Wallbuilders’ Narrow Notion: Religious Liberty For Me, But Not For Thee

Based on phony history, Wallbuilders’ court filing asks the 9th Circuit not to consider Americans United’s viewpoint. It states we don’t cite “true history” but a “revisionist history” since we claim the Founders wanted to extend religious liberty for all.

Recently, Americans United weighed in on a case that challenged discriminatory hiring practices at the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.

We sided with a Wiccan clergyman, Patrick McCollum, who was a qualified candidate for a paid chaplain position but could not be considered because of his religious beliefs. At the prison, those positions are only available to those who are Protestant, Catholic, Jewish, Muslim or Native American.

AU filed a friend-of-the-court brief with the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals supporting McCollum’s right to bring his case into court. Interestingly, we have just learned that WallBuilders, represented by the National Legal Foundation, has submitted a brief to defend the discriminatory practice.

The group contends that the Founders never intended the Constitution’s religious liberty clauses “to protect paganism and witchcraft.” It specifically cites Americans United’s brief and claims that we “misunderstand” history.

Wallbuilders then asserts that the Founders only wanted the word “religion” to incorporate monotheistic beliefs and should not protect the beliefs of others.

“There are, of course, references to ‘heathens’ and ‘pagans’ among the writings of the Framers,” the group states, “but there is no indication that those belief systems, including polytheism, are considered ‘religion.’”

The brief relies on a law review article written in 2002 by Lee Strang, formerly a professor at Ave Maria Law School, a far-right Catholic university run by Tom Monaghan, the ultra-conservative activist behind the Thomas More Law Center. (Monaghan, the founder of Dominos, also wanted to create a Catholics-only town in Florida.)

Based on phony history, Wallbuilders’ court filing asks the 9th Circuit not to consider Americans United’s viewpoint. It states we don’t cite “true history” but a “revisionist history” since we claim the Founders wanted to extend religious liberty for all.

Needless to say, the brief is offensive, disrespectful and essentially advocates that the government should feel free to discriminate against all non-Judeo-Christian religions.

But what else can we expect from Wallbuilders? The organization’s founder and president, David Barton, is a well-known Religious Right propagandist who for years has pushed a fundamentalist “Christian nation” view of American history. He claims to be a historian, but he isn’t one. He earned a bachelor’s degree in “Christian Education” from Oral Roberts University and then taught math and science at a fundamentalist Christian school founded by his father.

Wallbuilders’ brief, like Barton, is a serious joke. And we hope that the 9th Circuit pays it no mind.