Trump and Gorsuch Have The Right Wing Thinking Big. REALLY Big

By Peter Montgomery, The Christian Left, rightwingwatch.org, June 29, 2017

Intro – Excerpt:

TCL: This is some really scary stuff. Look how much money The “Christian” Right has. Look at the size of their outreach…. Faith and Freedom’s founder, political operative Ralph Reed, was happy to reel off numbers that he said represented the group’s outreach: 1.2 million doors knocked, 10 million phone calls, 22 million pieces of mail, 30 million voter guides….The entire Trump presidency has been pretty much a non-stop horror show for progressive Americans, but the month of June made it clear that if you are worried about President Trump and the Republican Congress rolling back advances made during the Obama administration, you aren’t worried nearly enough. Right-wing strategists seeking to undo what they see as federal overreach are looking back as far as the New Deal, and some even further, to the Progressive era at the turn of the 20th Century. With Neil Gorsuch on the Supreme Court and hundreds of Gorsuch-like judicial nominations in the pipeline, they’re making big plans…. the Faith and Freedom Coalition’s “Road to Majority” conference brought Religious Right activists to Washington, D.C. The atmosphere was triumphalist… Religious Right leaders had hitched the movement’s wagon to the Trump train, and they had already begun reaping the rewards… He said he’d give them the Supreme Court of their dreams and he pledged to make them more politically powerful by doing away with restrictions on churches’ political activities. He won their trust by making one of their own, Mike Pence, his running mate. Religious Right leaders pulled out all the stops to help Trump rack up a massive margin of victory among white evangelicals.…So much for perennial predictions of the Religious Right’s political demise….Religious Right leaders have a half-century long grudge against the Supreme Court over rulings on church-state separation, the right to privacy, legal equality for LGBT Americans, and more. Religious Right leaders were thrilled when Trump nominated Neil Gorsuch. They rallied support for his nomination and celebrated when he was confirmed. They made it clear that they are counting on him to undermine the separation between church and state. National Organization for Marriage President Brian Brown saw in him the first step toward overturning the Supreme Court’s 2015 marriage equality ruling. Anti-abortion activists are dreaming of the day that Roe v. Wade will be overturned.But today’s conservative evangelicals are interested in far more than abolishing legal abortion and reversing civil rights gains for LGBTQ Americans. Much of the Religious Right is also fully committed to the Tea Party’s radically restrictive view of the proper role of the federal government. At Road to Majority, Trump adviser Steven Moore said the government should get out of education and health care. That stance draws on both a right-wing ideological view of the Constitution and a Christian Reconstructionist worldview that God did not grant government the authority to be involved in education or the alleviation of poverty, jobs that they believe He assigned to the church and family…. “We are in a war for the future of this Republic.” [Sen. David Perdue of Georgia] cited the New Deal and the Great Society as consequences of periods with Democratic political dominance. “The great progressive experiment of the last 100 years, with bigger and bigger government, has failed, period.”

A primary vehicle for reversing the “great progressive experiment” will be by packing the federal courts with judges committed to a far-right view of the Constitution and laws. Gorsuch was part of Trump’s list of potential justices pre-approved by the Heritage Foundation and the Federalist Society, which has been working for decades to achieve right-wing ideological dominance in the federal judiciary….Suares, who said that McConnell has “a laser-like focus on judges,” echoed Teller, saying another Supreme Court nominee could “fundamentally change the country.” What kind of change? She cited government programs that Democrats had passed when they had wide congressional majorities, including the New Deal and Great Society. Said Suares, “we now have to undo so much.” Suares said that, along with lifting the economy, a major goal for Republicans is making sure that legislation is geared to “shifting the culture” toward a more limited role for government… Legislation has its ups and downs, she said, but “with these lifetime appointments, we can really change the country in a short period of time.”… there are 120 positions open on the courts “because of the, uh, deliberation of the Senate” during the Obama administration. … “we are, one piece at a time, incrementally, slowly but very surely, restoring freedom in America.” McConnell himself said that he was looking forward to Trump nominating Gorsuch-like judges for every judicial opening, giving him an impact “far beyond his time.”… Gorsuch ….signaling a willingness to further dismantle regulations on money in politics, undermine church-state separation, and reverse gains on LGBT equality. Right-wing activists celebrated Gorsuch’s end-of-term contributions as a harbinger of things to come…. They had given their supporters dozens of religious rationales for supporting Trump, declaring him anointed by God to save America by destroying political correctness and bulldozing the Washington establishment….McCarthy said of Trump’s election, “I think that was God’s hand.”… God had given Americans “an opportunity to have a re-founding of our nation” and return it to “those ideas of our founding fathers, those principles, those things that our founders were clear were biblical mandates.” … the real fight ahead against the enemy, which he defined as “an ideology that is destructive not only to our ideas but to mankind altogether.”…. Freedom Caucus is most closely identified with hostility to big government, demonstrated the extent to which the Tea Party and Religious Right have always been overlapping movements…Meadows also echoed Religious Right leaders’ claims about religious persecution in America, … urged attendees to pray for President Trump, who he said “is trying to do what he can do for the unborn and for marriage” and “Judeo-Christian values.” Meadows said “the option of failure is not possible” because “our God still reigns over the affairs of nations.”

Full text

Trump and Gorsuch Have The Right Wing Thinking Big. REALLY Big By Peter Montgomery, The Christian Left, rightwingwatch.org, June 29, 2017

The entire Trump presidency has been pretty much a non-stop horror show for progressive Americans, but the month of June made it clear that if you are worried about President Trump and the Republican Congress rolling back advances made during the Obama administration, you aren’t worried nearly enough. Right-wing strategists seeking to undo what they see as federal overreach are looking back as far as the New Deal, and some even further, to the Progressive era at the turn of the 20th Century. With Neil Gorsuch on the Supreme Court and hundreds of Gorsuch-like judicial nominations in the pipeline, they’re making big plans.

Earlier in the month, the Faith and Freedom Coalition’s “Road to Majority” conference brought Religious Right activists to Washington, D.C. The atmosphere was triumphalist, almost giddy, in sharp contrast to previous years’ complaints about Barack Obama and dire warnings about a potential Hillary Clinton presidency. Religious Right leaders had hitched the movement’s wagon to the Trump train, and they had already begun reaping the rewards.

Candidate Trump had overcome conservative Christians’ qualms about his character with a set of too-good-to-resist promises. He said he’d give them the Supreme Court of their dreams and he pledged to make them more politically powerful by doing away with restrictions on churches’ political activities. He won their trust by making one of their own, Mike Pence, his running mate. Religious Right leaders pulled out all the stops to help Trump rack up a massive margin of victory among white evangelicals.

Faith and Freedom’s founder, political operative Ralph Reed, was happy to reel off numbers that he said represented the group’s outreach: 1.2 million doors knocked, 10 million phone calls, 22 million pieces of mail, 30 million voter guides.

Republican leaders’ gratitude was evidenced by their extraordinary participation at Road to Majority. President Donald Trump, Vice President Mike Pence, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, and House Freedom Caucus chairman Mark Meadows all spoke at some point during the three-day event, along with other right-wing luminaries like Sen. Ted Cruz and Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton. So much for perennial predictions of the Religious Right’s political demise.

Trump spoke at the event’s opening luncheon, where Reed declared, “We love him because he is our friend.” Trump in turn told the conservative Christian activists, “You didn’t let me down and I will never, ever let you down, you know that.” And, offering a subtle olive branch toward activists who were disappointed that last month’s executive order on religious liberty did not include sweeping exemptions for anti-LGBT discrimination in the name of religion, Trump assured them, “Believe me, we’re not finished yet.”

A number of Trump actions won loud cheers, including his withdrawing the U.S. from the Paris climate accord and his sweeping ban on foreign aid funds going to groups that even support, much less provide, access to abortion. But by far the biggest prize for Trump’s right-wing supporters was the Supreme Court seat that McConnell kept vacant for a year by refusing to allow Senate consideration of Barack Obama’s nomination of the widely respected Merrick Garland. For that step alone, McConnell has entered the Religious Right’s pantheon of heroes.

Religious Right leaders have a half-century long grudge against the Supreme Court over rulings on church-state separation, the right to privacy, legal equality for LGBT Americans, and more. Religious Right leaders were thrilled when Trump nominated Neil Gorsuch. They rallied support for his nomination and celebrated when he was confirmed. They made it clear that they are counting on him to undermine the separation between church and state. National Organization for Marriage President Brian Brown saw in him the first step toward overturning the Supreme Court’s 2015 marriage equality ruling. Anti-abortion activists are dreaming of the day that Roe v. Wade will be overturned.

But today’s conservative evangelicals are interested in far more than abolishing legal abortion and reversing civil rights gains for LGBTQ Americans. Much of the Religious Right is also fully committed to the Tea Party’s radically restrictive view of the proper role of the federal government. At Road to Majority, Trump adviser Steven Moore said the government should get out of education and health care. That stance draws on both a right-wing ideological view of the Constitution and a Christian Reconstructionist worldview that God did not grant government the authority to be involved in education or the alleviation of poverty, jobs that they believe He assigned to the church and family.

When Cruz addressed the gathering, he drew cheers with a challenge to his fellow Republicans: “We have a Republican majority in the House. We have a Republican majority in the Senate. We have a Republican in the White House. How about we act like it?”

Sen. David Perdue of Georgia gave one hint about what Cruz might mean, declaring, “We are in a war for the future of this Republic.” Perdue cited the New Deal and the Great Society as consequences of periods with Democratic political dominance. “The great progressive experiment of the last 100 years, with bigger and bigger government, has failed, period.”

