Bryan Fischer pulled no punches yesterday in calling for a candidate for president chosen by a summit composed of Religious Right leaders. “It’s kind of like picking a pope,” said Fischer.
No, it’s not, says the Constitution.
But Fischer is wrong: what he is proposing is really not kind of like, but exactly like. And Catholics beware: your opinion is not welcome. The electors will be Protestants, leaders of the Evangelical community, according to Fischer.
Watch courtesy of Right Wing Watch:
I’m hoping that pro-family leaders, evangelical leaders…would come together, have a summit meeting. That they would bring all these various candidates that share our values, get ’em in a room, and grill ’em. Have the leaders of the pro-family movement grill these guys one after another and probe them and challenge them and test them and ask them really hard questions about what they would do as president of the United States with this issue or that issue. What would you do? Where would you stand? And get some promises from these guys. And again, these are people of character and integrity and I still think they need to be probed and pressed.
And then have these pro-family leaders come out of this summit meeting, put their heads together, release all these guys, let them go back to their states and wherever they go, and then put their heads together and it’s kind of like picking a pope. You know it’s kind of that kind of idea and you stay with it until you have the white smoke coming out of the chimney until you pick one candidate that you as a group of leaders would recommend that the entire evangelical community gather behind.
This is not what the Founding Fathers had in mind. Rather the opposite, in fact. They wanted to keep religion out of politics and politics out of religion, thus the prohibition against a state religion found in the First Amendment.
This is because, as Thomas Jefferson wrote to Charles Clay in 1815, the combination of church and state is “loathsome.” And he told Horatio Spafford a year earlier, “In every country and in every age, the priest has been hostile to liberty.” His most damning condemnation, perhaps, was expressed to Alexander von Humboldt in 1813, writing that,
History, I believe, furnishes no example of a priest-ridden people maintaining a free civil government. This marks the lowest grade of ignorance of which their civil as well as religious leaders will always avail themselves for their own purposes.
As is well known by now, Evangelicals began the process of co-opting the Republican Party after Goldwater’s defeat in 1964. This was a conscious decision and the beginning of a process which has taken us to Vision America’s Rick Scarborough telling brand-new demon-hunting Colorado State Senator Gordon Klingenschmitt on “Pray in Jesus Name”,
“Christians have infiltrated the Republican Party in Texas and it’s like going to revival meetings when you go to our state conventions.”
For Scarborough, this means “God’s blessing our state and why, I believe, Texas has become a model for other states,” but Founders like James Madison and Thomas Jefferson would have been apoplectic, because, as Madison wrote in 1774, “Ecclesiastical establishments tend to great ignorance and corruption, all of which facilitate the execution of mischievous projects.”
Mischievous projects. Like taking over the Republican Party. Like establishing a state religion in violation of the First Amendment.
Like pushing the idea that the First Amendment, which bans such establishments, actually establishes Christianity as a state religion. Or is applicable only to Christians. This is far from what the Founders intended with the First Amendment. Madison made clear in 1820:
Among the features peculiar to the political system of the United States, is the perfect equality of rights which it secures to every religious sect … Equal laws, protecting equal rights, are found, as they ought to be presumed, the best guarantee of loyalty and love of country; as well as best calculated to cherish that mutual respect and good will among citizens of every religious denomination which are necessary to social harmony, and most favorable to the advancement of truth.
The idea that a religious establishment could in any way be beneficial is a violation of everything the Founders intended and believed. As Madison wrote in his Memorial and Remonstrance Against Religious Assessments in 1785,
Experience witnesseth that eccelsiastical establishments, instead of maintaining the purity and efficacy of Religion, have had a contrary operation. During almost fifteen centuries has the legal establishment of Christianity been on trial. What have been its fruits? More or less in all places, pride and indolence in the Clergy, ignorance and servility in the laity, in both, superstition, bigotry and persecution.
He sure called that one right. The Religious Right has given us “superstition, bigotry and persecution” galore. Bryan Fischer has almost single-handedly been proof of that, but he has had plenty of help from people like Gordon Klingenschmitt, David Barton, Rick Scarborough, Tony Perkins, and others, not to mention numerous Republican politicians like Michele Bachmann, Sarah Palin, Rick Perry, Ted Cruz, and others.
But at least the Religious Right’s end-game all out in the open now, and Americans can see finally – it is hoped – exactly what these bigots have in store for America: an Evangelical and completely un-Constitutional theocracy, three branches of government completely in thrall to Religious conservatives touting a completely unbiblical religion pretending to be Christianity.
For mixing church and state has done to religion exactly what the Founders warned: it has corrupted both to the point where the religion that went into the process in 1964, is no longer identifiable as Christianity, and the political party it infiltrated is no longer identifiable as the Grand Old Party but has become God’s Own Party.
Madison wrote in 1832 of “The tendency of a usurpation on one side or the other, or to a corrupting coalition or alliance between them,” and he was right. We have seen his warning come to fruition with our own eyes two centuries later.
Thomas Jefferson wrote to Miles King in 1814 that, “Our particular principles of religion are a subject of accountability to God alone.” George Washington agreed, writing in 1789 to the United Baptist Churches of Virginia that, “every man, conducting himself as a good citizen, and being accountable to God alone for his religious opinions, ought to be protected in worshipping the Deity according to the dictates of his own conscience.”
But in Bryan Fischer’s scheme, the Religious Right would put themselves in God’s place, and force Republican candidates for president to be accountable to them only. Scarborough bragged that “Texas has become a model for other states” but we don’t want the Texas model in our states, or anywhere in our country.
It is impossible to make this sound like a good thing.
Jefferson seems to have been looking both into the past and also into the future when he wrote to Jeremiah Moor in 1800 that, “the clergy, by getting themselves established by law, & ingrafted into the machine of government, have been a very formidable engine against the civil & religious rights of man.”
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.