February 3, 2004  
Volume 97, Issue 68  

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Prof panel talks Bush, religion

By Dan Perry
Gazette Staff

Last Thursday saw the first of a series of weekly professor panels on Western’s campus, a discussion entitled “The Crusades of George W. Bush,” in the University Community Centre CentreSpot lounge.

Bryce Traister, a professor of English and film studies, and history professor Andrew Johnston discussed the interplay of church and state in contemporary American politics.

Speaking first, Traister emphasized President Bush’s frequent discussion of freedom and revealed its reliance upon what he called a “national treasury” of religious undertones to make the case for Bush’s political goals, mobilizing religious interests in the interest of the state.

“In Bush’s speeches, [there is] a theme of America as redeemer nation, [which is] eroding the separation of church and state,” he said.

Johnston echoed Traister’s speech, explaining the American president’s goals: “What Bush wants [is] that all Americans unite their theology with the interests of the nation,” he said, adding this was a threat to freedom of consciousness.

Both professors expressed some dismay at the lack of forthcoming debate, as they were largely in agreement with each other. This brought mixed reactions from students in attendance.

“It’s unfortunate there weren’t two sides,” said Sarah Gingerich, a second-year history student.

Mandy Alves, a fourth-year arts student, expressed some disappointment as well. “I was hoping that somebody would disagree. I was hoping there’d be some kind of conflict.”

“They still played both sides of the coin really well, though,” said D.M. Stoneman, a second-year philosophy and psychology student.

Both professors, though they agreed the interplay of religion and American politics did pose problems, acknowledged some positive results of religion’s influence in the political sphere.

“In democracy, we seek temporary agreements. This [interplay] is only a problem when the authority of a supreme being is called on to give solutions,” Johnston said.

The series resumes this week with a discussion entitled “How 9/11 has Affected Your Human Rights in Canada,” featuring prominent defense lawyer Rocco Galati.



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