Friday, July 06, 2018

Trump Is Tearing Down the Wall Between Church and State

As a gay American, once I overcame the brainwashing of my Catholic upbringing, I have come to increasingly view religion as one of the great forces for hate, division, and bloodshed throughout history.  For instance, both Christianity and Islam claim to be peaceful religions, yet the Bible and Koran can be cherry picked to find justification for almost unlimited evils, including war and the persecution of others of other faiths or non-believers in general.  Works of charity more often than not are outweighed by horrors, especially when viewed with the lens of history. This toxicity becomes even worse when religion intertwines itself with government for the purposes of forging a dogma based political agenda or seeking taxpayer support even as the theocrats rail and discriminate against segments of the taxpaying public.  Thomas Jefferson described such forced financial support "sinful and tyrannical."  Despite these realities and founding principles, the Trump/Pence regime is striving to destroy the concept of separation of church and state and merge government policy with the dogma of right wing Christian extremists.  A column in the New York Times looks at this disturbing phenomenon.  Here are excerpts: 
Many Americans were shocked when Attorney General Jeff Sessions turned to the Bible — specifically, Paul’s epistle to the Romans — to justify President Trump’s policy of separating migrant children from their parents. This scriptural justification for a political decision should not have surprised anyone, because Mr. Trump’s administration has consistently treated the separation of church and state as a form of heresy rather than a cherished American value.
Attacks on the wall of separation established by the founders — which the religious right likes to call “a lie of the left” — are nothing new. What has changed under Mr. Trump is the disproportionate political debt he owes to extreme religious conservatives, whose views on church-state issues — ranging from the importance of secular public education to women’s and gay rights — are far removed from the American mainstream.
The very meaning of the phrases “religious liberty” and “religious freedom” . . . . is being altered to mean that government should foster a closer relationship with those who want to mix their Christian faith with taxpayer dollars. This usage can be found in numerous executive orders and speeches by Mr. Trump and his cabinet members. Changes in language have consequences, as the religious right’s successful substitution of “pro-life” for “anti-abortion” has long demonstrated.
[T]he Supreme Court upheld Mr. Trump’s travel ban targeting majority-Muslim countries and struck down a California requirement that anti-abortion, state-licensed pregnancy clinics provide notice to their clients that abortion is an option. These significant rulings were immediately overshadowed by the retirement from the court of the frequent swing voter Anthony M. Kennedy, which now gives Mr. Trump the opportunity to nominate a predictable religious conservative who would most likely support the overturning of Roe v. Wade.
While it is impossible to overstate the long-term importance of the next court appointment, Mr. Sessions and many of his fellow cabinet members offer textbook examples of the everyday perils of entangling religion with politics.
Many pro-immigration religious leaders, including Catholics, Protestants, Jews and Muslims, took umbrage at the biblical justification for a policy that could hardly be described as loving. Their objections, however, were based mainly on the idea that Mr. Sessions had picked the wrong verse.
It was left to secular organizations to identify all religious rationalizations as the fundamental problem. The Center for Inquiry, a secular think tank, and the Freedom From Religion Foundation, on whose honorary boards I serve, issued strong condemnations — as did the Americans United for Separation of Church and State. Rachel Laser, president of Americans United, put it succinctly: “The separation of church and state means that we don’t base public policy on the Bible or any religious book.”
And yet Trump administration officials have used fundamentalist biblical interpretations to support everything from environmental deregulation to tax cuts.
Many evangelical Christians do not share such theocratic fantasies. These evangelicals, like former President Jimmy Carter, are spiritual descendants of Roger Williams, who was banished from the Puritan theocracy of the Massachusetts Bay Colony and founded the first Baptist congregation in colonial America. Williams is also credited as the first person to use the phrase “wall of separation,” in a 1644 response to the theocratic Puritan clergyman John Cotton. . . . Thomas Jefferson used the expression in a famous 1802 letter to a Baptist congregation in Danbury, Conn.
Destructive religious wars in 17th-century Europe, among other factors, had led many Americans to the realization that governments could indeed be threatened by a close identification with religion.
Trump’s appointees seem unconcerned about whether statements praising the godliness of mixing religion and politics will offend secular and many religious Americans.
Ben Carson, the secretary of housing and urban development and a devout Seventh-day Adventist, has described commitment to the separation of church and state as “crap,” prompted by “political correctness.”
Mr. Sessions took on a larger mission last fall when he sent a 25-page memo on “protections for religious liberty” to every federal agency. It warned that government “may not exclude religious organizations as such from secular aid programs, . . .
Last but not least is Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. Ms. DeVos, raised as a strict Calvinist, has devoted much of her life to promoting private and religious schools over public education. . . . In May, Ms. DeVos visited New York City, which has the largest public school system in the country. She did not inspect a single public school. Instead, she stopped by two Orthodox Jewish schools and spoke at a fund-raiser where she was introduced by Cardinal Timothy Michael Dolan. In her speech, she expressed support for tax credits to help pay tuition for private schools.

Regular Americans who ignore this creeping Christofascism at their own risk.  While one may not be gay, non-Christian or seeking an abortion, over time, the Christofascist want to outlaw even things like simple contraception.  With a second Trump appointee on the Supreme Court, the right to personal privacy first enunciated in Griswold v. Connecticut  could even be overturned. 

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