Defend democracy in the South.

How far do Southern conservatives want to go in eliminating the seperation between church and state? Very far, if this report from the Dallas Morning News about the faith-based fireworks at last week's Texas state Republican convention are any indication:

SAN ANTONIO - Lt. Col. Brian Birdwell offered a greeting to delegates to the Republican convention. "It's great to be back in the holy land," the Fort Worth native said to the cheers of the party faithful. For the 4,500 delegates at last week's biennial gathering, it was both an expression of conservative philosophy and religious faith, a melding of church and state.

At Saturday morning's prayer meeting, party leader Tina Benkiser assured them that God was watching over the two-day confab.

"He is the chairman of this party," she said against a backdrop of flags and a GOP seal with its red, white and blue logo.

The party platform, adopted Saturday, declares "America is a Christian nation" and affirms that "God is undeniable in our history and is vital to our freedom."

"We pledge to exert our influence toward a return to the original intent of the First Amendment and dispel the myth of the separation of church and state," it says.

No beating around the bush there, nor in the convention's take on immigration, as spelled out by the Rev. Dale Young, pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Laredo:

"Lord, your words tell us there's a sign that this nation is under a curse, when the alien who lives among us grows higher and higher and we grow lower and lower," he preached.

And then there's this interesting tidbit about a famous White House correspondent:

Houston activist Bobby Eberle, a candidate for party vice chairman, organized the Friday evening rally. Taking the stage, he took aim at "the ACLU, liberal Hollywood, Democrats and these left-wingers" who have bedeviled the GOP.

"We need to continue to fight, whether for the pro-life movement or for decency in programming," said Mr. Eberle, whose Internet enterprise had its own recent dust-up over decency.

Talon News, a conservative Web site owned by Mr. Eberle, employed Jeff Gannon as a White House correspondent until publicity a year ago over Mr. Gannon's appearance on gay prostitution Web sites.

Mr. Eberle dropped Talon News, Mr. Gannon left the press corps, and the matter did not appear to be an issue in the vice chairman's race, although he lost.

Chris Kromm

Chris Kromm chriskromm

Chris Kromm is executive director of the Institute for Southern Studies and publisher of the Institute's online magazine, Facing South.

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