The Constitution’s framers spent a reasonable amount of time debating on how the young nation should be governed, and they were intelligent enough to put in place basic, and frankly quite simple to comprehend, statutes that would stand the test of time and ensure the “general welfare of the people” is of paramount importance. Conservatives have not quite figured out the basic rights enumerated in the Constitution apply to all Americans equally, and embrace absurd interpretations that serve their bastardized vision of America the Founders never imagined. For example, free speech is fine and dandy for hatemongers like Duck Dynasty patriarch Phil Robertson, Rush Limbaugh, and Sarah Palin, but speech is restricted for Americans who condemn hate-inspired “free speech,” or if they verbalize their objection to state-imposed religious edicts; then it is a violation of the hatemongers’ religious freedom.
First, it cannot be overstated that Republicans’ predilection to enacting biblical laws will not create jobs, rein in the deficit, provide for the common defense, or promote the general welfare of the United States, and yet there is a concerted effort by Republicans to claim their religious liberty gives them the right to force biblical edicts “down the throat” of every American. Naturally, Republicans assign blame for their so-called “loss of religious liberty” to President Obama as part of their phony “war on Christianity,” but the real culprit is the Christian right witnessing Americans reject their Dark Age mindset that is on pace to become a 21st century crusade and inquisition. No-one contests the religious right’s assertion that they have religious freedom to follow their bastardized form of Christianity, but their “religious liberty” does not, and never has, included imposing their religion on the rest of the population. One Supreme Court Justice had the courage to put it in stark terms a first-grader could comprehend.
As much as this column criticizes and derides Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, the conservative fanatic gets the Constitution’s meaning of religious liberty Republicans have made their raison d’être since courts began striking down state bans on same-sex marriage. In the Supreme Court ruling in the Employment Division v. Smith case, Scalia opined on an extremists’ viewpoint of what they claimed their “religious freedom” entailed. Scalia said that “such an exaggerated view of religious freedom serves to make the professed doctrines of religious belief superior to the law of the land, and in effect to permit every citizen to become a law unto himself.” Indeed, Scalia’s words are precisely what several rulings on the unconstitutionality of state bans on same-sex marriage should have said, but there is an unspoken commandment that “no American shall condemn the rush toward theocracy.”
Now that another district court has struck down a same-sex marriage ban in Virginia as patently unconstitutional, teabagger Ted Cruz introduced legislation in the Senate to reinstate the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) with an anti-gay-marriage bill. Besides wasting taxpayer time, money, and violating the First Amendment’s prohibition that Congress shall “make no law respecting the establishment of religion,” it is an extreme case of conservative hypocrisy. Republicans preach keeping government out of people’s personal lives is their primary purpose for serving in Congress, except when they claim religious liberty empowers them to control Americans’ personal relationships, their bodies, and their private affairs.
Cruz’s bill is in direct defiance of last year’s Supreme Court ruling in Windsor v. the United States and amends U.S. law by reinstating the Defense of Marriage Act “with regard to the definition of ‘marriage’ and ‘spouse’ for Federal purposes.” A similar bill was introduced in the House by Randy Weber (R-TX) to put the brakes on same-sex marriage. Cruz said, “I support traditional marriage. Under President Obama, the federal government has tried to re-define marriage, and to undermine the constitutional authority of each state to define marriage. The Obama Administration should not be trying to force gay marriage on all 50 states. We should respect the states, and the definition of marriage should be left to democratically elected legislatures, not dictated from Washington.” The Obama Administration has not “forced” gay marriage on any states; the Supreme and district courts ruled the bans on same-sex marriage are in violation of the U.S. Constitution, but teabaggers and Republicans blame the Constitution’s 14th and 1st Amendment on President Obama and not the Founding Fathers.
Cruz’s effort is part of an ongoing strategy among religious zealots and anti-gay groups to portray themselves as besieged victims of religious persecution by President Obama. Cruz naturally went to fear-mongering and warned that if same-sex marriage is allowed in states preachers will be charged with “hate speech.” No, preachers can rain down hellfire and brimstone against same-sex marriage to their vile hearts’ content and they will not be hauled off to prison. But Cruz, like Bobby Jindal, knows nothing whips the religious right into frenzy like the thought of Barack Obama forcing religious prohibitions on evangelical Christians. However, evangelicals have no compunction using religion to prohibit same-sex marriage, contraception use, or a woman’s right to control her own body. In fact, Louisiana governor Jindal took another opportunity to improve his Christian bona fides with a rant about the war on Christians and religious liberty.
Jindal said, “Our religious liberty must in no way ever be linked to the ever-changing opinions of the public. To the contrary, we must understand that our freedom of conscience protects all Americans of every persuasion, however those persuasions may evolve.” Jindal is right; he has religious liberty to believe anything his evangelical heart desires and the Constitution gives all Americans the same religious liberty Jindal passionately defends. However, it does not give him, or his conscience, the right to make his “religious liberty” superior to the law of the land, or to become a law unto himself according to the most conservative Supreme Court justice on the nation’s highest court.
Republicans, and their religious right voting bloc, just cannot comprehend that America is not a Christian nation, is not a theocracy, and the bible is not the law of the land. This abominable drive by Republicans to impose religion on the people is not them exercising their religious liberty; it is religious tyranny, religious fascism, and blatantly unconstitutional. Most Americans are aligned with the Founding Fathers, and the Constitution, in understanding religious liberty is the freedom to worship whatever deity, statue, or mythological figure one pleases in their home, car, church, woodland, or local eatery. However, that religious liberty does not include forcing any American to comply with any religious belief regardless what their religious text says.
There is a clause in the U.S. Constitution found in Article VI, paragraph 3 that states, “The Senators and Representatives, and the Members of the several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.” It is time that clause is amended with a requirement that “no candidate is qualified to serve in any office or public trust under the United States if they intend to impose their religion on the people by making laws respecting the establishment of a religion.” If nothing else, it will protect the work of the Founding Fathers, protect America’s democracy from a Christian theocracy, define the Constitution as the law of the land, and clear out most Republicans from Congress and state legislatures.
Audio engineer and instructor for SAE. Writes op/ed commentary supporting Secular Humanist causes, and exposing suppression of women, the poor, and minorities. An advocate for freedom of religion and particularly, freedom of NO religion.
Born in the South, raised in the Mid-West and California for a well-rounded view of America; it doesn’t look good.
Former minister, lifelong musician, Mahayana Zen-Buddhist.