While the moral code of the country is in unquestionable decline in recent years, one Arizona state senator suggests mandatory church attendance as the solution.
State Sen. Sylvia Allen (R) made the comment while debating concealed weapons permits at the Senate Appropriations Committee meeting last Tuesday. Allen was making the point that gun violence has less to do with carry permits and more to do with currupted souls.
"It's the soul that is corrupt. And how we get back to a moral rebirth in this country, I don't know since we are slowly eroding religion at every opportunity that we have," she said. "Probably we should be debating a bill requiring every American to attend a church of their choice on Sunday to see if we can get back to having a moral rebirth."
While Allen later called her words a "flippant comment," she went on to explain that the statement stems from the way she was raised in the 1950s in relation to how things are now.
"I remember on Sundays the stores were closed," Allen said in an interview with the Arizona Capitol Times. "The biggest thing is religion was kicked out of our public places, out of our schools."
As expected, news of Allen's comment spread like wildfire with many upset that a non-existent "separation of church and state" definition in the First Amendment means that Allen should apologize or resign. "This woman, Sylvia Allen, is a total idiot," one commenter on the Arizona Capitol Times interview said. "Can you imagine how she would handle a real crisis in government now? Get her out of office, people!!!"
And despite Allen saying that people should "attend the church of their choice," many are targeting Christianity for their rebuttals. "What a vile human being. Morality? With christians the highest in prisons and atheists less than 1%, I'd say churches need to be converted to homes for the homeless but religion is a disease that needs eradicated," another commenter said.
Steve Farley, the Democratic state senator at the meeting who first highlighted Allen's comments on his Twitter page, suggested that Allen's comment was misguided. "Even if you believe that would stem the moral decay, I think the Constitution makes it very clear that our country is founded on the pillar of separation of church and state."
In reality, the separation of church and state is not something expressly written in the First Amendment, as any career government official should probably know. Thomas Jefferson coined the phrase "wall of separation between church and state" in a letter to the Danbury Baptist Association in 1802 where he was reassuring the committee that the government would not interfere in the church's manner of worship. But the phrase has been misconstrued in recent years to mean the opposite of what Jefferson intended in his letter and in the First Amendment.
And although Allen suggested the "new law" in a mocking tone while chuckling, State Senator Farley told his Twitter followers that the mandatory church attendance law was something that Allen "calls for."
Sylvia Allen is a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and she has served in the Arizona State Senate since 2008. Her current term is due to end on January 1, 2017.