Another Republican Theocrat Rejects Church State Separation

The U.S. Constitution demands that there is no religious test to serve in any government capacity as an elected office holder or employee and for good reason; America is not a theocracy. Despite clear language in the Constitution, and historical evidence from the Constitution’s Framers and Founding Fathers, no small number of Republicans still  insist that the Christian god rejected the Founders’ concept of “separation of church and state” when he created America. As forward thinking as the Founding Fathers and Framers were, they were remiss to envision a Christian political party that rejects the law of the land  out of hand and with veritable impunity.

If the Constitution’s Framers had as much foresight into the threat of elected officials flouting the law of the land as they did theocrats taking over government, they would have included a Constitutional literacy test in Article VI, Section 3. If they had required every candidate for office pass a constitutional literacy test,  the “no religious test clause” would have been unnecessary. Of course, Republicans are not yet demanding a religious test to run for office or work for the government, but there is an increasing number of them denying the validity of the 1st Amendment’s “separation clause” in their crusade to create an America governed by an evangelical theocracy.

The latest Republican theocrat, Steve Scalise, is claiming that he is horrified that some people believe the Founding Fathers and Constitution’s Framers were serious about keeping evangelicals from dictating policy and running the government.  Scalise joins all manner of evangelical leaders and historical revisionists who not only claim there is no such thing as separation of church and state, but that no politician is capable of separating church and state. It is an integral part of the Dominionist crusade to put religion, the evangelical religion, in government as the nation’s guiding force and the only barrier to their success is the 1st Amendment’s Establishment and Separation Clause.

It is true that Scalise is an evangelical freak of nature, but he is far from being an outlier in Republican ranks. For dog’s sake, the nation’s top law enforcement official, Attorney General Jeffrey Beauregard Sessions, has argued that the Establishment Claus and separation of church and state are “extra-constitutional doctrine” and a “recent thing that is unhistorical and unconstitutional.” (Author bold) According to “sermon” Sessions, and likely Steve Scalise, the Constitution’s prohibition on Congress legislating any religion was a devious machination of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) to evict god, the Christian bible, the Ten Commandments and Jesus Christ out of government.

However, Thomas Jefferson explained precisely what the meaning of the Establishment Clause was in 1802, at least a century before the ACLU was even created. An honest-to-dog historical figure, Founding Father, and third President of the United States, Thomas Jefferson wrote explicitly what the Establish Clause in the First Amendment actually means.

I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should ‘make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,’ thus building a wall of separation between Church & State.”

Nevertheless, a sitting United States congressman, like the current attorney general, claim that no politician can possibly separate church and state despite swearing a “so help me god” oath to support and defend the Constitution – including the Establishment Clause in the First Amendment. It is noteworthy to remind Scalise that if not for the Establish Clause he claims is invalid, he would be prohibited from exercising his particular brand of Christianity. It is only because America is a secular nation and only because the Constitution forbids the government establishment of a religion that Scalise can be a practicing Catholic.

Remember, America was actually settled and founded by Puritans who vehemently forbade any other religions or religious celebrations such as Christmas and Easter. Their religion also strictly adhered to the Old Testament that demanded punishment for other “neo-Americans” if they displayed graven images such as the cross, “Christmas trees,” the nativity scene, or images of Jesus. Without a secular Constitution, all Americans would be Puritans by law and anything those Puritans considered “pagan” would be strictly verboten. It is precisely why Thomas Jefferson explained to Danbury “Baptists” that they were protected under the secular Constitution and were allowed to worship as they pleased; in the same manner Scalise can worship according to Vatican dictates.

There have always been religious fanatics like Scalise, Sessions and preacher Pence and they were generally regarded as harmless freakoids. They are still fanatical religious freaks, but they are no longer harmless now that evangelical extremists control the government lock, stock and barrel. Of course the religious right and their fundamentalist malcontents are in the minority and everything they advocate for is highly unpopular with the majority, but they wield enormous influence over the majority party running all three branches of government.

