Although America was founded on the brilliant, but false, premise that all citizens are equal, it has taken the course of the nation’s history, a Civil War, and several hard-fought civil rights battles for most Americans to realize a semblance of equality. Obviously, most Americans either could not comprehend, or adamantly opposed, the idea that social equality means every citizen has the same status and equal rights under the law, or that true equality requires the absence of legally enforced boundaries and government enforced discrimination; precisely what the 14th Amendment to the Constitution guarantees all Americans.
One would think most Americans support the 14th Amendment’s prohibition of unequal treatment under the law unflinchingly. Unfortunately, the religious right is intent on abolishing the concept of equality and rejects the idea that no American, or government entity, has the right to abridge any other Americans’ right to liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Now, they are using the Hobby Lobby decision to attempt to establish Christianity’s prohibition against gays as a government policy as a jumping off point in the rush to government by theocracy.
According to a noted constitutional lawyer, Edward Tabash, the High Court’s conservatives failed to reconcile the two religious clauses in the First Amendment and decided that by merely professing a religious objection, someone can establish their religion as law and over other Americans by constitutional fiat. Tabash explained the Establishment Clause as ensuring that believers and non-believers were equal before the law and that no branch of government can favor one religion over another religion, or no religion, and the free exercise clause ensured that because of someone’s religious views they can not suffer lesser rights. By butchering the Free Exercise clause, the Court gave Christians special constitutional rights over the law and other Americans that conflicted with the Establishment Clause. It is that new interpretation of the Establishment Clause that religious leaders are beginning to use to force the government to establish the Christian right’s objections against anti-discrimination laws such as the 14th Amendment’s as government policy. The conservative Court effectively gave fundamentalist Christians the right to establish their religion on the government and the people, and it is why an expanded consortium of faith leaders are demanding that President Obama use taxpayer funds to legally discriminate against gays in direct conflict with the 14th Amendment.
The newer, stronger, demand from religious leaders is that taxpayer-funded government contractors have religious freedom to hire only “people who share the employers’ faith.” The faith leaders, now including megachurch preacher Rick Warren and Catholic Charities CEO Rev. Larry Snyder, want the federal government to legally discriminate against gays according to Christian’s newfound religious liberty. The Vice President of the Human Rights Campaign disagreed with the Christians and said rightly that “Taxpayers’ dollars should not be used to discriminate,” and it was a valid statement before the Hobby Lobby ruling. Most federal contractors already have employment policies barring anti-gay workplace discrimination, but that was before the conservative Court rewrote the Establishment Clause to empower the Christian right’s supremacy over the law.
The idea of abolishing anti-discrimination laws, including the 14TH Amendment, began taking shape in earnest in 2009 when a confederation of Catholics, Southern Baptists, and evangelical fanatics devised a theocratic manifesto known as the Manhattan Declaration. This column has warned that the Declaration’s signatories, including Hobby Lobby’s legal team, were on a crusade to abolish anti-discrimination laws and establish Christian prerogatives as government policy, and on the heels of the Hobby Lobby decision, it is coming to pass. According to the theocratic manifesto, its purpose is to impose “a truly consistent ethic of love and life for all humans in all circumstances.” However a reading of the document informs a truly consistent ethic of hatred of equality, America as a secular nation, and anything not supported by the religious right.
For example, the Declaration’s signatories condemned hate crime laws, civil rights laws, and anti-discrimination laws as attacks on their religious liberty. They also claim that the concepts of “liberty, autonomy, and choice” are responsible for America’s demise into a secular nation, as well as religious persecution they suffer at the hands of that secular government; particularly with an African American man as President. Part and parcel of what they call persecution and tyranny against “Christians,” and what they vehemently condemn as an abomination against god’s authority over America, is divorce, marriage equality, promiscuity, television programming, single-parent families, women’s reproductive choice, the entertainment industry, and secular government they claim are gross violations of their First Amendment “freedom of religion” and affronts to their almighty and loving god. The document also claims current conscience laws, such as the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, are under attack like their religious liberty and are inadequate to afford Christians the right to “render unto god what is god’s;” supremacy over the law and other Americans the High Court just granted them in Hobby Lobby.
It is likely why yesterday, in light of the Hobby Lobby ruling, Utah’s Mormon governor and attorney general are appealing directly to the Supreme Court to rule that the state’s Mormon majority can legally exercise religion to discriminate against gays who married the person they love. If any American truly believed the Hobby Lobby case and subsequent decision was solely about providing contraceptives in health plans, the push to force the government to use taxpayer funds to discriminate against gays and violate an obsolete 14th Amendment guarantee of equality under the law should disabuse them of that fallacy.
No American should think for a second that they are protected from the Court’s new interpretation of the Establishment Clause, or the Free Exercise Clause; including Christians opposed to evangelical fanaticism. President Obama, a Christian sworn to uphold the Constitution, is being besieged by Christian “friends of the White House” to defer to the Christian prerogative and use taxpayer funds to discriminate against gays. Even a cursory reading of the vile nine page Manhattan Declaration informs that no American, or segment of society, is safe from the religious right’s newfound “religious freedom.” The document is rife with condemnation of every segment of American society that does not conform with evangelical Christianity’s worldview and now that the Court gave them religious supremacy over every other American and redefined the Establishment Clause, no religion, secular institution, or government entity is safe from what is arguably an all-out-war on America as a secular nation.
Because the Court legalized freedom of religion as a tool for Christian domination, and established religious supremacy over the law and other Americans’ rights, this country faces the real prospect of living under a version of Christian Sharia Law. Republicans, whether they are religious or not, will take advantage of the conservative Christian’s religious fervor to garner electoral support and dutifully repay evangelicals when they propose new legislation in Congress and state legislatures. It is true the Hobby Lobby ruling will mobilize Democratic voters in November, but now that the religious right has been awarded the religious liberty they have lusted after for thirty years, they will turn out the vote to accomplish what the Founding Fathers never intended; America as a Christian nation. By eviscerating the First Amendment’s Free Exercise Clause, the Supreme Court’s conservatives effectively nullified the Establishment Clause and hastened America’s march toward theocracy.
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.