I endorse it. I think it was correct. Contrary to what many have said, it sought to outlaw neither prayer nor belief in God. In a pluralistic society such as ours, who is to determine what prayer shall be spoken, and by whom? Legally, constitutionally or otherwise, the state certainly has no such right. I am strongly opposed to the efforts that have been made to nullify the decision. They have been motivated, I think, by little more than the wish to embarrass the Supreme Court. When I saw Brother Wallace going up to Washington to testify against the decision at the congressional hearings, it only strengthened my conviction that the decision was right.
Martin Luther King, Jr., Playboy interview, 1965. [About the Supreme Court’s decisions striking down prayer in public schools.]
On January 20, in his first hours as president, Mr. Trump issued a proclamation asserting that there can be no peace where the people do not pray for it. Really?
Who convinced him to issue such a proclamation? One of the five preachers or the rabbi invited to pray at his inauguration? Don’t Americans pray enough? Was there a shortage of prayers for peace before World Wars I and II—and every war centuries before—and since 1945? What war occurred due to insufficient prayers? I remember the Vietnam era when draft eligible students were praying for peace up the yin yang. Those prayers did not have much effect, either.
This proclamation is a representative example of the crazy talk of politicians who insert their religious beliefs into the discharge of their secular responsibilities, though in Trump’s case it was likely more pandering to the evangelical base. God—hasn’t he done enough of that already with his appointments?
Well, maybe not, in his mind.
That thought brings with it concern for the liberal democracy we have enjoyed in America since the country’s founding. Trump has created a cabinet of theocrats. What’s more, he has pledged to nominate more religious zealots to the high court, as well as additional key posts.
Bad Moon on the Rise
Are we in danger of becoming a theocracy? More so than ever, IMHO.
Trump and friends are equating patriotism with piety. How I would like to put before the president a statement from a Supreme Court justice in Wisconsin more than a century ago regarding intermingling government with religion:
There is no such source and cause of strife, quarrel, fights, malignant opposition, persecution, war, and all evil in the state as religion. Let it once enter our civil affairs, our government would soon be destroyed. Let it once enter our common schools, they would be destroyed . . . Those who made our Constitution saw this, and used the most apt and comprehensive language in it to prevent such a catastrophe.
(Source: FFRF citation of Justice H.S. Orton of the Supreme Court of Wisconsin, concurring opinion in Weiss v. the District Board, decided on March 18, 1890.)
Susan Jacoby noted that while the new president is himself indifferent to religion, he used the evangelical segment of the electorate to get to the White House. In appreciation, he seems to have delegated his Cabinet picks to zealot-in-waiting Mike Pence, the featured speaker at the upcoming anti-abortion rally in Washington, D.C. whose fanaticism makes the average fundies seem agnostic by comparison. Give Trump credit—he has not (so far) nominated Michelle Bachman, Herman Cain, Mike Huckabee, Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich or Sarah Palin for government jobs. That’s the good news. (I’m trying to look on the bright side here.)
The bad news is that he’s nominated a lineup of god-besotted extremists, including Rick Perry, Jeff Sessions, Betsy DeVos, Mike Pompeo, Nikki Haley, Sonny Perdue, Jeff Sessions, Scott Pruitt, Tom Price and OMG!—Ben Carson. These nominees are Christian zealots beyond the pale and outspoken opponents of church/state separation. Each could seamlessly fill any Sunday morning as a substitute preacher for the five ministers who offered superstitious babble at the Trump Inauguration.
Along with Mr. Pence, these new leaders of the highest government offices will bring their religious perspectives—and culture war agenda, to the forefront of their secular offices.
Can a theocracy be far behind? Will they advocate for an amendment to our godless Constitution declaring that the United States of America is a Christian nation? It’s not so farfetched—a few years ago, a YouGov Omnibus poll found that 34 percent of Americans would favor establishing Christianity as the official state religion in their state. Another slightly bright side note—only 32 percent would go all the way and do the same with the U.S. itself. Small comfort. (This is an average percentage—imagine what the support level must have been in Alabama and Mississippi!)