It is important to note that these religious fanatics are unafraid of saying out loud exactly what their intent is now that they own power over the government. Remember that Trump’s ridiculously unqualified Education Secretary announced that she would use her Cabinet level position to “advance god’s kingdom” and there was no outrage whatsoever. Remember too, that the Department of Health and Human Services designated a single-celled organism a “person” worthy of full government protection and no-one as much as blinked. There has also been relative silence, and acquiescence from most Americans, at the outrage of Trump and House Republicans giving the religious right preferential treatment including authority to ignore the conditions necessary to be tax exempt as well as equal rights protections in the 14th Amendment.

Americans have enjoyed a Constitution that prevents religious imposition for so long  that they actually believe that protection cannot be abridged. And yet it seems like every couple of weeks since Trump’s poorly attended inauguration  there is another violation of the Separation and Establishment Clause.  Now another Republican is claiming that evangelicals cannot possibly, and will not, adhere to the Constitution and keep their church dogma out of government policy. That being the case they are disqualifying themselves from serving and it is damned high time the people evict them from government with extreme prejudice.

It is a sad fact of life, but Republicans are on the brink of imposing a theocratic government on the American people because there is a fear of confronting evangelicals in public or ever citing the preponderance of attacks on women, the U.S. Constitution, and the LGBTQ community are borne of religion. That cowardice in the face of a bloodless theocratic coup d’état will be the death of the nation the Founding Fathers created and put an ugly end to the Constitution they purposefully left god and religion out of.

House Bill Will Make Churches Dark Money Super PACs

 

Republicans made a sneaky move on Thursday to give their religious right devotees a long sought after gift that further erodes the Separation of Church and State as well as provide the ultimate dark money cover for Republicans’ corporate donors. It is another monumental gift to special interests and the wealthy; a religious super PAC completely immune to the IRS and FEC auditor’s prying eyes.

As is their wont, House Republicans passed what’s been labeled a “megabus” spending bill on Thursday that is better labeled reverse Robin Hood legislation; it takes from the poor and infirm and gives to the rich. For the evangelical right, the Republican bill is two-fold gift in allowing churches to receive and funnel “unlimited dark money to Republican campaigns” as well as to campaign from the pulpit free of IRS interference. According to the tax code, “tax exempt “charitable” non-profits are forbidden from inserting themselves into campaigns, and currently that prohibition stands for all non-profits including those representing religion.

The House spending bill includes a world of hurt for Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and food stamp recipients with significant cuts to help pay for tax cuts for billionaires. But tucked away in the spending bill is a rider with a provision making it nearly impossible for the Internal Revenue Service to enforce the “Johnson Amendment.” The “rider” stops funding attempts by the IRS Republicans, and Trump, claim are unfair attempts to “penalize churches that violate tax law by engaging in explicit political action.”

The new provision states that if there are any funds needed to enforce the Johnson Amendment on lawbreaking evangelical churches, it will “require IRS agents to notify two congressional committees, endure a 90-day waiting period, and then obtain an executive sign-off from the IRS commissioner.” It is noteworthy that this is a “special gift” to churches because all other tax-exempt charitable nonprofits that are not faith based will still be subject to enforcement of the law.

Besides opening up worshippers to suffering weekly campaigning from the pulpit for Republican candidates, this is simply another despicable Republican attempt to deregulate campaign finance laws to aid Republicans. Ironically, destroying the Johnson Amendment is “deeply unpopular among people of faith;” evangelical clergy love the idea. In fact, most religious Americans don’t want politics preached from the pulpit,  and “not a single major denomination” likes the idea of neutering the Johnson Amendment.

That “Johnson Amendment” is hated by the religious right as if it was from Satan because it is part of the tax code that prohibits churches from openly endorsing and campaigning for Republicans from the pulpit. The amendment is founded on the Constitution’s framers’ intent to keep church and state separate; it is a concept that Republicans like Jeff Sessions says is “unconstitutional and unhistorical.

However, this crusade to neuter the Johnson Amendment is almost certainly a Republican ploy to open the floodgates of dark money. There are exceedingly stringent rules prohibiting the IRS from auditing churches and according to the IRS, it is also extremely rare that a church is investigated for violating the Johnson Amendment, much less losing their tax-exemption.

