December 2022 Church & State Magazine

A Slippery Slope Toward Theocracy: To Defend Church-State Separation, We Need To Go Back To The Basics

  A Slippery Slope Toward Theocracy: To Defend Church-State Separation, We Need To Go Back To The Basics

By Dick Newbert

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;

—First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution

Certain recent Supreme Court decisions have embraced high-priority political objectives of conservative, primarily Christian Right activists, justifying their opinions on “originalism” and questionable interpretations of the First Amendment.

These range from empowering individuals and organizations to circumvent laws most Americans must obey (notably, Burwell v. Hobby Lob­by, Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission and Little Sister of the Poor v. Pennsylvania); providing religious schools access to public tax dollars (Carson v. Makin), and eliminating abortion rights protections (Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization).

Chillingly, more than one associate justice has openly signaled other unenumerated rights, currently enjoyed by and popular with millions of Americans, which are in conflict with Christian Nationalist agendas should be challenged – and would be warmly welcomed.

Christian Nationalists, together with the Oath Keepers, Proud Boys and other domestic extremist groups who parade around in pseudo-uniforms waving American, MAGA, Trump and QAnon flags and chanting “USA! USA!”, represent a dangerous, anti-democratic movement whose ideology abhors the separation of church and state; they have no problem with undermining the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment or any other part of the Constitution, even through violence if necessary.

Their goal is nothing less than assault on individual rights and dem­ocratic self-government and institutions leading to a new order of re­li­­gious authoritarianism. Their Amer­i­ca would be a white, autocratic theocracy based on fundamentalist principles that would rewrite history, reject science and institutionalize discrimination against religious minorities, women, people who identify as LGBTQ+, immigrants, people of color and others they see as different or as a threat to their perceived security or societal status.

Sadly, some members of Con­gress, willing to ignore their oath to “support and defend the Constitution,” have given voice to such radical ideologies.

Republican congresswoman and self-described Christian Rightist Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.) proclaimed, “I’m tired of this separation of church and state junk.” She added, “The church is supposed to direct the government.”

In Georgia, U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene is arguing the Republicans Party needs, “to be the party of nationalism and I’m a Christian, and I say it proudly, we should be Christian Nationalists.”

Boebert, Greene and their fellow travelers reject the original intent of the First Amendment, that government must not impose a state religion on the public, or place undue restrictions on religious practice, but must recognize the right of the people to believe and worship, or not, as their conscience dictates.

Collectively, Christian nationalists have lost sight of the America our Founders envisioned. They’ve forgotten that Christianity is a religious faith, not a political movement or party!

Those using Christianity as a cover for conservative political agendas seem to have forgotten:

  •  Our nation’s Founding Fathers, not the Apostles, wrote the Constitution;
  •  They added a Bill of Rights, not the Ten Commandments;
  •  Despite most being Christians or deists, the Founders’ clear intent was freedom of religion, not control by any religion;
  •  Nowhere in the Constitution is Christianity mentioned; and
  •  They created a pluralistic demo­cracy, not a theocracy which many came to this country to escape.

All Americans have the inalienable right to worship according to their personal beliefs. However, no one has any right to impose beliefs on, discriminate against or interfere with the rights of others, nor should anyone be immune from obeying the laws of our nation.

To permit such actions can only lead to intolerance, oppression, lost liberties and the ultimate demise of our fragile constitutional republic.

Dick Newbert is retired entrepre­neur who lives in Langhorne, Pa. He edits The


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