“We’re being so generous to every other religion that it’s removing our Christianity. And that’s dangerous. Christianity is being pushed to the back of the bus, and every other religion is at the front.”
The nonsectarian prayer policy he wants to overturn is one example, he told me.
“We’re being told how to pray and ‘don’t mention the name of Jesus too much,’ ” he said.
But the policy applies to all faiths, I noted. That’s one of the things he takes umbrage with — it puts all faiths on an equal footing, and that’s wrong in a Christian nation, he said.
“If you want to ask, ‘Should we be allowing everybody else’s religion in government?’ that’s a fair argument,” Bedrosian told me. It seems he’s willing to ban Buddha or Allah from prayers at supervisors meetings, but not Jesus.
He traces the decline of this country back to the 1960s. Beginning in 1962 the U.S. Supreme Court made a series of rulings that school-sponsored prayers and other public school religious activities violated the First Amendment.
“This whole thing has started to happen in the last 40 or 50 years, when biblical authority was removed,” he told me. “I firmly believe, as do a lot of Christians in America, it’s because we’ve removed that biblical foundation of our schools.”
If he’s elected supervisor, would he work to put the Ten Commandments in Roanoke County schools? I asked.
Although it’s not an issue he’s specifically campaigning on, Bedrosian replied he would work toward that. “Absolutely, I think it’s a good idea,” he said.
The problem is, overturning the nonsectarian prayer policy and putting the Ten Commandments in Roanoke County schools would almost surely put Roanoke County taxpayers on the losing end of two potentially expensive federal court lawsuits.
That doesn’t seem to square with Bedrosian’s belief that county spending should be cut 2 percent across the board, I noted.
Bedrosian said the county could probably get free or inexpensive representation from Christian legal groups. And if it couldn’t, it could cancel the Vinton Library project. That would free up plenty of money to defend itself in a drawn-out legal battle.
Defending religious liberty, “that’s what government is for. It’s not to build $14 million libraries. It’s to defend the rights of its citizens,” he said. “A new library in Vinton is not necessary.”
The project actually is expected to cost $8.2 million.
Another thing he wrote in the essay was: “the global warming crowd worships the environment as god, the abortionist has the death of unborn babies as their god, and the homosexuals have sexual freedom as their god.”
I asked him if he was being figurative.
“There’s a group of people in America, their fulfillment in life comes from worshipping the environment,” he said. “They have no regard for anything else.”
As for abortion, “Abortion in America is a religion,” Bedrosian said. How so? I asked. “The definition of religion and worship is anything that distracts you from worshipping the real God or creator,” he said.
Abortion-rights supporters “built an empire on this. It is something that consumes their time on a daily basis. They’ll fight for it, and they’ll die for it.”
You can safely bet your last dollar, though, that Supervisor Al Bedrosian would not vote to spend taxpayer money to protect the liberty of those “religions.”
It all comes back to his die-hard belief that America is a Christian nation. From that perspective, there’s only one brand of religious liberty that government should spend money defending.
Like Bedrosian said of the essay, early in our conversation, “the premise was to be a little provocative.”
There are certainly some other descriptors out there.
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