A primary vehicle for reversing the “great progressive experiment” will be by packing the federal courts with judges committed to a far-right view of the Constitution and laws. Gorsuch was part of Trump’s list of potential justices pre-approved by the Heritage Foundation and the Federalist Society, which has been working for decades to achieve right-wing ideological dominance in the federal judiciary. In 2001, during the first 100 days of the George W. Bush administration, the Federalist Society held a forum on “Rolling Back the New Deal.” While the Obama administration interrupted that effort, a Trump administration and a Republican congressional majority could put it back on track.

This year’s Road to Majority featured a session with a group of GOP staffers from the White House and Congress:  Paul Teller, a special assistant to the president for legislative affairs and liaison to conservative members of Congress and movement groups; Erica Suares, a policy adviser to McConnell; and Will Dunham, policy director for McCarthy.

Teller has clearly adopted his boss’s hyperbolic style, describing Trump’s first few months as “fantastic,” with “great success” on healthcare and a “huge, huge, huge victory” with the Gorsuch confirmation. He said that getting Gorsuch on the Supreme Court is “something that is really going to change America.” Another Supreme Court nominee, he said, would let Trump create “epic, titanic shifts.”

Suares, who said that McConnell has “a laser-like focus on judges,” echoed Teller, saying another Supreme Court nominee could “fundamentally change the country.” What kind of change? She cited government programs that Democrats had passed when they had wide congressional majorities, including the New Deal and Great Society. Said Suares, “we now have to undo so much.”

Suares said that, along with lifting the economy, a major goal for Republicans is making sure that legislation is geared to “shifting the culture” toward a more limited role for government. Suares celebrated the “100-plus” vacancies on the federal courts, acknowledging “a lot of that is because of what we did last year and the year before” with “slow-walking” Obama nominees. Legislation has its ups and downs, she said, but “with these lifetime appointments, we can really change the country in a short period of time.”

Faith and Freedom Coalition Executive Director Tim Head picked up on that point, saying that there are 120 positions open on the courts “because of the, uh, deliberation of the Senate” during the Obama administration. He said that during an eight-year period, typically about 400 federal judges would be replaced; adding that number to the current vacancies could mean 525 new judges in a two-term Republican administration, something he called “extraordinary.”

Dunham, who formerly worked at the Heritage Foundation and the Republican Study Committee, agreed that for conservative activists there is “pent-up frustration” with eight years of Obama, “and even further back, all the way back to the New Deal.” Said Dunham, “we are, one piece at a time, incrementally, slowly but very surely, restoring freedom in America.”

McConnell himself said that he was looking forward to Trump nominating Gorsuch-like judges for every judicial opening, giving him an impact “far beyond his time.”

Not long after Road to Majority, Gorsuch gave Religious Right leaders evidence that he will indeed be the far-right justice they have longed for. He joins Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito at the far-right end of the bench, signaling a willingness to further dismantle regulations on money in politics, undermine church-state separation, and reverse gains on LGBT equality. Right-wing activists celebrated Gorsuch’s end-of-term contributions as a harbinger of things to come.

One other point worth noting: Religious Right leaders have been telling their supporters—and Trump himself—that he is on a divine mission. Religious Right leaders had warned that the election of Hillary Clinton would mean an end to religious freedom in America. They had given their supporters dozens of religious rationales for supporting Trump, declaring him anointed by God to save America by destroying political correctness and bulldozing the Washington establishment. During a Road to Majority session on Capitol Hill, McCarthy said of Trump’s election, “I think that was God’s hand.”

At Road to Majority, author Eric Metaxas was one of those portraying Trump’s election as a sign that God has given America one more chance to stave off His judgment, saying, “the governor of the universe has given us a reprieve in this election but we now need to stand and fight.” Rep. Barry Loudermilk (R-Ga.) told Road to Majority activists that he is “genuinely excited about what God is doing in America right now.” He said God had given Americans “an opportunity to have a re-founding of our nation” and return it to “those ideas of our founding fathers, those principles, those things that our founders were clear were biblical mandates.” Loudermilk said Election Day was like the landing at Normandy, with the real fight ahead against the enemy, which he defined as “an ideology that is destructive not only to our ideas but to mankind altogether.”

During a Road to Majority session on Capitol Hill, Meadows, whose Freedom Caucus is most closely identified with hostility to big government, demonstrated the extent to which the Tea Party and Religious Right have always been overlapping movements.  Meadows told Faith and Freedom participants that he was their “brother in the Lord” and that “we have work to do to take this city and return it to its rightful place to honor God and faith.”

Meadows also echoed Religious Right leaders’ claims about religious persecution in America, saying “there is an attack that is going on.” It’s OK, said Meadows, “to be of a faith as long as it’s not a Christian faith, in this city.” There is an effort, he said, “to silence the pulpits and the pews across this country.” Meadows urged attendees to pray for President Trump, who he said “is trying to do what he can do for the unborn and for marriage” and “Judeo-Christian values.” Meadows said “the option of failure is not possible” because “our God still reigns over the affairs of nations.”

 

 

It Can’t Happen Here?

New Novel Explores Imposition Of A ‘Christian Nation’ On America

Americans United, September 2013

Fred Rich is an attorney in New York who has just published his first novel, Christian Nation. In this intriguing “what if,” Rich presents an alter­native version of recent U.S. history: It’s an America where the McCain/­Palin ticket wins the 2008 election, and McCain’s death shortly thereafter leads to a Palin presidency and a slide toward theocracy.

            Rich discussed the book with Church & State recently.

Q. You’re a successful lawyer who specializes in project financing. This is your first novel. What possessed you to write this book?

A. John McCain’s selection of Sarah Palin shocked me. When she started insisting that America is a “Christian Nation” where all laws are and should be based on “God’s law” and the Bible, I started to do some research about what she meant. It was then that I found out about the breadth and depth of Christian nationalism, what the movement really wants and how profoundly they have influenced American politics. I felt I needed to do something and decided to try to tell the story in a different way.

Q. You obviously know a lot about Religious Right groups and how they operate. What non-fiction sources did you use to educate yourself while writing Christian Nation?

A. My primary sources were American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America and Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle both by Chris Hedges; Kingdom Coming: The Rise of Christian Nationalism by Michelle Goldberg; The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power by Jeff Sharlet; American Theocracy by Kevin Philips and Republican Gomorrah by Max Blumenthal. In promoting my novel, I have done everything possible to direct people to these important books.

Q. Talk about the title of your book. Here at Americans United, we hear all the time that America was founded to be a “Christian nation.” Why isn’t it?

A. Political pundits have started to use the term “dog-whistle politics” to refer to the use of language that is assumed by the majority to mean one thing, but is only truly “heard” or correctly understood by a particular group. “Christian Nation” is one of those terms. When Palin, U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann, Newt Gingrich, Mike Huckabee, Rick Perry and others say that the U.S. is a “Christian nation,” most Americans think that simply means that over its history the majority of Americans have been Christian, and thus that Christianity has given our country many of its traditions and influenced its culture – all of which is, of course, true.  But that’s not what it means at all, or what is understood by the broad evangelical community. To them, it means the realization of America’s destiny to be a shining “city upon a hill,” a godly Kingdom in which God’s law as revealed in the Bible remains the source of all law.

It is a country in which politicians like Palin talk to God and tell the rest of us what He wants. To certain extremists, it also means a country in which Christians – evangelicals in particular – have “dominion” over all institutions of civic and political life, which they believe is a predicate to the second coming of Christ.

Q. Two obvious literary antece­dents to your book seem to be Sinclair Lewis’ It Can’t Happen Here and Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale. Were there other fictional works that inspired you?

A. Those were the main ones but also Philip Roth’s The Plot Against America, where he uses a counterfactual – Charles Lindbergh becoming president in 1940 instead of Franklin Roosevelt – to animate his alternate history.  I suppose the book is most like Lewis’ book, since it is written contemporaneously with the problem and constitutes a plea to “not let it happen here.” My book differs from Margaret Atwood’s haunting book in that it outlines a practical path to the theocratic future, as opposed to just being set in a strange and unlikely future and leaving you to wonder how we got from here to there.

Q. People probably tell you all of the time that while your book is entertaining, it’s too fantastic and the scenario outlined could never happen in America. How do you respond to that?

A. It’s interesting – only people who have not read the book tell me that. That’s the mental place where we all start – it’s where I started.  It’s where the characters in my book start. I don’t argue with that or tell readers they are wrong. Instead, chapter by chapter, incrementally, with the ebb and flow of politics – with an unlucky combination of bad decisions and bad luck – a scenario starts to unfold under which the broader group of the “Christian Right” (perhaps 70 or 80 million Am­er­icans) buys into the agenda of the fundamentalists, the legal protections against authoritarianism are ever so gradually eroded and before long we find ourselves in a bad place. Most people who read the book find it totally credible, not believing that it will happen but convinced that it could happen.

Q. Some political analysts believe that American society is changing and that the Religious Right is on the ropes. What are your thoughts on this?

A. Too many of us in the big cities and “blue states” indulge in the wishful thought that the 2012 elections signal at long last the ebb tide of Christian fundamentalism in American politics. I certainly hope so. But that’s not what it looks like in much of the country. In what Garry Wills has called the “great bait and switch,” Tea Party politicians elected to tame deficits have instead unleashed a tsunami of conservative social legislation in the state legislatures, including by his count – in the first quarter of 2012 alone – 944 separate bills and amendments dealing with abortion and contraception. And most disturbingly, the Southern Poverty Law Center reports what they called a “stunning” rise in extreme right hate groups and militias.

Q. Days before the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on marriage equality, several prominent Religious Right leaders issued a statement asserting that any ruling furthering same-sex marriage would be illegitimate and implied that they would strongly resist it. How far do you think these groups might go?

