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Is It The United States Of God?
 
By Jason Miller
 
One of the key justifications that American supporters of our imperialistic policies in the Middle East employ is that the Islamic theocracies pose a threat to American security because of their radical nature. Yet here at home, America has its own radical religious fundamentalists clamoring to form a theocracy.

A recent article in The Kansas City Star stirred some serious doubts in my mind about the rationality of those leading the Christian Right movement. Nina Easton indicated in the article that key leaders of the conservative Christian movement met in Washington on 4/7/05 to formulate their strategy to take control of the federal judiciary. In their conference, “Confronting the Judicial War on Faith”, the Religious Right castigated George Bush, brother Jeb, and Bill Frist for failing to take a strong enough stand against the courts in the Terry Schiavo situation.

Subverting the U.S. Constitution by abusing legislative authority to interfere in a judicial matter was not enough to satisfy these dogmatic individuals. Merely the implication that Bush and his compatriots were too moderate in their actions is a testament to the perverse worldview of the Christian Right. The Star article was on page 3. Mainstream media needs to place more emphasis on the dangers posed by this radical movement.

Leading members of the Christian Right are pushing the President and Congress to impeach "activist" judges, cut funding to "activist" courts, and pass legislation like the Constitutional Restoration Act of 2005. If passed, this legislation would significantly limit the power of the judicial branch. Even more distressing, the CRA would trump the supremacy of the Constitution by affirming that God is the sovereign source of law, liberty, and government. Senator Sam Brownback of Kansas, a darling of Conservative Christians, co-sponsored the bill again in 2005. Thankfully, Congress had the sense to reject a similar bill last year.

One of the most troubling aspects of the Religious Right is their lack of tolerance for those who disagree with their dogma. Adopting a law that elevates the Christian God over the Constitution would represent a monumental leap toward theocracy in America. Those advocating the passage of the Constitutional Restoration Amendment are forgetting that there is a First Amendment to the Constitution that reads, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof”. Apparently, Article III of the Constitution (which establishes the Judicial Branch as the third entity in our unparalleled system of checks and balances) slipped their mind too. The CRA would severely undermine the federal judiciary’s capacity to act as watchdogs over the other branches.

The Christian Right also supports America's unprovoked attack on Iraq, falsely based on claims that Iraq was affiliated with the Islamic fundamentalists who perpetrated 9/11. Over 1500 Americans have died, $250 billion have been wasted, and thousands of innocent Iraqi civilians lie dead. Meanwhile, America's own radical entity, the Christian Right, waves the flag, spurring Bush on to "spread freedom and liberty", and thus further antagonize the radicals in the Middle East.

When our Founding Fathers wrote our Constitution, and implemented a secular republic as our form of government, many of them happened to be Christian. However, a number of them, like Thomas Jefferson, were Deists. Many were also Masons, who embrace religious tolerance as a core value. A serious study of their debates at the Constitutional Convention, their letters and journals, their varying religious backgrounds, and their unanimous fear of tyranny, clearly demonstrate that our nation’s founders intended American government to be secular, and thus free from religious tyranny. Were the founders alive today, they would recoil in horror at the CRA.

Shockingly, leaders of the Religious Right have called for "the removal of judges who think that interpretations of the US Constitution should change with the times." Rick Scarborough, a sponsor of “Confronting the Judicial War on Faith”, stated that, "it's about a temporal versus eternal value system." Would the Christian Right have Americans suspended in a rigid “eternal value system” that squelched the possibility of “temporal” re-evaluation of laws and values as the numerous dynamics of a large, complex nation change? By looking at a few historical examples, one can see why the notion of “eternal values” is so problematic.

To accommodate the states whose economy relied heavily upon slave labor, the Founding Fathers agreed to recognize slavery as a legal institution. This can be found in two places in the Constitution. For the purpose of counting population for the Congressional representation, Section 2 of Article I counts a slave as three fifths of a person. In Section 2 of Article IV, the Constitution clearly endorses the right to keep a person in servitude, and to demand their return if they escape. On March 6, 1857, the Supreme Court of the United States interpreted the Constitution in a manner consistent with preserving “eternal values.” They ruled against Dred Scott, a slave who sued for his freedom. In this instance, the Supreme Court upheld the “eternal Constitutional value” of slavery.

While the Thirteenth Amendment officially abolished slavery in the United States on December 6, 1865, it did not end the servitude of blacks. In the Jim Crow era of the South, which began with violent Southern resistance to Reconstruction after the Civil War, the Ku Klux Klan, and other white supremacist groups committed untold numbers of atrocities against black citizens. Are these the type of "eternal values" that the Christian Right seeks to protect from the "ravages" of the evolution of ideas and values?

Starting in the 1870s, the Industrial Revolution was in full swing in the United States. The "Gilded Age" saw men like John Rockefeller and JP Morgan reach unimaginable heights of wealth. Meanwhile, the plight of the working class and the poor grew more and more unbearable. Lenders and railroads imposed predatory interest and pricing on farmers. Contracts and property were deemed more important than the suffering and loss of life sustained by thousands of workers victimized by hazardous working conditions, long hours, child labor, and low pay.

David Brewer, a Supreme Court Justice appointed to the Court in 1889, summarized the philosophy of the "Gilded Age" when he said that "absolute and eternal justice forbid that any private property could be destroyed in the interests of public health, morals, or welfare." He went on to say that "the love of acquirement, mingled with the joy of possession, is the real stimulus to human activity." It took the incredibly courageous efforts of men like Eugene V. Debs to bring about economic justice for the common people. Had the Christian Right been a powerful movement at that time, would they have fought to preserve the "eternal value" of laissez-faire economic policy from the "onslaught" of the "temporal values" of workers' rights?

Humanity is in a constant state of flux and evolution. People and society are not static. Therefore, it would be nonsense to maintain a fixed or static interpretation of our laws. Even the Christian Right, many of whose members claim to interpret the Bible literally, disregard many of the anachronistic edicts of the Old Testament, except, for example, when they conveniently need an Old Testament scripture to justify their relentless push for discrimination against homosexuals. They interpret their own supreme law in a “temporal” manor in order to function in modern society, yet like spoiled children, they demand to impose their will upon the rest of America by demanding that the judiciary interpret the Constitution using a lens that interprets according to "eternal values”.

The Christian Right is leading America down the rabbit hole to Wonderland, where logic is indeed a scarce commodity. Will America follow?

Jason Miller is an activist writer and an active member of the ACLU. He is a father to three boys under the age of 14, and works as an account representative at a finance company. You can email Jason at
willpowerful@hotmail.com.

Posted Tuesday, April 19, 2005 
 
















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