The Separation of Church and State

Christian Nationalist group leader stumbles over ‘morality clause’

  Rob Boston

On Saturday morning, I was scanning some headlines over breakfast when this Religion News Service story caught my eye: “Church Militant founder Michael Voris resigns.”

I did a double-take. I remembered that Americans United had tangled with this group in the past. A quick trip to AU’s website brought back the details.

Monarchy in America?

In February of 2017, Voris gave a media interview during which he expressed views so extreme and alarming that I at first wondered if he could be serious. Voris called for replacing America’s democracy with a theocracy headed by a Catholic king. The group was clear that it wanted to ban all abortions and severely restrict the rights of LGBTQ+ people and Muslims, among other anti-democratic policies.

I wrote a blog post making the obvious point that these extreme proposals would be impossible to square with our Constitution. Voris fired back on social media, accusing Americans United of “promoting secularist ideals in the public square” (guilty as charged!) and vowing to add us to Church Militant’s list of hate groups. (That really stung – not.)

Voris’ views are not endorsed by the Catholic Church. In fact, some U.S. bishops have warned their flocks to keep away from Church Militant. Nevertheless, it persists and has hundreds of thousands of followers online.

Desperately seeking theocracy

Church Militant is an example of the most extreme form of Christian (in this case, far-right Catholic) Nationalism. Groups like Alliance Defending Freedom, First Liberty Institute and others work to dismantle the separation of church and state while insisting they don’t want a theocracy – even though that would be the result of their efforts. Church Militant doesn’t bother with the semantic games; it seeks a theocracy and freely admits it.

What did Voris do that got him forced out? Voris, who says he is “ex-gay,” declined to give details, but the group issued a statement saying he was removed for an unspecified moral violation.

“Michael Voris has been asked to resign for breaching the Church Militant morality clause,” read the press release from the group. “The board has accepted his resignation.”

When Religion News Service reporter Jack Jenkins reached out for more comment, the board did not reply. Jenkins noted that a “visibly emotional” Voris posted a video online and apologized for his behavior. Voris alluded to “some very, very ugly truths from my past” and “act-out demons” he needed to conquer.

A familiar story

How many times have we seen this happen? Remember TV preacher Jim Bakker? How about Ted Haggard, Jimmy Swaggart and Jerry Falwell Jr.? The list goes on.

It’s not considered polite to take pleasure in the misfortune of others, but I don’t see a problem with calling out hypocrisy. And it’s all right to reserve an extra dose of contempt for those who, even as they burn to force all of us to live under the repressive rules of their religion, can’t be bothered to follow those dictates themselves.

P.S. Tomorrow is Giving Tuesday. Americans United has a proud history of exposing groups like Church Militant that are undermining church-state separation. This Shadow Network is a billion-dollar operation – and it aims to obliterate your rights. Please consider a gift to American United so we can step up our vital work. And here’s some good news: Your Giving Tuesday gift will be matched, meaning your donation goes twice as far!

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