A. The “Freedom Federation,” a broad spectrum of about 200 groups, wrote, in part, “While there are many things we can endure, redefining marriage is so fundamental to the natural order and the true common good that this is the line we must draw and one we cannot and will not cross.”  And what does not crossing that line involve?  They explained:  “[I]f the government redefines marriage to grant a legal equivalency to same-sex couples, that same government will then enforce such an action with the police power of the State. This will bring about an inevitable collision with religious freedom and conscience rights. We cannot and will not allow this to occur on our watch.”

The Christian right is telling us that gay marriage and its “enforcement” by the state is an act that contravenes their own “religious freedom and conscience rights.”  When a gay couple gets married and lives in happy monogamy for the rest of their days, they argue, this constitutes a constitutionally and morally unacceptable infringement of the “religious freedom and conscience rights” of fundamentalist Christians, and thus something against which we can expect them to struggle – righteously – until they are once again “free.”  How far do I think they will go if they succeed in redefining the issue as an infringement of their own rights of religious freedom? All the way.

Q. Have you had any reaction from followers of the Religious Right?

A. Putting aside internet rants and insults, there have been a few comments challenging the idea that the evangelical political movement’s goal is theocratic. I understand these. Many self-identified “evangelicals” and “born-again” Christians do not share the agenda of the fundamentalists. I acknowledge this. But one of the lessons of history is that fundamentalists pose the greatest threat to their co-religionists – moderate Christians may have the most to lose by not calling out fundamentalists as the fanatics they are. I have been really pleased that so many moderate Christian ministers and theologians have praised my book.

Q. What can Americans do to prevent the kind of scenario outlined in Christian Nation from happening?

A. First and foremost, take it seriously. Everything depends on that. No one will be motivated to vote, speak or act to stop Christian fundamentalism if he or she believes they are a bunch of cranks. Listen to what they say, consider the possibility that they mean it, think about how fanatical movements have seized power throughout human history, and accept that our democracy, which strong, is not invulnerable. You will have noted that the book’s web site, www.readchristiannation. ­com, has a page called “Take Action,” in which I urge readers to join AU and similar organizations and do something. I will be very disappointed if a reader finishes my book and is not motivated to act.

Q. Is there anything you would like to add?

A. Only to thank everyone at AU for being among the first to understand this problem, for being relentless in their defense of separation of church and state and for doing what they do every day.

https://www.au.org/church-state/september-2013-church-state/featured/it-cant-happen-here

“Frederic C. Rich’s book, Christian Nation: A Novel  http://www.readchristiannation.com/novel/

America Does Not Have a Religious Identity

The Constitution of Religious Freedom: God, Politics, and the First Amendment by Dennis J. Goldford, Baylor University Press , 2013 – Dennis J. Goldford is professor of politics at Drake University.

What inspired you to write The Constitution of Religious Freedom?

At a practical level, I have been fascinated by the rise of Christian conservatism, and particularly the claim of what some call Christian nationalism, that America is a Christian nation, as a major factor in American politics. At a theoretical level, I have always thought that, at its broadest, politics is the process by which we negotiate our differences. In particular, liberal democracy—a political order in which majorities rule but not over everything—is an institutionalized agreement to disagree. My concern is the question: what happens, and what do we do, if there are some things about which we cannot agree to disagree? Prominent on that list is religion.

What’s the most important take-home message for readers?

The central argument of the book is that the Constitution does not protect religion—it protects religious freedom. The latter is very different from the former, and understanding the distinction enables us to understand the political meaning of the religion clauses of the Constitution. Specifically, I argue that the meaning of the religion clauses is that the locus of religious identity is the individual, not the nation; that the American political order does not have a religious identity of its own, but, rather, is a political order that allows and encourages individuals and groups of their choosing to have their own religious identity without having one of its own.

Is there anything you had to leave out?

There is nothing I had to leave out. Baylor University Press was nothing but supportive of my scholarship. My goal was to explore what I think is problematic about the conventional discussion of the religion clauses of the Constitution: debates about “separation of church and state” or “neutrality” have come to obscure more than they reveal. The central question underlying an understanding of the political meaning of the religion clauses, as noted above, is whether the locus of religious identity is the individual or the nation. This is what the literature seems to miss.

What are some of the biggest misconceptions about your topic?

When I ask an audience of students or others whether America is a Christian nation, they usually reply by saying either that the Founders were themselves Christian or that the Founders intended that the nation be Christian. My argument is that the question here is not an historical one, but a theoretical one, the one noted in point 2 above.

Did you have a specific audience in mind when writing?

While a major purpose of the book is to make a significant contribution to an ongoing scholarly literature, I always strive to write for what I call the intelligent but uninformed reader who has no prior knowledge of the subject matter. That pushes me to be as clear, careful, and precise as possible in laying out the argument I am trying to make. We always have a reader or an audience in mind when we write, and thinking in terms of the intelligent but uninformed reader instead of the specialist forces me to avoid the hidden and uncontested assumptions that can weaken even the best scholarly work. Nevertheless, I did write The Constitution of Religious Freedom to make a scholarly argument for a scholarly audience and thus did include a substantial footnote apparatus.

Are you hoping to just inform readers? Entertain them? Piss them off?

As my response to the next question indicates, I am certainly trying to provoke readers, but to do so in the sense of challenging their unexamined assumptions and encouraging them either to agree with me or to push me to reformulate my argument to address significant objections to it. At the same time, I am indeed attempting to advance a meaningful, scholarly argument about what having our Constitution means to the politics of religious freedom.

What alternative title would you give the book?

My original title was deliberately provocative: One Nation under Whose God? Law, Politics, and Religion in America. The experienced people at Baylor University Press said, however, that this title might suggest the mistaken perception that the book was more of a sociological work than the theoretical work it actually is. Deferring to their expertise, I chose the main title, The Constitution of Religious Freedom, with the deliberate double meaning of 1) the Constitution as a charter of religious freedom, and 2) the act of constituting religious freedom, and Baylor came up with the clever subtitle, God, Politics, and the First Amendment. I was able to give my concluding chapter the title, “One Nation under Whose God?”

How do you feel about the cover?

I’m actually quite happy with it. Beyond being aesthetically attractive, it makes a substantive point by nesting the title, my subject matter, in the text of the Constitution.

Is there a book out there you wish you had written? Which one? Why?

That’s an interesting and difficult question. At the risk of giving an erroneous impression, I might say that I wrote the books I’ve written for a very selfish reason—in each case there was an issue or topic that I wanted to clarify for myself and find out what I really thought about it. In that sense, to borrow the old saying, I write to find out what I think. I enjoy the way an argument seems to take on a life of its own, such that the process of exploring one idea leads me to discover views or positions I didn’t know beforehand that I had. That said, I have always taught in teaching-intensive academic settings, and I regret never having had the chance to turn my dissertation on Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit into a book and to make my definitive statement on the Hegel-Marx relationship. My scholarly interests simply changed along the way.

What’s your next book?

I have been interested in the constitutional claims of the Tea Party movement, whose supporters always express reverence for the Constitution and who claim to be “constitutional conservatives.” My early explorations have led me to believe that Tea Party constitutionalism, for all its reverence for the Constitution, is actually the preferred constitutional theory of the Anti-Federalist opponents of the Constitution rather than the Federalist supporters. I am still in the process of deciding how I want and need to pursue this argument.

http://www.religiondispatches.org/books/rd10q/7108/america_does_not_have_a_religious_identity

6 Biggest Religious Right Threats to America

Church & State Magazine / By Simon Brown [1] January 3, 2013

Excerpt

1. Religious School Voucher Subsidies

2. Creationism In Science Classes

3. Prayer And Proselytizing In Public Schools

4. ‘Conscience’ Exemptions

5. State ‘Prayer’ Caucuses

6. Anti-Shariah Laws

 

Full text

Multiple courts have said “no” to states that want public schools to teach “intelligent design” creationism in science classes, but that doesn’t faze Montana State Rep. Clayton Fiscus (R-Billings).

Fiscus, a Tea Party favorite whose professional background is in real estate, asked the legislative services staff of the Montana House of Representatives in November to come up with a bill for the 2013 legislative session that would “require public schools to teach intelligent design along with evolution.”

Lawmakers like Fiscus often push their agenda in defiance of established constitutional law, and sometimes hope they can create a case to convince the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn previous decisions that contradict their personal beliefs. Americans Uni­ted combated a wide array of state-level leg­islative schemes in 2012 that sought to tear down the critical safeguards that keep church and state separate.

With most state legislatures starting their annual sessions this month, here is a look at some of the top threats to church-state separation expected in 2013, including school voucher bills, creationism ploys, “conscience” exemptions, anti-shar­iah legislation and so-called “religious freedom” and “prayer” caucuses.

1. Religious School Voucher Subsidies

Americans United anticipates proposals that benefit religious and other private schools to surface in many states this year, with major pushes expected in New Jersey, Wisconsin, Texas and Tennessee.

In New Jersey, a voucher scheme is likely in the works thanks to the persistence of Gov. Chris Christie (R). Christie tried to implement a program in 2012, with a proposal that would have cost the state $825 million. It would have provided 40,000 eligible students with vouchers –$8,000 for elementary school and $11,000 for high school – the NewarkStar-Ledger reported.

Christie said in June of 2012 that the bill was dead for that year, but vowed “to continue to push for it,” the Teaneck Patch reported.

In Wisconsin, Gov. Scott Walker (R) is expected to seek the expansion of an existing voucher subsidy program. He said in November that his agenda for the coming year includes doing more to push vouchers, though he didn’t go into specifics, the MilwaukeeJournal Sentinel reported.

Wisconsin Senate Minority Leader Chris Larson (D-Milwaukee) was quick to criticize Walker’s mission to “hyper scrutinize” public schools while giving more taxpayer money to private schools that are “unaccountable”  and have been shown in studies to produce students who perform no better than their public school peers, the Wisconsin State Journal said.

