Aug 01, 2011

When it comes to the Religious Right, the hypocrisy never ceases to amaze me.

Yesterday, on the eve of the Muslim observance of Ramadan, The New York Times published a story detailing the leaders and groups behind the recent push for anti-Shariah laws in state legislatures, and – shocker! – one is former Christian Coalition Field Director Guy Rodgers.

I wasn’t working at Americans United during the Christian Coalition’s heyday, but I pulled out some old Church & State stories from 1992 that made it clear Rodgers had no problem imposing fundamentalist Christian theology on all Americans back then.

But now he’s fearful that Muslim Americans will do the same, and suddenly, he’s not okay with religion being the basis of our laws.

Rodgers and many other Religious Right activists claim Muslims may be plotting take over our country’s courts. They insist that if Americans don’t take action, Muslims will eventually gain power, and our judges will have to accommodate Islamic law.

“Before the train gets too far down the tracks, it’s time to put up the block,” said Rodgers, now the executive director of ACT for America, one of the organizations promoting anti-Shariah legislation.

In the past year, more than two dozen states have considered bills that prohibit judges from consulting Shariah, or any foreign law, in their decisions. Oklahoma was the first state to approve a constitutional amendment in November that bans the use of Shariah law in court. (The measure has since been temporarily blocked by a federal judge.)

Americans United has opposed these legislative proposals from the start. As supporters of church-state separation, we don’t believe any religious doctrine should be the basis of our laws. All judges should base their decisions on the Constitution.

Since this is already the law of the land, it’s clear that these measures are just another example of the Religious Right instilling fear and singling out Muslim Americans for discrimination.

As The Times article put it, the threat of Shariah is “more imagined than real.” After all, there are no government officials insisting on saying Muslim prayers before legislative meetings. There are no state legislators introducing measures to teach the Quran in public schools. And there is no Islamic movement pushing for measures that discriminate against Christians.

Yet on a regular basis, AU receives complaints about Religious Right-oriented government officials who offer sectarian Christian prayers before legislative meetings. Every year, state legislatures consider legislation allowing for creationism or a Bible curriculum in public schools. And currently there is a movement to discriminate against Muslim Americans with these anti-Shariah measures.

And Rodgers and his ilk want us to believe Islamic law is a threat?

We all know the real threat to our religious freedom is the Religious Right and its endless push to impose a fundamentalist Christian agenda on all Americans through governmental action.

When a government official actually threatens the separation of church and state by pushing Islamic doctrine – then we’ll worry. In the meantime, it’s clear where we must direct our efforts.

If Rodgers is truly afraid of religion influencing our courts, perhaps he’ll join us.