Q: What about overall? If you had to say where things are at today, in terms of church-state separation, compared to when you took over at Americans United in 1992, where are they?

A: Overall things have advanced. I don’t believe this administration’s negative view will prevail very long because it’s inconsistent with what the American people want. They don’t believe government money should go to promote religion. Their hearts and minds are far, far moved from where they were 25 years ago…I think there is an enormous growth in tolerance…Once you make a certain amount of progress, you never get back to the same starting point. People have become more tolerant, more accepting.
It’s only a bad time because the Supreme Court looks to be at genuine risk of falling into the hands of a majority of so-called Originalists.
I do this sermon called ‘The Two Worst Ways to Make Policy: Constitutional Originalism and Biblical Literalism.’
The Bible is a wonderful book, but it’s not an ethics textbook, that’s not how it was created. And Constitutional Originalism depends on the fiction that you can tell exactly what the first Congress meant when it passed the Bill of Rights. Most of that is lost to history.

Q: But you came from a pretty conservative part of the country [he grew up in Bethlehem, Pa.]
A: I remember in high school going to a debate between Buckley and [Socialist leader] Norman Thomas. I thought: Man, this is going to be fun! My Dad and I were big Buckley fans. I can still remember the feeling, sitting in the bleachers, thinking: ‘I think something life changing is happening’ to me. Buckley was talking about himself, and Thomas was talking about community, and how you have to take into account concerns of everyone, and I’m thinking: ‘This is kind of like what I learn about in Sunday school!’ Years later I was with Buckley and I said: ‘Your failure that night created me.’
I realized that night [that] this super-conservativism is just inconsistent with moral principles. Because you can’t live a life that doesn’t touch everybody else’s.