Pious politicos - Election-time tactic
(The Charleston Gazette, Oct. 9, 2000)

JUST before an election, you can count on many politicians to tell everyone how pious they are. It's an age-old tactic to gain votes of church members.

Texas Gov. George W. Bush proclaimed "Jesus Day." Conservatives in Congress and legislatures repeatedly draft bills to enforce the goals of TV evangelists.

Now Gov. Underwood has joined the parade by asking the state Board of Education to tell public schools to display the Christian Bible and Ten Commandments.

It doesn't seem to bother Underwood that such a display would injure a cornerstone of American democracy, the separation of church and state, spelled out in the First Amendment of the Bill of Rights.

"Throughout the history of our country and state, the Bible and Ten Commandments have inspired many to live their lives with character and purpose," Underwood wrote in a Sept. 25 letter urging the board to have schools put the religious items in historic displays.

Well, members of the state board aren't running for election, and they don't need to pander for church votes, so we hope they ignore this campaign device.

In "The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire," Edward Gibbon wrote: "The various modes of worship which prevailed in the Roman world were all considered by the people as equally true; by the philosopher as equally false; and by the magistrate as equally useful."

Useful or not, Underwood's tactic shouldn't be imposed on West Virginia public schools.