During a visit to Washington, you drop in to your United States senator’s office to pick up passes for the House and Senate galleries. While you’re in the lobby, the senator herself stops by on her way back to the office from the Senate floor. She introduces herself and asks about you. When she learns that you’re a college student and taking a course called Religion, Politics & the Presidency, she invites you to step into her office and closes the door.
“Can you help me?” she asks plaintively. “These people are driving me crazy. Several times a week – at least – I get a letter or an email or a petition from constituents demanding that I sponsor legislation that would declare that the United States is, and always has been, a Christian nation. They go on to say that the founders themselves were Christians and that the nation was founded on Christian principles. That doesn’t seem quite right to me,” the senator continues, “but I’m not exactly sure how to refute their arguments.” She pauses for a moment and then looks out the window. The late-afternoon sun is throwing shadows from the dome of the capitol across the entrance to the visitor’s center. “ Then again, maybe they’re right.” She turns back to you. “I try to explain that the First Amendment provides for the separation of church and state, but they insist that the separation of church and state occurs nowhere in the Constitution.”
She throws up her arms. “I need your help. Would you be willing to provide me with a statement that I can send to these people?” The senator goes on to explain that she’s looking for something in the range of 4 to 6 pages. “I need it by ten o'clock October 29,” she adds. “You can use bullet points, if you wish, but please frame your response with a narrative that places the evidence into the context of your argument.”
The senator extends her hand and looks into your eyes. “ Thanks,” she says. “I really appreciate it.”