A former IRS attorney and current LSU law school professor, Philip Hackney, told ThinkProgress the IRS typically goes to extreme lengths to avoid enforcing the Johnson Amendment. It is almost a mortal sin in America to even utter an unkind word about religion, so naturally daring to take away a church’s free taxpayer money is tantamount to a sin against the evangelical god. Mr. Hackney said:

There have been very few organizations that have lost their exemption. The typical answer was to slap people on the wrist. There’s a real problem when the answer is ‘you lose exemption’ — the IRS would look for any way it could get around making that choice.

According to the Center for Inquiry’s legal director, Nick Little, the Republican ploy is another “double benefit” for places of worship and Republicans. Mr. Little said:

“You could have unlimited dark money flowing to a campaign [from churches] if this gets passed, and there is nothing the IRS could do about it. They would be getting a double benefit.”

Democrats did attempt to remove the “dark money” provision from the spending bill during debate at the sub-committee level, at the full committee level, and on the floor of the House. But Republicans care more concerned about deregulating campaign finance laws and getting free weekly pulpit campaign time than preserving the Constitution’s Separation and Establishment Clauses in the First Amendment.

The Executive Director of the Secular Coalition for America, Larry T. Decker said:

Members of Congress had ample opportunities to strike [the provision] from this bill; when it was debated at the sub-committee level, at the full committee level, when Congresswoman Wasserman Schultz offered an amendment to cut it from the bill, and when it was on the floor of the House of Representatives. At every point, Congress failed to stand up for a law which has helped maintain the separation of church and state for more than 63 years.”

Like everything Republicans do, sneaking a measure in a spending bill to advance the religious rights’ crusade against the Constitution’s Separation of church and state, and giving ultimate cover for dark money to aid Republicans is highly unpopular. It is also a despicable attack on democracy. The religious right sees it as a sure-fire guarantee to continue electing Republicans without IRS interference, and help funnel dark money for those Republicans unimpeded and out of the Federal Elections Commission’s prying eyes.

For Americans who are not evangelical fanatics, it is another blatant Republican attack on the U.S. Constitution that is beginning to appear as important to Republicans as it to their standard bearer dirty Don Trump. For dark money purveyors like the Koch brothers and Karl Rove, the Republican move is tantamount to abolishing the FEC because with no way to “follow the money” from the Kochs to the churches to Republican candidates, this atrocity fairly decimates what remains of America’s fragile representative democracy; just like the Kochs and Republicans have planned for decades.

SCOTUS Aids Theocratic Coup d’état

 

As America nears another anniversary of its Declaration of Independence from an empire heavily influenced by a powerful theocracy, advocates for America under a theocratic government celebrated a major step towards their goal; a nation of the bible, for the evangelicals, and governed by the Christian religion. There is little doubt that the Founding Fathers and Constitution’s Framers would be appalled that the deliberately secular government they created inched closer to officially compelling Americans to support a religion. Indeed, it was the Declaration of Independence’s author, Founding Father, Constitution Framer, and  3rd President Thomas Jefferson who said that “no man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship, place, or ministry whatsoever.”

Republicans and their evangelical masters believe Thomas Jefferson was an abomination to theocrats everywhere. They also fiercely believe that despite the U.S. Constitution’s 1st Amendment, and well over two-thirds of state Constitutions’ blunt prohibitions on “spending any public money on any church, sect, or denomination of religion,” that Americans must be compelled by force of law to provide “support for religious worship, places, and ministries.

One of those states with prohibitions against using public money to support churches, sects and any denomination of religion is Missouri. Missouri’s Constitution, according to evangelicals, was abhorrent; especially after a few federal courts upheld the Missouri Constitution’s prohibition on using taxpayer money to support religion. So the aspiring theocrats appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court to rule that Thomas Jefferson, the Constitution, and thirty-six state constitutions are unfair to religious organizations because they cannot compel taxpayers to support places of worship.

It is noteworthy that although greed is a mortal sin in the Christian religion, the churches are not satisfied taking well over $82.5 billion annually (2013) on top of the over $28 billion in “faith-based initiatives” from taxpayers “compelled” to support religion. They demand that taxpayers pay for private religious schools and want more of their dollars.

