It’s July 4. How’s the First Amendment doing these days?

Not so hot, courtesy of our Supreme Court and countless lower-ranked Federalist Society hacks Republicans have managed to push into our judiciary (one of the Democrats’ mistakes under Obama was not making appointing good judges a priority). For example, if a schoolteacher wants to lead students in public prayers, which some students say they felt pressured to participate in, the Supreme Court says that’s okay. It’s simply recycling an old argument that not allowing Christians to impose prayer on others violates their rights. Sotomayor’s dissent points out the flaws in the majority ruling. As Balls and Strikes says regarding gun control, reality in Thomas’s opinions is malleable.

Lauren Boebert, unsurprisingly, thinks this is great: she’s tired of all that “separation of church and state junk.” This, of course, reflects that right-wing Christianity currently has such a clout in the judiciary; if Jews, Muslims or liberal Christian groups had similar influence, she’d be screaming about how Christian rights must be protected. Hell, they scream about it now, even when their rights aren’t at risk. Rainbow-themed Oreos don’t threaten religious rights but some Republicans feel oppressed just seeing things they disapprove of.

It’s easier if they pretend the US is and always was a Christian nation, such as Boebert’s claim “We the people” in the Constitution refers to the Christian church. It doesn’t; the Constitution was seen at the time as almost atheist in saying the American people, not God,  founded the government. Not to mention banning religious tests for public office, so that potentially anyone of any faith, or even an atheist, could become president.

It could get worse too. Clarence Thomas is fine with making it easier to sue for defamation, taking the side of an anti-gay Christian church labeled an anti-gay hate group by SPLC. This, again, shows the advantage of Republicans dominating the courts: I’m quite sure they’ll find anything the right wing says about Democrats perfectly acceptable discourse.  And Boebert — not that she’s uniquely bad in her party, she’s just been mouthing off a lot lately — thinks the church is supposed to direct government, which is the opposite of religious freedom.

Over in Florida, Ron “I”d like the floor to get elected president” DeSantis has imposed education standards that include lying about how the Founding Father wanted us all to be Christian (what they wanted has no force in law) along with assuring students that the Founders totally hated slavery even if maybe some of them owned a slave or two, and anyway most slaves were born slaves, not brought over from Africa. Excuse me but that doesn’t make American slavery moral!!

I will pause here and note that any talk about “the church” or “Christians” running government is bullshit. Christianity is a vast collection of multiple different sects and churches with a vast array of views. This isn’t new — it’s been true from the earliest days of my faith. If Republicans make us a “Christian nation” the next step will inevitably be figuring out who qualifies as Christian.

Despite Vatican II, there are plenty of right-wing Catholics who don’t think Protestants are legitimate Christians as someone once put it, some Catholics are more Catholic than the Pope. I’ve known plenty of Protestants who don’t think Catholics are Christian. Lots of both Catholics and Protestants don’t count Mormons. The New England Puritans hun Quakers for dissenting.

Rick Santorum doesn’t think any liberal can be Christian. Pat Robertson says Methodists and Episcopalians are the spirit of antichrist. Some Southern Baptists believe charismatic churches with speaking in tongues are just a form of demonic possession and Satan worship. Snake handlers (who admittedly are unlikely to become a power player in our future) dismiss believers in the Trinity as “three god people.”

On top of which, we have the personal factor. If you’re a church leader with a taste for power or wealth, you have that much more interest in making sure your church has access to the halls of government, not the Christian church down the street. Christian anti-abortion centers, like abstinence-only education, channel state funding to Christian groups. That’s a sweet deal. If you think a rival church wants to suck up your slice of the pie — wait, wait, they’re heretical and not Christian at all! As the First Amendment only applies to real Christians, they’re out of luck!

This kind of thinking also breeds fear. Whoever’s in power will get to dictate who qualifies as Christian with the corresponding religious rights. That makes control of the government a matter of life and death, possibly literally. That doesn’t encourage support for democracy and the peaceful transition of power.

This is why theocracy has never ended well in human history. It won’t end any better if we get one in the future. That’s why our founders forbade Congress — a decision later court rulings extended to states and the executive branch — from either establishing a state religion or banning its free exercise.

Leave a comment

Filed under Politics

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.