It’s Halloween, and I’m looking forward to distributing treats to the neighborhood children who come to my house tonight. As long as those creepy clowns stay away, it’s sure to be a good time.

I enjoy a good horror movie every now and then, but to me, the real world provides a more disturbing array of actual chills. In fact, here are seven things way scarier than ghosts, werewolves, zombies – and even phantom clowns:

People who say separation of church and state is a "myth": In my opinion, theocratic zealots – no matter what their faith – are more frightening than a knife-wielding Chucky doll. Separation of church and state has given our nation the greatest degree of religious freedom in the history of the world. All history shows that separation works. People who want to knock down that protective wall and merge their faith with government are extremely scary. .

Government-sponsored religious activities: Some people think it’s no big deal when the government encourages or calls on people to pray through proclamations and official days of prayer. I disagree. Those things give me the creeps. Americans are more than capable of deciding on their own when, how or whether to pray without “advice” from bureaucrats. Government-sponsored religious worship sounds like something out of the Middle Ages. It ought to scare the truly devout the most.

Creationism in public schools: Creationism (and its hipper cousin, “intelligent design”), doesn’t just violate the separation of church and state, it robs young people of the right to learn real science. Students who are taught creationism (or who aren’t taught evolution properly) arrive at college at a disadvantage. They may find entire career paths blocked to them if they can’t catch up. Be afraid. Be very afraid.

"Yikes! Who turned the channel to Pat Robertson?"

Religion-based vetoes over healthcare and LGBTQ rights: You should be able to get the medical care you need – and yes, that includes birth control – even if your boss’s church doesn’t like it. Also, the rights of LGBTQ Americans ought to be respected no matter what some people think the Bible says. Attempts to turn religious freedom, a noble concept that all Americans should cherish, into an instrument to oppress others and deny their rights are the stuff of nightmares.

The Religious Right’s “Christmas Police”: Every year, not long after Halloween, the nation starts rushing headlong toward Christmas. Americans who celebrate this holiday – and not all do – acknowledge it in different ways. To some it’s a religious festival, but others emphasize its secular aspects. Still others mix it up. To the Religious Right’s Christmas Police, there’s only one way to celebrate Christmas – their way! Donald Trump has even vowed that you’ll hear more people saying “Merry Christmas” if he’s elected. (How the heck is he going to enforce that?) Zealots who want to impose a “religiously correct” way of speaking and thinking on everyone send shivers down my spine.

Anyone who talks about how much our country needs “biblical law”: The Bible is an important spiritual guide for many Americans, but few people read it as a manual for governance. Like any religious text, it’s open to various interpretations. (That’s one reason we have so many different strains of Christianity.) When people call for “biblical law,” what they really mean is this: “I have decided that the way I interpret the Bible is the one true way. Everyone should do it my way because I am right.” That’s a monstrous idea.  

TV preacher Pat Robertson: Yes, after all of these years, he still gives me the creeps. His insane ideas are bad enough – and then there’s that maniacal grin.  

Remember, you can keep these phantasms at bay by supporting separation of church and state. If you’re not a card-carrying AU member, take the plunge and join us. I promise we’ll fend off the hobgoblins of the Religious Right and do all we can to protect your right to believe or not believe as you see fit, guided by the precious right of conscience.

But I'm afraid you’re on your own when it comes to creepy clowns.