Whenever I’m in the mood for clear, insightful commentary on the separation of church and state, I know just where to turn: the nearest reality TV star!
Just kidding. Reality TV stars are perhaps the worst source for anything sensible. Exhibit A: Phil Robertson of “Duck Dynasty.”
When we last left the Z.Z. Top wannabe, Robertson was under fire for a string of homophobic comments that almost derailed his reality TV empire on the A&E network.
“Everything is blurred on what’s right and what’s wrong. Sin becomes fine,” Robertson told GQ magazine. He then offered up a long, disturbing reflection on how great women’s body parts are and how real men appreciate them.
Robertson then reeled off this gem: “Start with homosexual behavior and just morph out from there. Bestiality, sleeping around with this woman and that woman and that woman and those men. Don’t be deceived. Neither the adulterers, the idolaters, the male prostitutes, the homosexual offenders, the greedy, the drunkards, the slanderers, the swindlers – they won’t inherit the kingdom of God. Don’t deceive yourself. It’s not right.”
The pushback to these ravings was spirited, to say the least, and A&E came close to dumping the entire clan. But in the end, they just couldn’t kill their cash cow. Some Americans, for reasons I will never fathom, are enamored of the Robertson clan’s antics.
(By the way, the entire series appears to be, um, “manipulated.” There is strong evidence that the Robertsons are fake rednecks.)
Sensible people are keeping Robertson at arm’s length these days, so naturally the Republican Leadership Conference, meeting in New Orleans recently, invited him to speak. Robertson’s appearance at the event appears to be part of a GOP plan to alienate everyone expect homophobic fundamentalist Christians. It’s not exactly a recipe for growth, but hey, it’s their party.
Addressing the crowd, Robertson thundered, “We threw God out of the schools and the courthouse. Separation of church and state. I’m telling you right here what the founding fathers said. Does it sound like separating God Almighty from the United States of America? No way, that’s a lie. By removing the Bible from school you will be wasting time and money punishing criminals and there’s going to be an explosion of crime.”
Wow! Congratulations, Phil – that’s quite a lot of ignorance and misinformation crammed into just 67 words.
Let’s just look at one of Phil’s claims: Where is this explosion of crime? Religious Right leaders have been harping on this one for years. “Christian nation” advocate David Barton published an entire book allegedly proving that the school prayer rulings of 1962 and ’63 had sparked an upswing in crime, sexually transmitted diseases, poor test scores, divorce, halitosis, etc.
Poor Barton. He doesn’t understand that correlation is not causation. But in Robertson’s case, there isn’t even any correlation. The rate of violent crime in the United States has been dropping for years.
When I hear someone like Robertson trashing the separation of church and state, I know exactly what that person is really saying: “I want MY religion to rule over all. The ‘biblical’ society I see is based on how I interpret the Bible.”
If a liberal interpretation of Christianity, “New Age” beliefs, Wicca or Islam became the dominant faith in America and attempted to graft itself into the law, you can bet that Robertson and his ducky family would be screaming for some separation.
But there’s usually no point trying to explain that to people like Robertson. They can’t ever perceive that their beliefs, no matter how strongly held, aren’t shared by others and thus make a poor basis for public policy.
So what is to be done with him? Well, let Robertson talk all he wants. Let him spew his nonsense. Do so secure in the knowledge that, at the end of the day, he’s really just a lonely duck hunter, crying out to a nation that is rapidly leaving him and his bigoted views far behind.