Opinion: Another Republican Makes Religious Liberty a Weapon

The Christofascist religious right and their Republican enablers are systematically transforming religious liberty into a vile unconstitutional weapon against Americans who fail to toe the extremist evangelical line.

When the Founding Fathers and. Constitution’s Framers created the religious clauses in the hallowed First Amendment, they did not intend them to be used to supersede the laws of the land or to use “religious liberty” as a cudgel against other Americans’ Constitutional rights. Republicans and their extremist  evangelical base believe otherwise and together they are undermining the Constitution in their crusade towards a Christofascist ruled nation.

Last week another Republican governor, Greg Gianforte, signed legislation authorizing so-called people of faith to challenge any government regulation they claim interferes with their religious beliefs. The new Montana law “weaponizes” the fanatical evangelical religion against the LGBTQ community, women, and any Montana resident the fundamentalist Christians decide to target.

The crux of the legislation, Senate Bill 215, allows any so-called “religious person” to challenge the validity of any law if they claim it violates their constitutionally protected religious liberty. And to make matters much worse, the government is forced, by rule of the new law, to show a compelling reason why any law or regulation can supersede the person’s religious liberty to impose their will on another person and deny them their constitutional equal rights.

The director of equality and economic justice with the Montana Human Rights Network, Shawn Reagor, said the new law “effectively weaponizes religion to attack others.” Reagor added:.

“This [law] allows individuals to turn the shield of religious freedom we all hold dear into a weapon to attack LGBTQ and Indigenous Montanans. It goes against the live-and-let-live values we hold as a state, recent court rulings and the ordinances of five Montana cities and counties.”

In a statement, the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) said the new law “represents the fourth anti-LGBTQ and second Religious Freedom Restoration Acts (RFRA) bill sent to a governor’s desk this session.”

The HRC president, Alphonso David, continued that the new law will have “a significant impact on vulnerable communities in Montana – including people of faith, women and LGBTQ people. Let me be clear: religious liberty and equality are not mutually exclusive, and Montanans will not stand by as governor Gianforte and fearful legislators seek to actively discriminate against the LGBTQ population,”

It is noteworthy that there is no term in the First Amendment’s religious clauses remotely resembling the words “religious liberty” or “religious freedom.” Of course there are the words “free exercise” of religion, but according to Founding Father Thomas Jefferson the religious clauses simply mean the government cannot establish a religion or interfere with a person’s right to worship as they please without government interference.

Jefferson wrote as much to Danbury Baptists where he used the three words evangelicals and Catholics hate more than any other regarding the true intent of the religious clauses in the First Amendment – “wall of separation.”

Those three words mean the government cannot establish or interfere with any religion any more than a religion can interfere with the operation of the government of the United States or flout the laws of the land.. Evangelicals and their Republican facilitators cannot comprehend that simple premise because acquiescing to that basis means losing power to dominate other Americans the “faithful” don’t like.

It is apparent that the Founders did not intend for the religious clauses to be used as justification to disregard any law, or the Constitution, any more than they included it in the First Amendment to be used as a weapon. But that is precisely what the rash of “Religious Freedom Restoration Acts (RFRA) being implemented in Republican controlled states are doing. It is particularly egregious because they claim to be “restoring” a kind of religious freedom that never existed in America or the law of the land, the United States Constitution.

These RFRA statutes, or Christofascist laws, are not just solely targeting the LGBTQ community that evangelicals claim impede their ability to freely exercise their religion. They impact anyone the faithful claims is violating their religious liberty. Such as a couple living together without being married, a single pregnant woman, a woman seeking birth control, a gay couple seeking to buy or rent a home, or a gay person seeking emergency medical care. Under this new religious liberty law anyone can be openly denied assistance based on religious liberty.

Further, if a religious person disagrees with a state or federal law, they can challenge the validity of the law on religious grounds and the government must provide a compelling reason for interfering with the person’s religious liberty.

This latest religious liberty abomination follows on the heels of a Supreme Court ruling providing religious liberty claimants exemptions to any law or regulation enjoyed by a public official or organization.

None of these alleged “religious freedom” laws have anything to do with protecting an American citizen’s right to worship as they see fit. They are about creating a theocracy for the religious right’s Dominionist takeover as well as ridding the constitutional protections of people who refuse to succumb to a vile bunch of religious right malcontents, and Republicans and religious conservatives on the Supreme Court and doing the dirty work.

It is an atrocity that the Founding Fathers sought to prevent this kind of Christofascist takeover from ever happening. It is particularly distressful that the majority of Americans have no taste for any religion dominating their lives, or flouting the laws of the land under a twisted interpretation of religious liberty – a term that is not in the U.S. Constitution.