What do we mean when we say “religious liberty”? Religious liberty should theoretically mean that each of us is free to believe what we want about religious matters, from one god to many gods to no gods. We should each of us be free to go to our respective places of worship. As Thomas Jefferson wrote in 1782, “it does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods or no God. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg.”
Of course, we know this doesn’t, in practice, happen. The so-called Religious Right says you can’t build mosques, you can’t build Heathen places of worship. Family Security Matters even wants to outlaw Islam. So extreme is Religious Right hatred of Islam that Michele Bachmann told the Values Voter Summit that the United States is actually engaged – as a nation – in spiritual warfare against Islam.
Did you know that? I didn’t know that. I didn’t feel any ripple in the Force or anything to tell me that a spiritual war had begun. I don’t know how exactly this works or who declared it, but it sure doesn’t sound very First Amendment-ish to me. Does it to you?
The wrong-headed and misnamed Religious Right also pushes the idea that only Christians can be elected to public office, despite the inconvenient fact that the Constitution itself, at Article VI, paragraph 3, prohibits religious tests for office.
They want Air Force airmen to swear an oath to their god, which again, such an oath is itself in violation of the First Amendment, placing the Air Force personnel in the uncomfortable – not to mention meaningless – position of swearing an unconstitutional oath to defend the Constitution.
They want religion taught in our public schools, but only Christian religion. They want public prayer, both in schools and in government, but only Christian prayer, all in violation of the First Amendment, which prohibits the establishment of religion.
Bryan Fischer of the American Family Association even demands that all immigrants should be required to convert to Christianity before they are allowed to enter our country.
In fact, they claim that the First Amendment, which bans the establishment of religion, actually establishes religion. Therefore, they claim that only Christianity is protected by the First Amendment.
This is clearly not religious liberty, but religious tyranny. The same thing, in fact, the Constitution was written to avoid.
As Sarah Jones wrote here yesterday with regards the so-called Values Voter Summit,
Conservatives polled said the most important issue to them was “religious liberty”. This notion got Republicans very excited on Twitter, after they convinced themselves that they could win the White House on it because it’s HUGE. Everyone cares about “religious liberty”.
The problem for the Republican Party is that their definition of “religious liberty” is very exclusionary and thus the opposite of the idea of “religious liberty”. Republicans fight for liberty for Christians, while demonizing other religions, especially their misinformed ideas of Muslims.
In fact, if you look at coverage of the Values Voter Summit, you will see that it reads like one long persecution story, with the people doing the persecuting playing the victims. Look at Duck Dynasty’s Alan Robertson telling the crowd that Satan attacked their clan because they’re so great, and the spiteful Benham twins, church-invaders David and Jason, who lost an HGTV show because of their bigotry, saying they’re “like ISIS victims.”
Even though it’s ISIL/ISIS and their own Phil Robertson- not their liberal critics – who agree that others must “convert or die.” It’s Bryan Fischer – not atheists or secular humanists or liberals – who finds himself in theological accord with ISIL.
I don’t know about that. They look pretty much alive to me, and with heads still attached to necks.
It’s ridiculous, and so over the top that it leaves you wondering if any of the participants really thinks about what they’re saying. You’ve got anti-gay extremist Mat Staver crying about being labeled as an anti-gay extremist, for example.
This is the guy, remember, who, Right Wing Watch tells us,
- Called the legalization of same-sex marriage “the beginning of the end of Western Civilization,” warning it will lead to “forced homosexuality.”
- Defended Malawi’s law criminalizing homosexuality and said U.S. opposition to criminalization was “immoral.”
- Alleged that the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, if passed, would lead to child molestation, sexual assault, and even death.
- Called Cardinal Timothy Dolan “unchristian” for accepting the presence of a gay group in this year’s St. Patrick’s Day parade.
This sounds pretty extreme to me.
Other issues will at times push the issue of religion out of public notice for a time, but the notion of a national religion underlies all aspects of the culture war, from contraception to abortion, to voting, to equal rights in the workplace and even to foreign policy. The Bible is trotted out as arbiter of local, state, and even federal law, as though the Constitution itself did not exist.
The consequences of such thing lead inevitably to theocracy, the rule by one religion of the country, over every aspect of our lives. Naturally, the Founding Fathers were in a position to create such a government but their extant writings reveal that they loathed the very idea of theocracy. That they chose not to institute such a government speaks volumes.
Their establishment instead of a democracy, the form of government where political power derives not from god or kings but from the people, completely eradicates the Religious Right’s claims that our government is Biblical-based, that our Constitution derives from the Bible.
The Religious Right says it is trying to restore our government to its intended place, but the place to which it aims has never existed, and was never meant to exist, else we would have been there already, thanks to the Constitution.
These so-called Christians want to fundamentally alter our way of life. In the ideal fake-Christian world of the Republican Party, our freedom of religion would be an actual negation of freedom as we were all forced to become Christians.
This is clearly not what the Founding Fathers had in mind, which makes the Religious Right itself un-American. Their activities at the Values Voter Summit demonstrates that their goal is nothing less than abolition of government of the people, by the people, and for the people, and the institution of the very religious tyranny the Founding Fathers fought so hard to avoid.
Hrafnkell Haraldsson, a social liberal with leanings toward centrist politics has degrees in history and philosophy. His interests include, besides history and philosophy, human rights issues, freedom of choice, religion, and the precarious dichotomy of freedom of speech and intolerance. He brings a slightly different perspective to his writing, being that he is neither a follower of an Abrahamic faith nor an atheist but a polytheist, a modern-day Heathen who follows the customs and traditions of his Norse ancestors. He maintains his own blog, A Heathen’s Day, which deals with Heathen and Pagan matters, and Mos Maiorum Foundation www.mosmaiorum.org, dedicated to ethnic religion. He has also contributed to NewsJunkiePost, GodsOwnParty and Pagan+Politics.