“Make America Great Again” (MAGA) is a slogan used not only by Donald Trump, but before him by Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton, and Hillary Clinton. But according to Democratic pollster Douglas Schoen, Trump used it the best. Schoen called Trump’s use of MAGA “the most resonant campaign slogan in recent history.” Why? Because in Schoen’s opinion, large majorities of Americans in 2016 believed our country was in decline. It seems likely that a post-COVID-19 poll would show people starting to feel that way once again.
If the MAGA message is so resonant, it’s worth asking: what does “making America great again” really mean? Is it just a campaign ad? Or can we actually achieve greatness and keep it? The answer may have been given to us in 1885 by a Frenchman named Alexis de Tocqueville. As he toured America, he observed:
“I sought for the greatness and genius of America in her commodious harbors and her ample rivers – and it was not there . . . in her fertile fields and boundless forests and it was not there . . . in her rich mines and her vast world commerce – and it was not there . . . in her democratic Congress and her matchless Constitution – and it was not there. Not until I went into the Churches of America and heard her pulpits aflame with righteousness did I understand the secret of her genius and power. America is great because she is good, and if America ever ceases to be good, she will cease to be great.” [emphasis added]
Tocqueville recognized the strong influence of the Church in America. He was a strong supporter of the separation of Church and State, but also a strong supporter of the practice of religion. Rather than attempting to push faith out of the public sphere, he welcomed the practice of faith and its influence on the culture.
Rhode Island should take note. Churches have been largely shut down for weeks, and in the meantime depression, domestic abuse, suicide, and drug abuse have all increased. This is exactly where Rhode Island churches can be most helpful – and a critical reason our church doors must be allowed to reopen more fully.
Currently, restaurants can seat 50% of capacity – but Rhode Island churches remain at 25%. When churches are not being treated equally to other entities in the state, that signals a threat to our religious freedom – and with it, a threat to the “greatness” of our state. The right to gather together for worship is one protected by our Constitution, and one that should not be taken lightly.
That’s why we are asking Governor Raimondo to welcome religion in her Phase 2 COVID guidelines, just as Tocqueville welcomed it more than a century ago. We’re asking her to allow church doors to open at 40-50% capacity, and for her to recognize churches as “essential.” If you haven’t already, will you join with us by signing this petition, and sharing it with your Rhode Island friends? There is strength in numbers, and Governor Raimondo needs to hear from you!
Post it, tweet it and forward it. Let’s make Rhode Island a state where God is honored, religious freedom flourishes, life is cherished, and families thrive.
Chairman, Board of Advisors – Rhode Island