Here at Secular Left, we aren’t the only ones who can see through the double speak of those on the political and religious right when it comes to real religious liberty. Unless one has had a brain removed, the hypocritical arguments by those on the right is easily seen.
Robin Blumner, columnist for the St. Petersburg (Fla.) Times, detailed the wild argument made by Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia in his dissent in McCreary County vs. ACLU of Kentucky (2005), that case said the display of the 10 Commandments was illegal. Scalia is a devout conservative Catholic, and unlike most Justices, has been very talkative about his opposition to separation of church and state.
In his dissent he made the claim that the Founding Fathers meant for the government to be neutral relative to differing denominations but not between the religious and nonreligious.
“With respect to public acknowledgment of religious belief,” Scalia wrote, “it is entirely clear from our nation’s historical practices that the Establishment Clause permits this disregard of polytheists and believers in unconcerned deities, just as it permits the disregard of devout atheists.”
To back up his claim he points out several instances where a founding father invoked “God” during official business.
As Blumner points out:
“The Constitution, our nation’s seminal document, purposely includes no mention of a deity. Religion is mentioned only to guarantee no religious test for public office. The founders at the Constitutional Convention were creating a nation governed by men, based on the ideas of men, and they understood perfectly – having been witness to the centuries of religious conflict in Europe – the danger of government entangling itself in sectarianism.”
She also addressed the examples of Jefferson and Madison that Scalia used:
“As to Jefferson, far from injecting religion into his official role, he scrupulously avoided it. He refused to proclaim national days of fasting and thanksgiving as had Adams and Washington before him. And in his famous letter to the Danbury Baptists, Jefferson reassured the group that the Constitution had erected ‘a wall of separation between church and state.’
Madison also wrote often on the need to separate the ecclesiastical and the civil – for the benefit of both realms. In 1822, he said, “religion and government will both exist in greater purity, the less they are mixed together.” His 1785 Memorial and Remonstrance Against Religious Assessments stands as one of the greatest exhortations against the use of taxes to support religious teachings.”
Justice John Paul Stevens pointed out that the Decalogue comes in different forms depending on the faith and by the Kentucky counties choosing the King James version they picked a side which rebutted Scalia’s denominational neutrality argument. Scalia then claimed no reasonable person, viewing the display in context, would think the state was taking a side.
Blumner then zings the Justice:
“Oh, no? Then why didn’t the good people of Kentucky choose the Jewish version?”
That is why the religious conservatives love the argument about denominational neutrality. On one side of their mouth they can trumpet neutrality and from the other side of the mouth they make sure you know which denomination is favored – the one the majority believes in. Every state vs. religious conflict is argued in that matter.
Back in 2001, Wisconsin hired an ordained Wicca minister to be the new chaplain at one of its prisons. The religious conservatives had a hissy fit. One legislator threatened to pull funding from the prison chaplain program, calling Witch’s hiring “hocus-pocus”.
Not to mention the hissy fit that was thrown in 1999 when it was learned the US Army allowed Wicca services at one of its bases. Paul Weyrich of the Free Congress Association charged that tolerating meetings of witches at military bases was “a direct assault on the Christian faith that generations of American soldiers have fought and died for.”
“Until the Army withdraws all official support and approval from witchcraft, no Christian should enlist or reenlist in the Army, and Christian parents should not allow their children to join the Army. An Army that sponsors satanic rituals is unworthy of representing the United States of America.”
The conservative groups listed by the Free Congress Association as supporting the boycott in 1999, withdrew their support in short time as they realized the group had gone too far. If their first love is state stroking of their religion, then love of the military is 2nd. But that is another issue.
A reasonable person will see that religious conservatives don’t favor true religious liberty. As Blumner writes to conclude her column:
Scalia has looked out upon the nations of the world where the government endorses certain religious ideas and not others – Saudi Arabia, China, Sudan – and decided that the United States should join in. Our national religion should be monotheism, and all those who don’t agree should just shut up and thank their lucky stars that they’re allowed to stay at all. What a scary, un-American place it would be, living in Scalia’s America.