In the nation’s capital, speculation abounds over how Matthew G. Whitaker, President Donald Trump’s new acting attorney general, might affect Robert Mueller’s ongoing probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election. Will Whitaker, who’s known to be a close Trump ally, try to impede the investigation or even shut it down?
They’re important questions and well worth asking. But as this process moves forward, there are some other things you should know about Whitaker – mainly, he’s no fan of separation of church and state.
“I have a Christian worldview. Our rights come from our creator and they are guaranteed by the Constitution,” Whitaker told a blogger in 2014 when he unsuccessfully ran in the Republican primary for a U.S. Senate seat in Iowa. “So I would start all analysis of any law or anything else first with the Constitution and then work from there.”
Later in the interview, he carped that the courts are too powerful, remarking, “The courts are supposed to be the inferior branch of our three branches of government. We have unfortunately offloaded many of our tough public policy issues onto the court and they’ve decided them. Unelected judges are deciding many of the issues of the day. There are so many [bad rulings].”
Among those bad rulings, according to Whitaker, is Marbury v. Madison, an 1803 Supreme Court decision that established the high court's right to strike down unconstitutional laws. (Ask a lawyer to explain to you why Whitaker's view here is insane, or just read this column.)
Whitaker also opposes court rulings upholding marriage equality. “I believe marriage is between one man and one woman,” Whitaker said. “Throughout history, it’s traditionally been up to the churches and to God to define that. … Here in the state of Iowa, we can’t even get our elected officials to do anything about it and that’s really frustrating.”
Equally alarming are comments Whitaker made during a debate of the GOP candidates sponsored by an Iowa Religious Right group. He attacked the idea that judges should have a secular outlook and implied that only certain types of Christians are qualified to sit on the bench.
“If they have a secular worldview, then I’m going to be very concerned about how they judge…,” Whitaker said. “[W]hat I would like to see, I’d like to see things like their worldview, what informs them. Are they people of faith? Do they have a biblical view of justice?”
Whitaker added that judges’ worldview should be grounded in the New Testament, asserting, “And what I know is as long as they have that worldview, that they’ll be a good judge. And if they have a secular worldview, where this is all we have here on Earth, then I’m going to be very concerned about that judge.”
It looks as if Whitaker supports the noxious idea of a religious test for public office, something barred by Article VI of the U.S. Constitution. His claim that having a “secular outlook” somehow makes a man or a woman unfit to be a judge is offensive and wrong; I’d even say it’s un-American. Our Constitution, after all, is a secular document. In light of that, it seems appropriate, and indeed necessary, for a judge to respect the idea that secularism is an important feature of our government.
Jeff Sessions, whom Trump on Wednesday fired as attorney general, held similar views and also believed that people with a secular outlook are somehow not to be trusted. The bogus “Religious Liberty Task Force” Sessions headed is designed to promote the idea that “religious liberty” should be little more than a device to discriminate against others, take away their rights and do them harm. For those reasons, no tears were shed here at Americans United when Sessions was sent packing.
Yet there’s certainly no reason to cheer. In Whitaker, Trump has managed to find someone whose views on our first freedom are just as bad and perhaps even worse.
(Photo: Screenshot via The Washington Post)