In Texas, meanwhile, a serious showdown is expected over private school vouchers, with sharp divisions even among members of the state GOP. State Sen. Dan Patrick (R-Houston), founder of his state’s Tea Party Caucus and chair of the Senate Education Committee, held a one-sided hearing in August featuring a parade of “school choice” advocates.

The Austin American-Statesman noted that Texas cut $5.4 billion from public schools in the last legislative session. Patrick seems to subscribe to a philosophy of siphoning even more money away from those schools and then blaming them for their supposed failures so he can turn around and fund private schools.

“No student should be locked into a poor performing school because that happens to be where they live,” he told the American-Statesman. “I’m a big supporter of public education, and we have a lot of schools that are doing a great job, but we must also recognize the truth that we have a lot of schools that are not performing at the level that they need to be.”

Patrick and Lt. Gov. David Dew­hurst (R) were expected at press time to announce their voucher legislation within a few weeks, but it seems they may not get the warmest reception for the plan – even from some fellow Republicans.

The American-Statesman reported in August that Rep. Diane Patrick (R-Arlington) said she is gearing up for a fight over vouchers. Texas, she insisted, should be focused on improving aspects of the public school system, such as bolstering magnet and charter schools, rather than dumping money into private schools.

“We’re on code red,” Diane Patrick said.

A November op-ed in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram penned by education experts also slammed vouchers.

“Many private schools are par­ochial, and the religious orientation may not be appropriate for some families, also raising the question of separation of church and state,” wrote Jamie Wilson, school superintendent of the Denton school district; Steven Waddell, superintendent in Lewis­ville, and Jerry R. Thomas, dean of the University of North Texas’ College of Education.

In Tennessee, a major drive for vouchers is expected. In 2012, Gov. Bill Haslam (R) ducked a political battle by setting up a task force charged with examining vouchers and making recommendations for the 2013 legislative session.

That task force offered its suggestions in November, calling for discussion about accountability, subsidy amounts and which private schools and students should be eligible.

Haslam asked the nine-member group only to study how Tennessee might use tax dollars to allow some public school students to attend private schools. Critics noted that study group members turned to voucher advocates for advice, which undermined the report’s usefulness.

“The task force seemed to rely on reports that made representations about the success of voucher programs in other areas, but seems to wholly ignore the steadily increasing avalanche of empirical evidence that goes the other way,” Americans Uni­ted State Legislative Counsel Aman­da Rolat said in a press statement.

Rolat told Church & State that she anticipates an uphill battle on this issue in Tennessee, which is why Americans United has reached out to friendly state legislators to get a better understanding of how AU can work with them.

Advocacy groups have worked hard to build support for vouchers.  StudentsFirst, the Memphis Commercial Appeal says, has given thousands of dollars to candidates in legislative campaigns in the last two years. The newspaper said that group donated $427,000 through its Tennessee PAC between January and November 2012 alone.

When it comes to pro-voucher spending nationwide, however, few can match the wealthy and powerful Betsy DeVos. DeVos, former chair of the Michigan Republican Party and wife of Amway fortune heir Dick DeVos, has poured millions into voucher advocacy.

Her American Federation for Children claims that hundreds of “educational choice” lawmakers were elected to state legislatures in 2012, many of whom were endorsed and funded by the group. This ensures that DeVos’ influence will not wane anytime soon, and she can be expected to continue funding voucher campaigns in many states.

2. Creationism In Science Classes

Every year, legislators attempt to introduce religion into public school science classes. In addition to Fiscus’ Montana creationism crusade mentioned above, an Indiana lawmaker is leading a similar effort.

Sen. Dennis Kruse (R-Auburn) proposed a bill last year that would have mandated the teaching of “creation science” alongside evolution in public schools. That measure passed the Senate but died in the House after some lawmakers realized that it was blatantly unconstitutional and would have led to lawsuits.

Kruse is back with a new proposal, and this time he claims his goal is to promote critical inquiry in the classroom.

“If a student thinks something isn’t true, then they can question the teacher and the teacher would have to come up with some kind of research to support that what they are teaching is true or not true,” Kruse told the Indianapolis Star.

But Micah Clark, executive director of American Family Association of Indiana, was a little more forthcoming about the bill’s true intent. He told the Star that he sees the proposal as a form of protection for teachers who want to discuss creationism and intelligent design.

Kruse is reportedly working on the measure with the Discovery Institute, a Seattle-based organization that advocates for creationist concepts in public schools. Josh Youngkin, a program officer for Discovery Institute, told the Associated Press that the law would stand up to legal scrutiny.

“The teacher would not be barred from saying: ‘Let’s look at both sides of the evidence and you guys can basically make a judgment,’ rather than just accepting passively or memorizing by rote these facts and stating back these arguments on a test which would eventually determine where you go to college,” Youngkin said.

Advocates for sound science and church-state separation, however, rejected the need for a supposedly “balanced” presentation of the origins of life on Earth. Religion, they said, should not be introduced into the biology classroom under the guise of science.

And public school advocates said students and teachers already have vibrant discussions.

“If Senator Kruse had education experience he would know that students across the country are already [questioning information] every day in the public school classroom,” Sen. Tim Skinner (D-Terre Haute), a longtime public school teacher, told Indiana Public Media. “[Students] question everything, and I think a teacher who’s actually doing their job will answer those questions.”

 

3. Prayer And Proselytizing In Public Schools

Legislators regularly come up with new schemes to allow coercive prayer and proselytizing in public schools, and Americans United staffers expect this year to be no exception.

In Virginia, a proposal was filed just ahead of the 2013 legislative session that would create a state constitutional amendment to “secure further the people’s freedom of speech and right to acknowledge God” on public property and presumably in public schools.

This could lead to numerous lawsuits if it passes. Advocates of church-state separation said it is somewhat similar to Missouri’s deceptive “right to pray” amendment, a problematic constitutional provision approved by the voters last year. It opens the door for coercive prayer and proselytizing in public schools, allows students to skip homework if it offends their religious beliefs and infringes on the religious liberty rights of prisoners.

4. ‘Conscience’ Exemptions

The news media has reported widely on the campaign by the Cath­olic bishops and the Religious Right to win “conscience” exemptions from provisions of the Obama health care reform, but this issue has also filtered down to the state level. Sectarian lobbies want to exempt religious institutions and individuals from a broad range of laws that ensure civil rights and civil liberties.

A leading proponent of this type of legislation is the Ethics and Public Policy Center (EPPC), a Washington, D.C., group that advocates public policy based on the “Judeo-Christian moral tradition.”

The EPPC is trying to create “religious freedom” caucuses in all 50 state legislatures by the end of 2013. As of press time, it had already established them in nine states – Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Idaho, Kansas, Missouri, New Hampshire, Oklahoma and Tennessee. Although the effort claims to be bipartisan, that’s hardly the case in Kansas, where the caucus consists of 26 Republicans and one Democrat.

Critics say the campaign seeks to give conservative religious groups and individuals preferential treatment under the guise of “religious freedom.” They note that Brian W. Walsh, head of the EPPC’s American Religious Freedom Program, is a graduate of TV preacher Pat Robertson’s Regent University School of Law.

The National Catholic Register reported that the “religious freedom” caucuses comprised a total of 120 state lawmakers as of mid-October. Arizona Rep. Debbie Lesko (R-Glendale) was described as the group’s legislative “brain trust.” She authored a law that permits the state’s religiously affiliated employers to opt out of the new federal contraception requirement.

Americans United’s Legislative Department is very concerned that these conscience exemption measures will be overly broad and undercut the rights of other Americans.

AU has strategized in the past with the ACLU, Catholics for Choice, Planned Parenthood, Human Rights Campaign, National Council of Jewish Women and the Anti-Def­amation League on how best to defend church-state separation against this type of threat and will continue to work with such organizations in 2013.

 

5. State ‘Prayer’ Caucuses

A similar movement to the one orchestrated by the EPPC is under way thanks to the efforts of U.S. Rep. Randy Forbes (R-Va.).

Forbes, a Religious Right favorite, is head of the Congressional Prayer Caucus. Through the Congressional Prayer Caucus Foundation (CPCF), attempts are being made to establish “prayer caucuses” in every state legislature.

The CPCF website indicates that at least eight states currently have a prayer caucus – Maine, Oklahoma, North Carolina, Kentucky, Michigan, Virginia, Colorado and Mississippi. It says the goal of the organization is the “successful collaboration of prayer and action at the state level, [which] will accelerate the rate at which religious freedom is secured at the national level.”

That may not sound so sinister, but critics say it’s every bit as misleading as the EPPC “religious freedom” caucuses. The CPCF claims to encourage state lawmakers to “partner with churches and para-church organizations, and ultimately preserve faith in God as lifeblood of America.”

In fact, church-state separation supporters say the campaign intends to pervade government with religion.

The CPCF has shown its influence of late, having scored a major victory last year when the deceptive “religious freedom” amendment, officially known as Amendment 2, was added to the Missouri Constitution. It was authored by Rep. Mike McGhee (R-Odessa), who chairs the Missouri Prayer Caucus.

The CPCF backed McGhee’s proposal, calling it a necessity in a press statement and claiming that there are “anti-God groups bent on erasing God, prayer and Judeo-Christian influence from the public square.”

 

6. Anti-Shariah Laws

The U.S. Constitution already prohibits government enforcement of religious law, but right-wing groups are insisting that legislatures take the extra step of banning shariah – Islamic law.

As of press time, anti-shariah legislation had been pre-filed for the 2013 legislative sessions in Alabama and Florida. Texas has pre-filed a bill proposing a ballot measure to amend the state’s constitution to prohibit enforcement, consideration or application of any “religious or cultural law.”

An anti-shariah bill has also been sitting dormant in Michigan’s House Jud­iciary Committee for over a year, and some state lawmakers were pushing for a vote on that legislation at press time.