Hallmarks of a Theocracy
At the risk of frightening a few readers, consider some of the beliefs and policy agendas of these new leaders of key national offices, including the Attorney General and directors/secretaries of H&HS, HUD, Energy, Education, CIA, EPA and Agriculture. You will find belief in and support for:
- Varied biblical prophecies, not excluding The Rapture or end-times.
- The suppression of critical thought, funding for religious charter schools, science-denying initiatives from climate change to evolution and more religious extremists appointed to fill critical positions at all levels of government.
- Vehement opposition to marriage equality and a woman’s choice to be a mother—or not (i.e., legal abortion and other reproductive rights).
- Disdain for separation of church and state—The Donald will be building one wall where it’s not needed and tearing down another where it is.
- Changing the Constitution from a secular Republic to Christian Nation theocracy—in part because they believe this is a condition for the second coming of Christ.
- Sponsorship and passage of more bills like H.R. 7, the “No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion and Abortion Insurance Full Disclosure Act.” Every House Republican voted for this bill. If it clears the Senate (Trump will sign it), the Act will deny more than 28 million women access to abortion coverage.
Consider the man rumored to be Trump’s first choice for the vacant seat on the U.S. Supreme Court, William Pryor. This outspoken opponent of secular principles in the Constitution and the Bill of Rights has compared the ACLU and its plaintiffs to terrorists. He has railed against gay rights, the teaching of evolution, court decisions legalizing abortion and barring school prayer—while promoting displays of the Ten Commandments on government property. He has compared homosexuality to “necrophilia” and “bestiality” and called Roe v. Wade “the worst abomination of constitutional law.” He has long supported the infamous Roy Moore, the Alabama supreme Court jurist who placed a Decalogue plaque in his courtroom and forced jurors to pray.
Advice from an Unlikely Source
The Christian Poet and novelist C.S. Lewis embraced the view that all power corrupts. I wonder if Messrs. Trump and Pence are familiar with The World’s Last Night?
I fully embrace the maxim that all power corrupts. I would go further than all power corrupts. The loftier the pretensions of the power, the more meddlesome, inhuman and oppressive it will be. Theocracy is the worst of all possible governments. All political power is at best a necessary evil: but it is least evil when its sanctions are most modest and commonplace, when it claims no more than to be useful or convenient and sets itself strictly limited objectives. Anything transcendental or spiritual … in its pretensions is dangerous and encourages it to meddle with our private lives…Theocracy, I admit and even insist, is the worst corruption of all.
But, to no reader’s surprise, I think Robert Green Ingersoll merits the final words. This is but the beginning of one of his speeches on the horrors of theocracy.
The government of God has been tried. It was tried in Palestine several thousand years ago, and the God of the Jews was a monster of cruelty and ignorance, and the people governed by this God lost their nationality. Theocracy was tried through the Middle Ages. God was the Governor—the pope was his agent, and every priest and bishop and cardinal was armed with credentials from the Most High—and the result was that the noblest and best were in prisons, the greatest and grandest perished at the stake. The result was that vices were crowned with honor, and virtues whipped naked through the streets. The result was that hypocrisy swayed the sceptre of authority, while honesty languished in the dungeons of the Inquisition…
If God is allowed in the Constitution, man must abdicate. There is no room for both. If the people of the great Republic become superstitious enough and ignorant enough to put God in the Constitution of the United States, the experiment of self-government will have failed, and the great and splendid declaration that ‘all governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed’ will have been denied, and in its place will be found this: All power comes from God; priests are his agents, the people are their slaves …
Best wishes, stay well and consider two points of view: 1) There are no alternative facts; and 2) There is no better government for America than a secular democracy.
May this essay rouse your will to help the insouciant masses defend their liberties. As RGI stated in words that represent the light, air and love at issue—“liberty is the blossom and fruit of justice, the perfume of mercy. It is the air and light, seed and soil, dew and rain of progress, love and joy.”
Or, if he felt this way about it, which he does not, Trump might say, “liberty is YUGE!”