Religious Assault On Democracy
By Liam Fox
This is not a story of people struggling to protect and ensure their freedom and liberty. This is not a story about people simply wanting a little more for themselves without considering the negative impact on others. This is a report of an intentional attempt to subvert the authority of our elected representatives with the goal of limiting and removing rights and protections guaranteed to the American citizenry. This is a report concerning the deliberate attack on democratic institutions as well as the Constitution. I realize that such a statement sounds melodramatic and extreme. In fact, it sounds like something you may read on the placards hoisted high, by some of the very people that support the actions I’m referring to.
The following events were well reported and recorded during this past week. Colorado Senator, Dave Schultheis proposed a bill, SB089 (1), this past week, which would have undermined important democratic institutions. Fortunately, poor negotiating skills made killing the bill in committee possible(2). The vehicle for this subversion was a Religious Bill of Rights, that, in addition to being an insult to the First Amendment, was deemed generally redundant to the ‘real’ Bill of Rights.
This Bill was purportedly necessary for the protection of religious persons from attacks on their religious rights in the public school system despite the fact that there was no evidence or even anecdotal testimony to support such ridiculous claims. The particulars of the Bill and it’s outrageous demands have been well covered (3)(4). The two most controversial areas of concern are first, that teachers would not have to teach anything that may disagree with their religious views, and that they could openly display their own religious material in their classrooms and, second, that students could refuse or oppose course material for the same irrational reasons(1). The part of the story that I would like to draw attention to is the resulting affect any such Bill would have on the ability of the elected officials of the school board to implement the wishes and demands of the electorate. What is the affect on our democracy if the curriculum of our public school system is influenced by dictates from either one, or even several competing, religious theologies?
The bill is laden with tacit threats of increased and ongoing costly court challenges, even against individual board members, if the public school system refused to adopt and assertively implement its guidelines and demands. The goal of this blatant coercion was the usurping of the authority from our duly-elected school board officials.
The individuals on the school board are the representatives of the people and are required to be responsible, to all of the people, on all matters relating to their schools, including curricula. Although not legally binding in its initial form, this Religious Bill of Rights would have usurped that authority over curricula and placed it, indirectly as well as possibly directly, in the hands of religious leaders and clerics. Senator Schultheis himself is a conservative Christian Fundamentalist.
The issues at stake are not whether a student or employee of the public school system can say a prayer before their meal or during lesson breaks, or peacefully study their religious text in the cafeteria during their lunch hour, or anything else as personal or benign. Such things are well within their rights. What was at stake is the right for a religion to use the public school system as a venue for their proselytizing and means of imposing their discriminatory theological doctrine on society by having control over the public education system’s curricula. What was attempted was nothing shy of a deliberate move to subvert democratic institutions and the American Constitution for the imperialistic goals of religious sects and their attempt to promote only information that supports their dogma while censoring any information that may expose and challenge the inconsistencies, and lack of scientific or historical basis, of their unsupportable claims. Although Senator Schultheis is a very vocal and evangelical follower of Jesus, the wording of the Bill only referred to religions in general and plural. If these powers of veto or influence are applied equally to all religions, the resulting affects on the curricula would be crippling to our educational system.
Creationists often demand that their myth regarding the origins of humanity be taught along side the science of evolution, and given equal weight and credibility as an alternative explanation. If this is similarly intended with this bill, and is applied to all religions, the resulting chaos of irrationality could boggle the minds of some of our potentially best and brightest. We would be presenting children with a cacophony of ignorance, infusing ideas of a flat earth created in six days with stars as heavenly projectiles and the laws of physics subject to the whims of an imaginary, invisible, supernatural being. Additionally, the social impact of Christian and Islamic doctrine against any who do not share their faith, as well as the discrimination against women and homosexuals, would destroy the more tolerant, secular environment.
The stupidity of this sort of all-inclusive influence by several religions is obvious. I’m sure that equal access to all religions was not the expectation of this bill. The apparent motive behind this Bill is not in the name of religious freedom or tolerance, but in the name of freedom and tolerance for one specific religion. I’m sure that references to democracy would eventually be invoked to stave of any threat of competing theologies, ideologies, or even provable and observable truths, and preferential rights would be claimed, as a voting majority, by the most popular religion. All, in violation of the constitution. These sort of strategies employed are brilliant examples of political savvy and masterful statesmanship designed to erode the democracy from within by using its strengths against it. Equality, access, respect and tolerance, and the systems and institutions that have been developed, striving towards these principles, are actively undermined with divine justification and absolution. Christianity and Islam, and any other authoritarian theologies, are the stated enemies of democracy.
The two most common religions in America, and globally, don’t require observance by their adherents alone. They require obedience and observance by our entire society. They are dictatorial and tyrannical and anathema to a democracy. Their religion requires them to evangelize, to witness, and to spread the word of god in order to convert the non-believers. Their religion has rules and doctrines for society that they are commanded to demand. It is the duty of Christians, or followers of Jesus and it is the same for Muslims and the devotees of Islam. They must be imperialistic and work to convert or coerce others to follow the doctrines and dictates of their religion. That is their role. The public sphere is not a place of acceptance, tolerance and cooperation where they seek only to coexist, but a place to be evangelized and bend to their will.
This close call was in the state of Colorado, ranked only the forty-first most religious in America. Texas, ranked the eleventh most religious, has already reintroduced the Christian Bible as part of their curriculum and Kentucky, ranked tenth, seems as though it will soon follow suit. These are not isolated incidents of extremists trying to impact the American system. Religious organizations and movements, in this case the conservative Christian Right, the followers of Jesus and American fundamentalists, are working vehemently to circumvent democratic process in America’s public and governmental institutions. Cloaked in the guise of American traditional values and American patriotism, the Christian conservative movement works diligently to further realize its own agenda. It will not be one sweeping event of momentous individual impact that will establish fundamental political and social change. It will be small incremental changes building one upon the other until the constitutional coup attempted in Colorado will be the standard method of operation. Even if it means subverting the constitution of the United States.
(1) - http://www.leg.state.co.us/CLICS/CLICS2010A/csl.nsf/fsbillcont3/71A532164C3006E9872576A8002BBFF4?Open&file=089_01.pdf
(2) - http://coloradoindependent.com/47541/controversial-schultheis-public-schools-religion-bill-ends-in-a-whimper
(3) - http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/badastronomy/2010/02/15/do-we-really-need-a-religious-bill-of-rights/
(4) - http://www.palibandaily.com/2010/02/17/colorados-religious-bill-of-rights/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed:+paliban/RDkF+(Paliban+Daily)
(5) - http://pewforum.org/docs/?DocID=504