Critics say measures of this kind are proposed without a credible threat from Islam and seek to stigmatize a single religion and its adherents.

These bills have been on the rise of late. They have evolved slightly, thanks in part to a ruling by the U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in January 2012, which declared unconstitutional an Oklahoma ballot measure that sought specifically to ban shari­ah law.

As a result, more recent anti-shariah bills have been slightly subtler, forgoing specific language targeting shariah in favor of banning courts from applying “foreign law” generally. For example, the Michigan legislation would “limit the application and enforcement by a court, arbitrator, or administrative body of foreign laws that would impair con­st­itu­tional rights.”

“These laws are a solution in search of a problem and motivated by sheer animus toward a perceived Muslim threat,” said AU’s Rolat.

Will The Religious Right Succeed?

Americans United expects the Religious Right and the Catholic hierarchy to lobby state lawmakers heavily in 2013, and these sectarian pressure groups may find particular success this year thanks to a changing party lineup.

The New York Times reported recently that the office of governor and the majorities in both legislative houses will be controlled by one party in 37 states this year, the most in 60 years. Twenty-four states will have GOP control of the legislature and the governor’s office.

The Times noted that this is a marked change from just two years ago, when 30 states were split. The report speculated that more bills will be passed and fewer of those proposals will be moderate as a result of single-party control.

Americans United’s Lynn said that sort of environment plays right into the hands of the Religious Right.

“Those who oppose church-state separation thrive in extreme political environments,” he told Church & State. “The more extreme the makeup of legislatures becomes, the more likely it is that a bad bill will become law. We expect to have our hands full.”

http://www.alternet.org/print/belief/6-biggest-religious-right-threats-america

Is America Losing Its Religion?

The Guardian [1] / By Sarah Posner [2] October 10, 2012 |

Last weekend, hundreds of conservative churches participated [3] in “Pulpit Freedom Sunday”, during which pastors preached about electoral politics and sent recordings of their sermons to the Internal Revenue Service. It’s a provocation: these pastors and their legal counsel hope to challenge the rarely-enforced IRS rule prohibiting candidate endorsements by tax-exempt organizations, including houses of worship, and take it all the way to theUS supreme court.

A new survey from the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life [4], which confirms previously observed trends of Protestant decline, accompanied by a rise in religiously unaffiliated Americans, casts serious doubt on whether the self-styled church freedom warriors are fighting a politically popular battle. Among the survey’s findings, two thirds of Americans (66%) believe churches shouldn’t endorse candidates. And 54% say churches should stay out of political matters entirely. Even a majority (56%) of white evangelicals agreed that churches should not endorse candidates.

Would these data cause the churches clamoring for a legal war with the IRS to pack their bags and go home? Of course not. In fact, in spite of these trends away from organized religion [5] and away from the entanglement of organized religion in politics, I would expect these culture war battles to ramp up – at least for the time being.

The religious right hasn’t spent millions [6] building up legal advocacy groups, pressing for conservative judicial appointees [7], and training lawyers and politicians to thump the Bible in legislatures and the courts for nothing. They’ve built an infrastructure to fight their battles, even as they lose public opinion wars. For their most ardent supporters, losing in the court of public opinion only serves as a call to redouble their efforts, to fulfil their call to carry out God’s plan for America.

But a provocation for secularists might emerge from these data: can they match the organization and intensity of their political adversaries?

Looking at the Pew survey, one wonders how long the religious right can continue to use the same battle plan. Yet, the data shows they are clearly losing the public. Another survey last week from the Public Religion Research Institute showed that while Mitt Romney [8] has the support of 80% of younger white evangelical millennials [9] (aged 18 to 25), this is a small and diminishing constituency: white evangelicals comprise only 12.3% [9] of that age group. That’s less than half their proportion of the 50 to 64 population. The Pew survey showed that while 32% of Americans aged 50 to 64 are white evangelicals, only 13% of those aged 18 to 29 are.

As Protestants have declined, percentages of Catholics have remained steady. While they are far less homogeneous politically than evangelicals (the Pew poll found Catholics favor legal abortion 50% to 45%, and same-sex marriage 53% to 37%), the generational trend lines might explain why religious conservatives are intensifying evangelical-Catholic alliances around issues like contraception coverage and same-sex marriage. This is further evidence that, despite demographic shifts, they’re not giving up without a fight – instead, shifting their strategy to frame these concerns as ones of “religious freedom”. If they’re a minority, they hope to reap political benefits from arguing at least that they are a persecuted one.

The Pew survey also found there are now as many “nones” as there are white evangelicals – each makes up 19% of the US population. But the generational trends are traveling even more starkly in a non-theist direction: 32% of 18 to 29 year-olds are unaffiliated, and 42% of those describe themselves as atheist or agnostic. That’s over ten points higher than the 21% of 30- to 49-year-old “nones” who describe themselves that way, and more than twice the 15% of 50- to 64-year-old “nones” who do.

That has to worry Republicans [10]. White evangelicals are the most sizable segment of their base and the unaffiliated – in particular, the atheists and agnostics – are the most sizable part of the Democratic base. Still, Republicans maintain a party identification advantage among Christians as a whole (with the exception of black Protestants and all Catholics, which includes Latino Catholics). Because Democrats [11], overall, have a party identification advantage over the GOP (48% to 43%, according to Pew), will those numbers make each party intensify their efforts to make religious voters happy, or encourage them to present a less religious case for election?

With a tight presidential race, and each campaign trying to peel away as many persuadable voters in swing states as possible, appeals to religion – including from the Obama camp – are likely to continue, if only to targeted audiences. Oddly, 67% of all groups, including nearly a third of “nones”, agree it’s important for the president to have “strong religious beliefs”. At the same time, though, 43% of all groups said it makes them uncomfortable when politicians talk about how religious they are.

The numbers are important, telling and potentially transformative for our politics. Yet, questions remain: there’s nothing in the Pew survey on public attitudes about religious freedom, church-state separation or the secular nature of our government. These are the issues around which the “nones” can organize. The religious right, whose leaders maintain America is in the throes of a revival, has spent decades mythologizing a “Christian nation”, denigrating and undermining church-state separation, and questioning the very American-ness of secularists.

While this is just one survey, and the “Christian nation” advocates retain their intensity and organization, there’s evidence here that an opening exists for a new revival: a secularist one.

Source URL: http://www.alternet.org/belief/america-losing-its-religion

Links:
[1] http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/
[2] http://www.alternet.org/authors/sarah-posner-0
[3] http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/10/08/us-usa-tax-pulpit-idUSBRE89700E20121008
[4] http://www.pewforum.org/Unaffiliated/nones-on-the-rise.aspx
[5] http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/religion
[6] http://religion.blogs.cnn.com/2011/11/22/report-tracks-explosion-of-religious-lobbying-in-washington/?hpt=hp_t2
[7] http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/oct/08/republicans-judicial-activism-supreme-courts
[8] http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/mittromney
[9] http://www.religiondispatches.org/dispatches/sarahposner/6473/young_white_evangelicals_will_vote_romney,_poll_finds/
[10] http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/republicans
[11] http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/democrats
[12] http://www.alternet.org/tags/religion-0
[13] http://www.alternet.org/tags/religious-right
[14] http://www.alternet.org/%2Bnew_src%2B

Inside the Values Voter Summit

Religious Right, Allies Blast Church-State Separation,InviteFundamentalistChurchesTo Dive Into Partisan Politics

By Rob Boston, October 2012, blog.au.org/church-state

The Rev. Dan Fisher puts it right out there: Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and other Founding Fathers got it all wrong – there’s no such thing as separation of church and state.

“Friends, we’ve been lied to,” Fish­er, pastor ofTrinityBaptistChurchinYukon,Okla., said recently. “We’ve been sold a bill of goods of separation of church and state, which is nothing more than a lie, twisted out of a misused phrase out of a Thomas Jefferson letter in 1802. It’s all a lie!”

Fisher’s fact-challenged history lesson came during the Values Voter Summit, an annual gathering inWashington,D.C., sponsored by the Family Research Council (FRC) and other Religious Right groups. He was speaking at a breakout session titled “Debunking the Myth of Separation of Church and State: Why Pastors Must Engage in Politics.”

The session was organized by the Rev. Rick Scarborough, aTexaspastor who enjoyed a brief moment of notoriety in the 1990s as a protégé of Jerry Falwell.

Scarborough, who runs a small Religious Right outfit called VisionAm­erica, opened the session by scanning the room, looking for Americans Uni­ted Executive Director Barry W. Lynn.

“I keep waiting for my friend Barry Lynn of Americans United for Separation of Church and State to pop in,”Scarboroughjoshed. “He usually comments on what I have to say.”

Alas,Lynndidn’t attend this parti­cularSummitsession, so Scarborough and Fisher were unable to school the AU leader with their appeal for pastors to get involved in politics to leadAmericaout of its “crisis.”

For Fisher, political activity includes violating federal law by endorsing candidates from the pulpit. TheOklahomapastor has intervened in elections in the past and vowed to do it again.

Scarborougheven took some time to explain to attendees why it’s OK to vote for Mitt Romney, whose Mormon faith is considered a cult by many evangelical Christians.

“We’re not electing a pastor,” he remarked. “We’re electing someone to lead the nation.”

That statement was a bit curious coming as it did at this conference.Summitattendees clearly do expect Romney, if elected, to behave as a pastor and implement a series of laws based on fundamentalist Christianity.

TheSummitwas designed to outline the Religious Right’s political demands and rally the troops around Romney, which was done not by highlighting Romney’s accomplishments or goals but by heaping abuse on President Barack Obama. Obama – or rather the fundamentalist movement’s characterization of Obama – spent two days during theSummitas a Religious Right piñata.

