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Sharia in America: The Christian Version

February 2, 2017

“I will totally destroy the Johnson Amendment.”

Donald Trump is taking a sledgehammer to the always flimsy wall of separation between church and state in America.

Today at the National Prayer Breakfast he vowed to “totally destroy” the Johnson Amendment, which prohibits tax-exempt religious groups from participating in political activity.  The law, named for Lyndon Johnson, has been in effect since 1954, and its removal would be an enormous victory for the religious right.

Earlier in the week, a draft executive order on “Religious Freedom” was leaked to the press. The draft order would create wholesale exemptions for people and organizations who claim religious or moral objections to same-sex marriage, premarital sex, abortion, and trans identity, and it seeks to curtail women’s access to contraception and abortion through the Affordable Care Act.  It covers “any organization, including closely held for-profit corporations,” and protects religious freedom “when providing social services, education, or healthcare; earning a living, seeking a job, or employing others; receiving government grants or contracts; or otherwise participating in the marketplace, the public square, or interfacing with Federal, State or local governments.” In other words, it would create a license to discriminate for a host of self-proclaimed “sincerely held religious beliefs” against gays and, potentially, any number of other vulnerable classes of people. For the full text, click here.

Much of the language in the draft order (which White House staff tacitly admitted was genuine, though not approved–at least not yet) comes from the Hobby Lobby decision by the Supreme Court, which is associated with Neil Gorsuch who ruled on the case at the appellate level and who was nominated two days ago to fill the vacant SCOTUS seat. A number of his other rulings have been based on “religious freedom” arguments. It’s not hard to connect the dots.

These recent developments have removed any mystery about why the religious right has adopted a profane, obviously non-religious, thrice-married, pussy-grabbing libertine as their champion. He is promising to allow them unimpeded political access and support to achieve the holy trinity of objectives shared by both Protestant evangelicals and conservative Catholics: outlawing (which means recriminalizing) abortion, undoing same-sex marriage and other gay rights, and and getting public funding for sectarian education. In essence, they are seeking to upend the supremacy of civil law and allow self-proclaimed religious belief to trump the law of the land. That is, as long as those religious beliefs are specifically conservative Christian ones.

It’s hard to tell if Steve Bannon or Mike Pence is the prime mover behind this strategy, but it doesn’t really matter since they share a common outlook when it comes to erasing the boundary between church and state.  For someone who is constantly beating the religion drum, Bannon does not appear to be particularly religious, though he evidently is at least nominally Catholic. His shtick is that there is a war of civilizations between the Judeo-Christian West and the Muslim world, and that the decline of religious belief in the West has left it weak and vulnerable to defeat and subjugation by radical Islam. He constantly uses the term “Judeo-Christian”, which implies a unity of interests and belief, despite centuries of history during which the most relentless and deadly persecutors of Jews were Christians, not Muslims. He has attacked Catholics who view their religion as an instrument of social justice and accused church leaders of encouraging the immigration of Latino Catholics to boost membership in the church. It seems that, to him, religion is a primarily a means to political power rather than a matter of faith.

Mike Pence, on the other hand, describes himself as a “born-again evangelical Catholic,” which pretty much hits all the bases. He has consistently opposed abortion rights and funding for Planned Parenthood and pushed a constitutional amendment against same-sex marriage. He has clashed with Catholic bishops about support for refugees (he was against it), and as Indiana’s governor, he signed the state’s “religious freedom” law which allowed businesses to refuse to serve certain people (like gays) if it conflicted with their religious beliefs. So what is now being pushed by the Trump administration is basically the same thing, only bigger and (from their perspective) better!

Indeed, most of Trump’s cabinet picks (at least the non-Jewish ones) seem to share these views.  Most ominously, Jeff Sessions the nominee for Attorney General, has declared that the idea of a “wall of separation” between church and state “is not constitutional and is not historical.” This suggests, at the very least, that the new Justice Department will not actively pursue cases where the plaintiff is opposing the intrusion of religion into secular life.

For many Americans–gay people, for example–these are not theoretical constitutional questions, but rather ones that affect their lives in the most intimate ways.  What we are seeing here is a radical counter-reformation using religion as its organizing principle.

I don’t believe for a second that Trump has any “sincerely held religious beliefs.” If you see him in religious gatherings he looks, as my grandmother would say, nervous as a whore in church. But he knows that these are the people who put him where he is today, and they have presented the bill.

Religion is just politics by other means.

































  1. Tony Merlot permalink

    The Catholic Church is the world’s oldest, active, criminal organization. The Catholic Church has a well oiled PR unit which has successfully whitewashed centuries of criminal activities which have included murder, torture, rape and theft on a grand scale. Allowing the Catholic Church to further manipulate the political structures of the USA will be another Trump disaster.

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