Those conservatives might try and seize his conservative card beyond the grave because he did not advocate for the merging of religion and state. In fact, he advocated exactly the opposite. This statement came during the 1984 presidential campaign. It was made in a synagogue out on Long Island.
We in the United States, above all, must remember that lesson, for we were founded as a nation of openness to people of all beliefs. And so we must remain. Our very unity has been strengthened by our pluralism. We establish no religion in this country, we command no worship, we mandate no belief, nor will we ever. Church and state are, and must remain, separate. (emphasis my own) All are free to believe or not believe, all are free to practice a faith or not, and those who believe are free, and should be free, to speak of and act on their belief.
Note that not only does he emphasize that “Church and state are, and must remain, separate,” but he also specifically mentions that persons are free to engage in belief or disbelief. This stands in stark contrast with today’s Republican Party.
In today’s Republican Party, Christian fundamentalists and their social conservatism reign supreme. All serious Republican candidates must align themselves with social conservatism. No serious Republican leader can support a woman’s right to control her own body or support marriage equality or support equal pay for equal work. All serious Republican leaders must emphasize their religion and their support for taking those religious beliefs and making them the law of the land.
To borrow from Reagan, today’s Republican Party seeks to mandate belief through their actions. That is the exact opposite of the religious liberty they claim they seek to preserve.
Our Founding Fathers saw the danger of mandating religion. They saw all the blood that was shed in Europe because of that mandate. That is why we require no religious test for office. That is why we have an establishment clause. That is why we have free exercise. They are there to protect the majority from imposing upon the conscience of the minority.
In the past, I have quoted Thomas Jefferson and his Letter to the Danbury Baptists and James Madison and his Memorial and Remonstrance Against Religious Assessments. Now, however, I thought it was time that I quoted Reagan to demonstrate to conservatives that even their beloved Ronald Reagan support the very separation that they oppose.