For attendees, a highlight of the Sept. 14-15 confab was an address by Republican vice presidential candidate U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.). Also appearing were GOP governors Rob­ert McDonnell (Va.) and Jan Brew­er (Ariz.), House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.), U.S. Senate candidate from Texas Ted Cruz, U.S. Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) and a bevy of GOP House members.

Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli whom the crowd loves for, among other things, his harassment of abortion clinics, was on hand too.

Ryan, who spoke Friday morning, was a huge hit. He stood before the adoring crowd and launched into a fiery assault on Obama.

The president, Ryan said, lacks “moral clarity and firmness of purpose,” especially in foreign policy. He accused Obama of leading the nation down an economic blind alley and opined that thanks to Obama’s policies, “We are at risk of becoming a poor country.”

Romney did not attend the event in person – he sent a short video message – but Ryan, a conservative Rom­an Catholic beloved by fundamentalists for his strong stands for a ban on all abortions and opposition to marriage equality for same-sex couples, was a more-than-adequate surrogate.

During the 25-minute address, Ryan blasted the president as a failed leader and a proponent of big government who is a captive to the extreme left.

Ryan tossed the crowd red meat, calling for laws to protect “the most defenseless and helpless of human beings – the child waiting to be born.” He also blasted “unelected judges,” praised the Romneys’ marriage and accused Obama of being hostile to Catholic Charities, an organization he said “does more to serve the health of women and their babies” than any other.

Concluded Ryan, “We know what we’re up against. We know how desperate our opponents are to cling to power, but we’re ready…. Let’s get this done and elect Mitt Romney as the next president ofAmerica.”

There was nothing unusual about the partisan content of Ryan’s speech. In fact, its themes appeared again and again in the remarks blasting forth from a parade of speakers at the podium.

At times it seemed as if speakers were all relying on a central script: Speaker after speaker ridiculed Obama and portrayed the Democrats as a party afraid to even mention God in its platform. Obama was vilified as a weak leader who constantly apologizes forAmericaoverseas and who is eager to throwIsraelunder the bus and cozy up to Islamic terrorists.

The president was also accused of presiding over a wide-ranging “war on religion” – but to this crowd, his worst crime was getting health care reform passed. (The measure was never called anything but “Obamacare.”)

Numerous speakers openly called for Romney’s election, and several opined that this election is the most important one ever.

The FRC is a tax-exempt body, but it runs theSummitthrough FRC Action, a 501(c)(4) affiliate. This sleight of hand gives the FRC a little more leeway to be partisan, since (c)(4) organizations are allowed to endorse candidates. Several other groups that co-sponsor the event also do it through (c)(4) units, such as American Family Association Action.

But other sponsors are tax-exempt, likeLibertyUniversity, Liberty Counsel, the Heritage Foundation and American Values. (In previous years, these groups have claimed that they are only co-sponsoring the non-political portions of the event, but that would be impossible. There were virtually no non-political portions; the whole thing was a two-day rally for the Republican ticket.)

Over the years, theSummithas also taken on the feel of the Heritage Foundation at prayer – which is perhaps not surprising since the broadly conservativeWashington,D.C., foundation is one of the event’s co-sponsors. There were regular calls for banning abortion and blocking same-sex marriage, but attendees were just as likely to hear denunciations of “Obamacare” alongside demands for tax cuts and reduced government regulation of industry.

These days, it seems, Jesus is a confirmed bootstrap capitalist.

Aside from the pols, a retinue of fading Religious Right figures also surfaced at theSummit. Chief among them was Oliver North, an ex-Marine who became a hero to the Religious Right during the Iran-Contra scandal in 1986 and has somehow managed to make a living on the far-right lecture/media circuit ever since.

Star Parker, an obscure African-American woman who makes her living shrieking anti-welfare screeds to audiences of white conservatives, also appeared. (Parker’s big applause line this year came when she attacked Sandra Fluke, aGeorgetownUniversitylaw student who has been advocating for women’s access birth control. Parker called Fluke “a national icon for sexual promiscuity” and added, “[We] should not be forced to cover her sex life.”)

Celebrity power this year was lacking, represented primarily by Kirk Cameron, a c-list actor who came to flog his new film “Monumental,” an alleged documentary that purports to explain the “Christian” roots ofAmerica’s founding.

In this election year, theSummitrhetoric quickly went over the top, and some of the allegations bore only a passing resemblance to the truth. Obama was constantly portrayed as an appeaser to “radical Islam” who traipses the globe, apologizing forAmericaand refusing to acknowledge “American exceptionalism.”

A generous dollop of Islam bashing was tossed into the mix. Controversial House member Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) called Obama a tool of the Organization for Islamic Cooperation. This shadowy organization, Bachmann warned darkly, seeks to impose Islamic law on all nations, even those without large Muslim populations. Part of its scheme is to instill “Islamic-enforced speech codes” inAmerica.

“They intend to force us to kiss our freedom of speech and religion goodbye,” Bachmann said. A moment later she added, “We’re quickly losing a sense of who we are as a nation.”

Blasting Obama as a proponent of “apology and appeasement,” Bachmann told the crowd, “It is my belief and my opinion that Barack Obama has been the most dangerous president we’ve ever had on foreign policy. We cannot sustain another four years of Jimmy Carter-like policies.”

Gary Bauer, president of American Values, called radical Islam “the cancer growing in the middle of that faith” and insisted that the “creator” referred to in the Declaration of Independence “is not just any god – that god is not the god of the Quran.”

Among the speakers was Kamal Saleem, a man who carries the unlikely job title of “former terrorist.” Saleem claims to have been tied to the Palestine Liberation Organization and to have worked alongside Libyan strongmanMoammar Qaddafi,Iraq’s Saddam Hussein and Islamic terrorists inAfghanistan.

In fact, Saleem, whose real name is Khodor Shami, is a former employee of TV preacher Pat Robertson who has been exposed by several journalists as a likely fraud.

A session on alleged “persecution” of religious groups featured a discussion of a lawsuit filed by Americans United inCastroville,Texas, to block school sponsorship of prayers during school events. FRC President Tony Perkins made a big deal out of the fact that a federal appeals court allowed a student to make religious remarks during graduation.

No one bothered to point out that the case was later settled out of court in a manner favorable to Americans United, including a court order barring school officials from initiating, soliciting or directing prayers.

The session quickly fell down the rabbit hole when Perkins asked William G. “Jerry” Boykin, an ex-Army general who now serves as FRC’s executive vice president, why he thinks liberals so often attack religion.

Boykin matter of factly replied, “I want to remind you all to remember that one of the terms they used for Adolf Hitler was ‘a progressive.’” After invoking the worst mass murderer in history, Boykin piled on with some Red baiting.

“They are following to the letter the philosophy of Marxism,” Boykin said. “They would not call themselves Marxists, so they do it under the label of ‘progressive’….What you’re seeing happening inAmericatoday is Marxism. They don’t call it that, but it’s Marxism.”

Boykin then asserted that the long-range plan of liberals is to get religion out of society so people have to depend on government.

A cult of victimization also pervaded theSummit. Conservative Chris­tians, attendees were told, are “persecuted” by nefarious forces to seek to silence them. This was coupled with a rampant disdain for the media and that ever-popular right-wing bogeyman know as “the elites.”

FormerU.S.senator and failed pres­idential candidate Rick Santorum sparked some unintentional amusement when he bemoaned, “We will never have the media on our side, ever, in this country. We will never have the elite, smart people on our side, because they believe they should have the power to tell you what to do.”

TheSummit’s relentless partisanship was reflected at the FRC Action PAC’s members-only reception. The event is an opportunity for candidates to seek campaign support and express their personal faith and their political views. According to FRC Action PAC President Connie Mackey, each had been “vetted” by the FRC.

Every politician who spoke was Republican, among them U.S. Reps. Steve King (R-Iowa) and Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), as well as aspiring officeholders such as Jim Bridenstine, who is running for a U.S. House seat in Oklahoma; Tim Fox, who is running for Montana attorney general; and Sher Valenzuela, candidate for Dela­ware lieutenant governor.

Prior to theSummit, AU’sLynnissued a media statement urging politicians to reject the Religious Right agenda.

Lynn, who has attended every Values Voter Summit (and many Christian Coalition “Road to Victory” Conferences before that), observed, “Candidates have knelt at the altar of the Religious Right much too often. The American people do not want religion brought into partisan politics or politics brought into the sanctuary. Poll after poll reaffirms that point.”

He concluded, “I’d like to hear candidates make a profession of faith in the Constitution and church-state separation.”

http://blog.au.org/church-state/october-2012-church-state/featured/inside-the-values-voter-summit

Why Progressives Can’t Ignore Religion by Mike Lux

AlterNet, February 27, 2012 

Wall or no wall, politics and religion have always been inextricably intertwined, and we won’t win until we recognize and deal with that fact. 

In this fine country of ours, there is “a wall of separation between Church and State,” as Thomas Jefferson once put it. And thank God for that (at least, if you’re inclined to believe in it). Our country has been so much stronger and more free as a result of having that wall. 

Here’s the thing, though: having that wall doesn’t mean that the cord linking politics and religion can ever be severed, at least not in this country where religion lives so fervently. The fact is that the USA remains, by a considerable margin, more religious and more Christian than any other Western nation, with close to 80 percent of us still calling ourselves Christians (in spite of somewhat falling percentages on that number in recent years).

Even beyond that, though, religion permeates our culture, our language, our traditions, our public rituals, our history, and yes, our political debate. More than anything else — more than political party, more than political history, more than any cultural icon whether it be Shakespeare, Star Wars or John Wayne — Christian religion is at the core of what America believes in and relates to. Progressives ignore or dismiss religion at our peril: we will never get to a majority political coalition in this country without understanding religion and the people who believe in it. 

