One of the many travesties endemic in a government controlled by Republicans is that the evangelical right now has the full weight and force of the federal government to institute a theocracy. Now that religious conservatives control the Supreme Court with Neil Gorsuch’s appointment to the bench, they have an instant ally to achieve the Dominionist movement’s highest priorities: tearing down any and all constitutional barriers between church and state.
Yesterday, in a case the High Court’s conservatives postponed for 15 months wishing and hoping for an evangelical majority, they heard oral arguments in a case very few Americans are aware of. The people should be terrified because a ruling for theocracy will effectively demolish church-state separation and completely neuter the First Amendment’s religious clauses. And it will force every taxpayer to fund religious organizations; like it or not.
This one case will have far reaching effects on every American, and every facet of government, that will make the Hobby Lobby, Voting Rights, and Citizens United rulings seem petty and insignificant in comparison. Sadly, due to the media, including the cowards in the liberal media, and their resistance to reporting the rash of evangelical legislation they claim are simply born of “conservative ideology,” most Americans are clueless as to what is awaiting them; a High Court ruling establishing a veritable evangelical theocracy.
The case, “Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia v. Comer,” is about forcing Missouri taxpayers to fund upgrading a church school’s playground despite a state and federal prohibition against it. Even though there is a long-standing Constitutional statute against using taxpayer money to fund religious organizations, Missouri is one several states that enshrined the same prohibition in its state Constitution. Still, the “churches” cried foul and claimed that if taxpayers fund public schools, then they damn sure better start funding religious schools and organizations.
One might think that churches earning well-over $82.5 billion annually (in 2013) from taxpayers subsidizing religious non-profits (churches) was enough welfare for the “charitable Christians.” Add to that staggering annual figure the $41.7 billion in annual payments (in 2004) in welfare from Bush’s “faith-based initiative” programs. Money well spent according to W. Bush who wanted the taxpayer’s money to “save one soul at a time.” Still, even that unconstitutional abomination didn’t satisfy their greed for more taxpayer money and more control over government. And, the sad truth is that tearing down the barrier between church and state will set a Constitutional precedent allowing evangelicals to do so much more than just force taxpayers to support their “ministries.”
Since before America was a nation, the Founding Fathers were preparing, and went to great lengths, to keep religion out of government. The concept of not funding, or legislating according to evangelicalism, is not a new idea.
Founding Father and fourth President of the United States, James Madison joined third President, Declaration of Independence author, and Founding Father Thomas Jefferson in warning why church and state must be separate and permanently kept out of any governing decisions. For example, when Patrick Henry attempted to use tax dollars to pay for “teachers of the Christian religion,” Madison penned a document called “The Remonstrance” that listed 15 reasons why state-supported religion is a very, very bad idea.
In fact, after writing “The Remonstrance,” Madison set out how religion should be handled by the government. In an early draft of the Bill of Rights, Madison proffered a more robust “religious clause” than currently in the First Amendment. It read:
“The civil rights of none shall be abridged on account of religious belief or worship, nor shall any national religion be established, nor shall the full and equal rights of conscience be in any manner, or on any pretext, infringed.”
Obviously, James Madison, like the great majority of the Constitution’s Framers, wanted a “wall of separation” between the church and state; something the current evangelical fanatic running the Justice Department claims is “unconstitutional and unhistorical.” Founding Father and third President of the United States Thomas Jefferson would heartily disagree with Jeff Sessions that the separation clause is “unhistorical or unconstitutional.” Jefferson, in fact, explained exactly what the separation clause meant.
Jefferson also noted the atrocity of allowing governments, state or federal, to use taxpayer money to fund churches in any way. He wrote:
“No man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship, place, or ministry whatsoever, nor shall be enforced, restrained, molested, or burdened in his body or goods.”
It is true that there was no issue over a woman’s right to choose her own reproductive life in Jefferson’s time, but his comment certainly applies to today’s women being “enforced, restrained, molested, or burdened” in their bodies by religious Republicans.
It is wprth noting that it was Jefferson who coined and defined the term “wall of separation” between church and state that make up the religious clauses of the First Amendment. Jefferson added that,
“If any act shall be hereafter passed to repeal the present, or to narrow its operation, such as would be an infringement of natural right.”
It is certain that none of the conservatives on the High Court or religious Republicans panting to hand governance over the people to the religious right have any regard for what a Founding Father or the Constitution says; they want more taxpayer dollars flowing to churches and complete theocratic purview over the government and the people.
The “Trinity” case is about much more than robbing taxpayer money for a church’s ministry; it is about setting a precedent that breaks down the “wall of separation” that is the only thing keeping religion out of the government. Still, many Americans can’t comprehend what allowing religion to take money from taxpayers, or writing Republican legislation, means for their lives, and that is too bad. Worse yet are so-called liberal Christians who blow off the creeping threat of theocracy and going so far as to wish God was in the public forum; “public forum” is evangelical-speak for “government.”
If any American thinks neutering the religious clauses will not affect them, they are insane. Of course women will be forced into subjection to evangelical men’s demands, and the LGBTQ community’s rights, what few they’ve won, will be summarily eliminated along with the Fourteenth Amendment. Religious Republicans already complain the “equal rights” for all Americans in the Fourteenth Amendment violate their religious freedom.
Some Americans are already aware what evangelical malcontent Education Secretary Betsy DeVos intends for America’s children, and a few more likely know that Trump wants taxpayers to fund Republicans’ religious Super PACs. However, the Dominionists want to control every aspect of every Americans’ life and that entails controlling the government.
Whether the faithful like it or not, there is historically never a good outcome when religion is involved in governing. This is not to say that all of the faithful are intent on dominating the rest of the population. However, with a Republican majority in Congress, a man who panders to Christians in the White House, and a conservative majority on the Supreme Court that already started deconstructing the religious clauses in the First Amendment, there are dangerous times ahead.
And, they begin in earnest with one Supreme Court ruling brought to the court for the sole intent of demolishing what Thomas Jefferson said was “a wall of separation” between church and state to make it simpler to impose an evangelical 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.