People who write for blogs or comment on them may be familiar with something called "Godwin's Law." It holds that if an online discussion/debate goes on long enough, sooner or later someone will invoke a comparison to Hitler and the Nazis.
Some activists on the Religious Right don't waste any time dragging the Nazis into the picture. Consider Brannon Howse. Howse runs Worldview Weekend, an organization that sponsors seminars to help Christians adopt the proper "biblical worldview." (I attended one back in 2002. It was enlightening, to say the least. See more here. )
Howse recently sent out an e-mail promoting an article he wrote listing 25 reasons why America is like Nazi Germany. He gives only seven reasons in the e-mail. You have to order a magazine and give him your mailing address to get the whole thing.
Based on the seven reasons I've read, I'd say Howse needs, as my mother used to say, "to have his head examined." His article is shrill and hysterical – and much of it isn't even true.
Howse asserts that Adolf Hitler removed religious holidays and prayer from public schools – just like our Supreme Court did in 1962.
Let's put aside the fact that the Supreme Court has never banned truly voluntary prayer in public schools. Howse simply doesn't know what he's talking about when it comes to Nazi Germany. He has apparently never read William L. Shirer's The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich or indeed any history of the Nazi era.
If he did, Howse would know that Hitler's approach to churches was to attempt to co-opt them and that some went along with this. A concordat signed between the Nazi state and the Vatican, for example, guaranteed that the Roman Catholic Church would receive tax funding and the right to instill religious exercises in schools. The concordat even banned public criticism of the church. Hitler reportedly condemned secular education in a speech praising the concordat in 1933.
The Nazi regime was replete with religious symbolism. Loyalty oaths often included ended "So help me, God." Many Nazi soldiers wore belt buckles bearing the phrase "Gott Mits Uns" – "God With Us." Christian crosses were often incorporated into Nazi badges and pins, alongside swastikas.
Howse goes on to assert that America is becoming like Nazi Germany because federal tax law bars houses of worship from intervening in partisan elections while retaining tax-exempt status.
"Hitler controlled the church using intimidation and threats," he writes. "A half-century ago, U.S. Senator and Senate Majority Leader Lyndon Baines Johnson promoted a bill that included an amendment to use the Internal Revenue Service to remove the non-profit status of a church that speaks against the election of any specific political candidate."
Let me get this straight: According to Howse, a provision in U.S. law that prohibits tax-exempt organizations from abusing their tax-free status by behaving like political action committees means our county is increasingly becoming like a murderous regime that killed millions of Jews, political dissidents, homosexuals, Roma people and others.
That's so breathtakingly wrong that it requires no response. It collapses under the weigh of its own insanity. Sadly, Howse serves up this poison in churches all over America and even sponsors an annual "Family Reunion" every spring in Branson, Mo.
I've been saying for some time now that the Religious Right has no intention of fading away. If anything, the movement's leaders will only become more extreme and shrill in their outlook – and in the case of Howse, somewhat paranoid. Howse, who is close to "Christian nation" advocate David Barton and Donald Wildmon of the American Family Association, seems bent on proving me right.