The fact is that religion has driven most of our country’s great conflicts and has been the inspiration for most of our progress. The abolitionists and the pro-slavery Southerners, the suffragists and the appalled conservative ministers who railed against them, the Populists of the late 1800s and the High Church business elite who were locked in combat, the Protestant Prohibitionists and the heavily Catholic “wets” who opposed them, the Civil Rights movement of the 1950-’60s and the racist but Bible-beating Southerners who fought them: they have all fought over an impossibly tangled blend of religion and politics.

The good news is that the religious fault-lines are pretty much the same kind of fault-lines as the political ones political activists are more used to. In religion as in politics, conservatives tend to be rather individualistic, as the ultimate goal is to win the reward of heaven for yourself. Conservatives tend to value tradition and traditional hierarchy above change and openness, believing that too much change is scary and that only traditional authority figures can protect us. Conservatives tend to believe that an excess of democracy and “rights,” whether in government or a church setting, is a bad thing. God’s role for conservatives is to punish us if we stray from the one true path. 

Religious progressives, on the other hand, are drawn less by hope of heaven and fear of hell than by the appeal of the sacred community, and the teachings of religion to love their neighbors as themselves. They tend to be more open to new ideas, new kinds of leaders, and new ways of thinking about faith; and much less inclined toward thinking there is one true path.

The happy thing about the American experiment with freedom of religion — which actually echoes ancient Greece and Rome before Christianity became the official state religion — is that while people are inevitably shaped, motivated and drawn to politics by their religion and philosophy, our constitution’s wall of separation between church and state has generally (with some notable exceptions) kept our politics far more free of zealotry and violence than you find in countries without that wall. For most of world history, politics and religion were so intertwined they corrupted each other and caused a great many bad things. The fact that this has not happened as much inAmericais a tribute to founders likeJefferson. 

But religion permeates our politics at all levels nonetheless, and it is worth understanding a bit about the history of our country’s dominant religion in order to understand our politics.

So let me go way back to the beginning of the “Christian” church, which was about as political as you can get. I put Christian in quotation marks because the most likely guess as to the beginnings of Christianity were nothing like what we think of as Christianity today. If you really want to dive deep into the scholarship of this first century of Christianity, I highly recommend a book by Robert Eisenman called James The Brother of Jesus: The Key to Unlocking the Secrets of Early Christianity and the Dead Sea Scrolls. It is a dense, detailed book of almost 1,000 pages, so it is not for the faint of heart, but it is an impressive work of historical scholarship that will blow apart the conventional wisdom we have about those early days of Christianity. It is incredibly hard to know what happened 2,000 years ago with any degree of certainty, and Eisenman’s groundbreaking theories are controversial, but he makes a strong case for them. 

He comes to his theories by comparing the texts and historical documents from that era that we still have available to us, including the Dead Sea Scrolls, the Bible, the histories written by Josephus, the Jewish historian from that era, other Roman historical documents, and early Christian histories. Essentially, Eisenman argues that, whatever Jesus’ original inspiration and influence to the movement in Judaism around that time, it was actually his brother James who was the far more significant political and religious movement leader, and that he was the same James the Just who was the most important character of the Dead Sea Scrolls. He argues that far from trying to build a new religion based around the idea of his brother as a savior, instead James was probably the most important leader of the Jewish nationalist movement of the time that was courting open rebellion with Rome, and that his most important opponent in arguing against rebellion and for collaboration with Rome was the man we know as Saint Paul. 

Eisenman makes a very strong case that the spark of the Jewish revolt that led to the Roman disintegration of the temple in 66 AD Jerusalemwas the execution of James in 62. He also makes a strong case thatSt. Paulwas in fact a member of King Herod’s family, and had close personal ties to the highest level Roman authorities. When the Jewish uprising was destroyed, and the Jews were dispersed, the Christian movement that Paul created went a completely different direction than that early community inJerusalem.

As I said, Eisenman’s theories are far from proven and some of them are quite controversial. His breadth and depth of detailed textual detective is impressive, and he makes a compelling case, but trying to figure out what actually happened 2,000 years ago is always going to be highly speculative, no matter how good a historian you are, and there is nothing approaching consensus among historians on many of his ideas. What is pretty clear, though, just from the Bible alone let alone other sources, is that James and Paul were deeply divided on both doctrinal and political matters.

In fact, if you look at all the various writings from that place and period in history, both the Jewish people in the wake of the destruction of Jerusalem, and the early Christian communities throughout the Roman empire, were embroiled in deep and frequently quite unfriendly debate over the nature of both their faiths and their relationship with Rome. Just given all the different Gospels about Jesus that have been discovered in recent years (including Gospels allegedly by or about Mary Magdalene, Judas and Thomas, as well as the Gnostic Gospels), it is clear that the Christian movement in those early centuries was incredibly diverse in nature. As the superb book The Closing of the Western Mind documented, it looks very much like a certain group of church leaders in the 300s cut a deal with the Roman emperor Constantine and his successors to enforce only one doctrine for Christianity, and to shut down — with violence and government repression if necessary (as it frequently was) — all other forms of not only Christianity, but all other religions too.

This was a radical change in the culture of ancientRomeandGreece. Before that, religious freedom was much more wide open, like it is inAmericatoday. You could get in trouble sometimes if you didn’t acknowledge some of the Caesars as gods or sons of gods, depending on how crazy and vain particular Caesars were, and that got some Christians and Jews in a lot of trouble at different points in Roman history. But ancientGreeceandRomewere pretty mellow about religion: people had lots of different gods and theologies and philosophies, and could pretty much worship (or not, and there were openly agnostic or atheist people as well) whomever or whatever they wanted. But once the sector of Christian leadership struck their deal with the Roman government, which at that point in Roman history was tired of people getting into fights over theology (one Caesar noted that experience had taught him “that no wild beasts are so dangerous to man as Christians are to one another”), everyone was forced to worship the same god and have the same theological doctrine.  

After that, severe religious repression was the order of the day inEurope for another 1,200 years. When Martin Luther posted his 95 theses and sparked the reformation, it launched a hundred new versions of Christianity, and commenced well over 200 years of frequently violent religious disputation inEurope. It wasn’t until the American founders and other Enlightenment thinkers developed the notion that religion and the state should have a wall between them that a path for stopping religious wars and persecution was finally made.

So — why go into all this history of the deeply entwined thicket of church and state? Simply to make this point: For most of the history of Western civilization, religion and politics have been two sides of the same coin, very close to indivisible. Even when a wall was finally built, the two cannot help but deeply and powerfully influence each other. And if we don’t understand that, we will never understand how to be effective in American politics.

Here’s my other point, perhaps even more fundamental: from the beginning of Christianity, there has been a debate within the religion between progressives and conservatives over the most fundamental meaning of the creed. I tend to think of it as the debate between Jesus and the church leaders who struck that deal withConstantine.

The Jesus of the Gospels, especially of Matthew, Mark and Luke (John was written much later and was far more mystically oriented than the first three Gospels), was one of the great progressive thinkers in human history. His great passion was helping the poor, the sick, those most oppressed and reviled by the rest of society. His teachings focused on mercy, kindness, forgiveness, not judging others, and loving one’s neighbors as much as yourself. His “Golden Rule” was that we should treat everyone as we ourselves would want to be treated. He taught that we would ultimately be judged by how we treated the hungry and the ill, by whether we visited those in prison and whether we treated strangers with kindness. He said we should forgive our enemies, “turn the other cheek” when slapped, and that only those who had never sinned (in other words, none of us) should cast the first stone to condemn the sinner.

The only times this gentle man ever seemed to get angry was with the money changers at the Temple, with wealthy establishment figures who didn’t want to help the poor, and with his own disciples who didn’t get what he was trying to say; one can only imagine what he would have done with the crowd today who claim to speak in his name.

The church leaders in the 300s who cut the deal with Constantine to create the “one true creed” that all Christians thereafter were supposed to follow, and that the state would adhere to, had nothing to do with the man who had supposedly founded their faith. A religion tied to state power, a religion that uses violence to enforce its ideas, a religion of the authoritarianism and conservatism of the Catholic church of that era had nothing to do with the teachings of the Jesus of the Gospels. And the religion of modern conservatism has nothing to do with that Jesus either.

The Jesus who launched his ministry by saying he had been sent to bring good news to the poor and liberty to the captives, that he had come to set the downtrodden free and “to proclaim the Lord’s year of favor” (which in ancient Israel meant a year where wealthy bankers and moneylenders were obligated to forgive all debts the poor owed them) — that Jesus would be astonished and bemused that men like Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum and Mitt Romney say they are his followers. The gentle man who preached the Sermon on the Mount would be stunned by an audience of people who had cheered the idea of a man dying because he had no health insurance, or another audience that laughed and cheered when Glenn Beck gleefully said in a speech to a conservative conference that “in nature, the lions eat the weak.” And that Jesus would be appalled to learn that most of the people in those audiences would say they were his disciples.

Those who worship the gods of selfishness may proclaim themselves to be saved by Jesus, but they do not follow his teachings. As politics and religion continue to influence each other inAmerica, progressives need to realize how completely conservatives have distorted the religion they claim to believe in. And we shouldn’t be afraid to talk about our own values using the familiar language of Christ — a language the vast majority of our fellow Americans already understand. 