On Tuesday, the Supreme Court added to those horrific dollar amounts in what appears to be a small way, but they also opened the door for ungodly amounts of taxpayer money to be stolen from public eduction to fund private religious schools. The High Court ruled that it was unfair, and one seriously nasty form of religious persecution, for Missouri’s Constitution to forbid a religious school from taking taxpayer money to improve its playground. It may seem like a small thing, compelling taxpayers to fund improvements for a religious organization’s property, but it was the opening evangelical school choice advocates, and evangelical Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, demanded to compel public schools to “promote god’s kingdom” by government fiat and with taxpayer money.

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos celebrated the Trinity decision as a victory for the taxpayer-funded religious school choice movement, which has gained momentum and stands to expand under the Trump administration.

Trump’s budget features a $1.4 billion religious school choice package that includes millions of taxpayer dollars for evangelical families to send their children to private, for profit religious schools.

DeVos is a staunch and lifelong advocate for compelling  taxpayers to fund private, for-profit religious schools. She is also a notorious evangelical and public education enemy who attended and sent her children to private religious schools; likely because they met her requirement that schools exist to “promote god’s kingdom.”

DeVos said the High Court decision affirmed her belief that  “religious discrimination in any form cannot be tolerated in a society that values the First Amendment;” unless of course religion drives discrimination against people of color and the LGBTQ community, then DeVos tolerates “religious discrimination.” She said after the Trinity ruling was announced:

We should all celebrate the fact that [bible-based] programs designed to help students will no longer be discriminated against by the government based solely on religious affiliation.”

DeVos wasn’t the only evangelical celebrating a ruling that opened the door for compelling Americans to support a religion, place, or ministry. The senior attorney for the Institute for Justice who represents evangelicals who couldn’t convince authorities in Colorado to compel taxpayers  to pay for religious school tuition through scholarship grants, Michael Bindas said:

This is a tremendous development for [religious] school choice. It shows the court takes the principle of neutrality toward religion in public benefits programs very seriously. We’re very confident that the Colorado Supreme Court may come to the correct decision.”

Evangelicals claimed that Colorado’s Constitution, and its Supreme Court’s judgement that the state’s Choice Scholarship Program’s  prohibited public funding to “ support or sustain any school that is controlled by any church or sectarian denomination” was patently unfair to evangelicals. The Colorado evangelicals are demanding the Colorado Supreme Court correct their error and start compelling all Colorado taxpayers to “financially support a religion, place of worship, and ministry.

It is always a mystery why so-called Constitutional advocates in the Republican movement are intent on compelling Americans to pay for religious instruction with money appropriated for public schools. This week Kentucky governor and evangelical malcontent Matt Bevin signed a bill into law legalizing bible-courses disguised as social studies in the state’s public school system. Bevin said at a signing ceremony:

The idea that we would not want this to be an option for people in school, that would be crazy. I don’t know why every state would not embrace this, why we as a nation would not embrace this.”

To answer Bevin’s question; every state and the nation is not embracing compelling taxpayers to pay for “religious instruction, places of worship, or bible classes” because it is patently unconstitutional, and not all Americans are religious welfare queens. The Kentucky religious imposition bill demands that religious classes “must discuss all aspects of the Christian bible because they are prerequisites to understanding contemporary society and culture.”

The evangelical zealots in Kentucky’s Republican legislature and governor’s office claim that teaching the Christian bible is the only way for students “to get a better insight on the structure of the country.” One Republican advocate for compelling taxpayers to  support “a ministrysaid the law will “help educate our kids on the background of how they came up with our founding documents.” Founding documents, by the way, that make absolutely no mention of the Christian bible, the Christian religion, or how religion was used in developing the “structure the country” because they did not.

The SCOTUS ruling this week, although seemingly harmless, is being touted as probably the most important High Court ruling all year and that is no exaggeration. It gave evangelicals the opening they have lusted after to tear down the wall of separation the Founders installed in the Constitution to protect the population from a theocracy. The immediate celebratory comments by DeVos and evangelicals intent on “compelling Americans to support any religious worship, place, or ministry whatsoever” informs that not only was the SCOTUS ruling significant, it was a dangerous step towards a government ruled by an evangelical theocracy.