Source URL: http://www.alternet.org/story/154295/why_progressives_can%27t_ignore_religion

Links:
[1] http://www.alternet.org
[2] http://www.alternet.org/authors/mike-lux
[3] http://www.alternet.org/tags/religion-0
[4] http://www.alternet.org/tags/christianity
[5] http://www.alternet.org/tags/mike-lux
[6] http://www.alternet.org/tags/wall-separation

 

Constitution

The Constitution of the United States of America

Constitution is inherently progressive by John Podesta and John Halpin, Politico.com, October 10, 2011 - Progressives disagree strongly with tea party views on government, taxation, public spending, regulations and social welfare policies…
…As progressives, we believe in using the ingenuity of the private sector and the positive power of government to advance common purposes and increase freedom and opportunity…
Coupled with basic beliefs in fair play, openness, cooperation and human dignity, it is this progressive vision that in the past century helped build the strongest economy in history and allowed millions to move out of poverty and into the middle class. It is the basis for American peace and prosperity as well as greater global cooperation in the postwar era…
Our original Constitution was not perfect. It wrote women and minorities out and condoned an abhorrent system of slavery. But the story of America has also been the story of a good nation, conceived in liberty and equality, eventually welcoming every American into the arms of democracy, protecting their freedoms and expanding their economic opportunities…

Our Fill-in-the-Blank Con­sti­tu­tion By Geof­frey R. Stone, New York Times, April 13, 2010

The Constitution, the Bible and the Fundamentalist-Modernist Divide by Julie Ingersoll, Religion Dispatches, January 7, 2011

Religion and the Constitution: The Triumph of Practical Politics by Martin E. Marty , The Christian Century March 23-30, l994

The Ungodly Constitution: How the Founders Ensured America Would Not Be a Christian Nation By Susan Jacoby, Progressive Radio Network, June 19, 2012

The Tea Party’s Real Constitutional Philosophy, Drew Courtney/Miranda Blue, People For the American Way, January 5, 2011

America is not a Christian nation

A New Religious America — How a “Christian Country” Has Become the World’s Most Reli­giously Diverse Nation

America Does Not Have a Religious Identity

America Is Not a Christian Nation and Never Has Been: Why Is the Right Obsessed With Pushing a Revisionist History?

America is not and its Christians should not want it to be a Christian Nation by John Marty – It is a Christian-influenced nation, and much of that influence has been and is for the good. “Christian” would mean “named after Christ (Jesus)” who emphatically said his kingdom was not of this world, so a “Christian nation” would be against his wishes as described in the gospels. The 80+ percent of us who claim to be Christian have plenty of opportunities to make use of Christian resources, but “naming rights” and “legal definition” would do a disservice to nation and Christian faith.”

Why the Christian Right Believes It Has Once-in-a-Decade Chance to Impose Its Radical Worldview on America

Holy Writ — Tea Party evangelists claim the Constitution as their sacred text. Why that’s wrong

Let­ter to the Dan­bury Bap­tists from Thomas Jef­fer­son, 1802  “Believ­ing that reli­gion is a mat­ter which lies solely between man and his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship…their Leg­is­la­ture should make no law respect­ing an estab­lish­ment of reli­gion, or pro­hibit­ing the free excer­cise thereof, thus build­ing a wall of sep­a­ra­tion between church and state.”

The Treaty of Tripoli – June 10, 1897 – Article XI of the treaty was a proclamation that the “Government of the United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian Religion, as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion or tranquility of Musselman (Muslims).”
Upon signing the treaty Adams issued a statement which said,  “Now be it known, That I, John Adams, President of the United States of America, having seen and considered the said Treaty do, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, accept, ratify, and confirm the same, and every clause and article thereof.”

The Ungodly Constitution: How the Founders Ensured America Would Not Be a Christian Nation By Susan Jacoby, Free Inquirym June 19, 2012

The Truth About Religion in America: The Founders Loathed Superstition and We Were Never a Christian Nation, By Kerry Walters, Free Inquiry, June 15, 2012

5 Founding Fathers Whose Skepticism About Christianity Would Make Them Unelectable Today By Rob Boston, AlterNet, January 10, 2012

Why Is There So Much God in Our Pol­i­tics? The Reli­gious Right’s Theo­cratic Plan for the 2012 Elec­tion By Rob Boston, Church & State Mag­a­zine, Jan­u­ary 6, 2012

Free­dom of and From Reli­gion by Bill Moy­ers, Com­mon Dreams, Feb­ru­ary 16, 2012

What Do We Mean By ‘Judeo-Christian’? By Shalom Gold­man, Jan­u­ary 21, 2011

How Chris­t­ian Were the Founders? by Rus­sell Shorto, New York Times, Feb­ru­ary 14, 2010

Reli­gious tol­er­ance, then and now by Dana Mil­bank, Wash­ing­ton Post, August 17, 2010

Conservatives Want America to be a “Christian Nation” – Here’s What Would That Would Actually Look Like By Adam Lee. AlterNet, October 4, 2011 – …Republican presidential candidate Rick Perry, in an appeal to evangelical voters, said “Christian values” and not “a bunch ofWashingtonpoliticians” should be the touchstone guiding how Americans conduct their lives. …

“America is going to be guided by some set of values,” Perry told a crowd of 13,000 students and faculty members yesterday at a sports arena on the school’s campus. “The question is going to be, ‘Whose values?’” He said it should be “those Christian values that this country was based upon.”

It’s worth calling attention to Perry’s obnoxious rhetorical ploy of using “Christian values” to refer only to his own very specific, right-wing set of beliefs — preemptive war, gay-bashing, tax cuts for the rich, creationism in schools, deregulating corporations, dismantling the social safety net, the standard Republican package — as if he owned or had the right to define all of Christianity. In reality, there’s such a huge diversity of opinion among self-professed Christians past and present that the term “Christian values” could mean almost anything…

Christians have advocated positions across the political spectrum, from environmental preservation to environmental destruction, from pacifism to just war to open advocacy of genocide, from civil rights to segregation and slavery.

This broad range of opinion comes about because the Bible never mentions many of these issues, and addresses others in only vague or contradictory passages scattered throughout its individual books. This gives individual Christians wide latitude to find support in the text for virtually any political position you’d care to name.

However, there’s one area where there’s much less room for debate, and that’s the question of political organization. The Bible sets out a very clear picture of what its authors believed the ideal state would look like…The Bible never even mentions democracy — that concept was completely unknown to its authors. The system of government it enshrines is divine-right monarchy — and not just monarchy, but kingship…the Bible’s ideal government is unequivocally a theocracy: a country where the church and the state are one, where there’s an official religion which all citizens are required to profess, and where law is made by the priests…

The Bible also puts a high value on racial purity…

By the time of the New Testament, much of this had changed…

All these ideas, so clearly advocated in the Bible, are utterly contrary to what this nation stands for. The idea of divine-right kingship is what our founders successfully rebelled against in bringing forth this country.Americais a democracy where the people choose their leaders, a constitutional republic where the powers of those leaders are strictly defined and limited by law.Americais a multicultural, multiethnic nation founded on the idea of welcoming immigrants, the homeless and tempest-tossed of every land. Submission to the established authorities, of course, isn’t an American value: Americans have a long and colorful history of debate, protest, and civil disobedience, and the right to criticize our leaders is sanctified in the Constitution. And most of all,Americais a secular nation with a separation of church and state. We have no official faith, no national church as many European countries still do.

But America’s Constitution is more than just a secular document; it’s literally godless. It doesn’t claim that the ideas it contains were the product of divine revelation….

If America’s founders had meant to establish a Christian nation, this is where they would have said so…

The United States of Americawas the first modern republic that was created on the foundation of reason, without seeking blessings from a god, without imploring divine assistance or invoking divine favor….

What the religious right failed to achieve at the Constitutional Convention, they kept trying to do in the following decades…

Only within the last 50 or 60 years, now that they’ve finally accepted they have no realistic hope of changing it, has the religious right flip-flopped and started claiming that the Constitution meant to establish a Christian nation all along. This staggeringly dishonest, wholesale rewriting of history has become their stock in trade, to the point of having full-time propagandists who obscure historical fact and promote the Christian-nation myth…We, as liberals and progressives, should know better than to accept this falsehood. We have every reason to speak out and uphold America’s proud history as a secular republic founded on reason and governed by the democratic will.

 

Separation of church and state

Freedom of and From Religion by Bill Moyers,  Common Dreams, February 16, 201

The Constitution, the Bible and the Fundamentalist-Modernist Divide by Julie Ingersoll, Religion Dispatches, January 7, 2011

Reli­gion and the Con­sti­tu­tion: The Tri­umph of Prac­ti­cal Pol­i­tics by Mar­tin E. Marty, Religion-Online.org,The Chris­t­ian Cen­tury March 23–30, l994– It is one of the strik­ing facts of Amer­i­can his­tory that the Amer­i­can Rev­o­lu­tion was led by men who were not very reli­gious,” wrote Gor­don Wood in New York His­tory. “At the best the Found­ing Fathers only pas­sively believed in orga­nized Chris­tian­ity and at worst they scorned and ridiculed it.” … assess the reli­gious and meta­phys­i­cal foun­da­tions and con­tentions of their thought. God comes up often, but almost never in bib­li­cal terms; “God,” we remem­ber, was generic for deists and the­ists, philoso­phers and believ­ers alike…… While prac­ti­cal pol­i­tics was the pre­oc­cu­pa­tion of these debaters, they were debat­ing what was deep­est in the people’s minds and hearts. … that lan­guage does not advance the case for see­ing Amer­ica as a Chris­t­ian coun­try. .The founders were aware of what James Madi­son called “var­i­ous and irrec­on­cil­able . : . doc­trines of Reli­gion” and they were occa­sion­ally alert to world reli­gions…One of the most seri­ous issues in con­sti­tu­tional dis­course was the virtue of the peo­ple, since con­sti­tu­tional law would be effec­tive only if cit­i­zens respected itThe debates occurred at a time when there was enough Enlight­en­ment talk about “Nature’s God” to com­pro­mise evan­gel­i­cal talk about the God of the Bible in the affairs of the United States…The evan­gel­i­cal­iza­tion of Amer­i­can cul­ture, then, did not derive from the con­sti­tu­tional period but from the times that fol­lowed, times of revival­ism and immi­gra­tion…