Sharron Angle, The Constitution Party, And The New Religious Right
Liam’s Note: Background information in the first couple paragraphs of this article came directly from a fantastic piece, “What Rand Paul and Sharron Angle Have in Common: A Far-Right “Biblical Law” Political Party“, written by Adele Stan. I found some wonderful chunks of info and completely missed referencing or crediting Adele Stan’s work. My apologies. Please visit the link above and be sure to follow Adele’s work.
Sharron Angle, Republican nominee for U.S. Senate from Nevada was a member of the Independent American Party, the Nevada affiliate of the Constitution Party, for six years, 1992 through 1998, before becoming a Republican in order to increase her chance of getting elected to office. If the Constitution Party sounds familiar, perhaps it’s because, during the 2008 presidential campaign, Todd Palin was revealed to have belonged, for seven years, to the Alaska Independence Party; Alaska’s Constitution Party affiliate.
The Constitution Party is not simply a political party that supports a strict adherence to the Constitution, as its name might suggest, but rather a party that promotes a very specific reinterpretation of the Constitution, based on founder Howard Phillips’ commitment to Christian Reconstructionism. His son, Doug Phillips, also involved with his father in the Constitution Party, is the founder of Vision Forum, an organization ideologically compatible with the Constitution Party, which describes its motivation as “a zeal for the restoration of Biblical patriarchy.”
Howard Phillips emerged as one of the new Christian Right in the 1980s and remains chairman of the Conservative Caucus. The Conservative Caucus, a political organization that served, during the presidential campaign, as a virtual clearinghouse for anti-Obama messaging may still be relied on for all the latest Obama/socialist/birther nonsense. The Caucus works closely with the John Birch Society, a 1950’s Red Scare era anachronism, which is intent on protecting society from the evil fluoride conspiracy.
The Constitution Party started out in 1992 as the U.S. Taxpayers Party. It changed its name as part of a re-branding effort in 1999.
The platform of the Constitution Party is similar to the self-defeating, contradictory ‘Biblicalibertarianism’ of Tea Party rhetoric that has been the featured theme of innumerable Fox cable shows; often sharing the exact same language of ‘returning America to its Christian foundations under Biblical principles’.
The Constitution Party has 367,000 registered voters but is quickly gaining ground as part of the Tea Party populist movement engineered through Freedom Works and their corporate sponsors. As I discussed in a previous post, the Constitution Party and Christian Reconstructionism have deeply influenced both Kentucky Senate candidate Rand Paul and his father.
The South Carolina Governor’s race has become so mired in religious harassment and Christian bias that candidates have been pressured into public statements affirming their Christian faith. The ‘No Religious Test Clause‘ of the Constitution states;
The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the Members of the several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.
Already, the Christian conservatives of the New Right have infringed on or religious freedoms and effectively eroded the fundamental principles of freedom enshrined in the Constitution.
The principle of the First Amendment’s religion clause providing focr a separation of church and state is rejected by the Constitution Party. Their assertion is that the founders always understood, and therefore intended, that the United States of America be a Christian nation founded on biblical law.
The Constitution Party opposes women’s reproductive rights, abortion, and women’s right to make their own reproductive choice in all instances. The Constitution Party calls for the repeal of all federal gun laws. It supports state’s rights and independence and the end of any federal government programs not explicitly delineated in the Constitution.
The Constitution Party proposes the repeal of the Voting Rights Act of 1964, parts of the Civil Rights Act prohibiting discrimination, and Social Security. It advocates the end of government involvement and support in public education, because, according to them, this is the purview of the Church and the family.
In addition, not to be outdone by the Mormon’s, the Constitutional Party advocates for the right of “state and local governments to proscribe offensive sexual behavior,” and, of course, to limit marriage to heterosexual couples only. The constitutional party also stands firmly behind the tax exempt status of churches and religious organizations regardless of their political support, activities, and involvements.
The Constitution Party seeks to have no legislation governing gun ownership yet wishes to ban anything they deem pornographic including speech they deem offensive. And, If this form of fascism is enough to drive you to drink, forget it, Sharron Angle has publicly stated her desire to bring back alcohol prohibition.
According to their website, in 2008 the party was officially on the ballot in 37 states and plans to be on all 50 state ballots in 2012. More importantly, the unconstitutional religious tenets of its platform have seeped into the platform of the Tea Party, most vote starved Republicans, Independants, and even some Democratic candidates hungry for the avid voters of the religious contingent. Although less than 30% of Americans are identified as Christian Evangelicals, let alone the even smaller minority of strict Fundamentalists, exit polls in both the 2000 and 2004 presidential elections showed that almost 70% of voters identified themselves as part of this 30% of the General American population. That is too tempting for politicians to pass up. Les than 30% of the population make up approximately 70% of the voters. The strictly religious seem to vote religiously.
The first amendment to the Constitution protects the free exercise of religion. It does not protect only the free exercise of Christianity, the free exercise of Christians to force others to live by their doctrine, or the preference of Christianity and Christians that they should have special protections and privileges. The founding fathers used the term ‘religion’ in order to express the principle that all religions, beliefs, and world views, have exactly the same status before the law and the government. Had their intention been that Christians, and the Christian church, were exceptional, they would have made at least one specific reference to the religion. Instead, they made no such identification whatsoever of Christianity, Jesus, or the Christian God, and only referred to religion in general.
These fundamentalist views, that are sneaking in on the back of a populist movement for smaller government, are the real bill of goods in a bait and switch being perpetrated right under our noses. The rhetoric is about smaller government, but the prescriptions all include the massive and oppressive governance of a non-democratic church that the first amendment was written precisely to protect us from. The proposition of a state religion is part of what the founding fathers had seen America Revolt against, with England and its state institution of the Anglican Church. Christian fundamentalists, evangelicals, the Constitution Party, and the Glenn Becks, Sharron Angles, Rand Pauls and Sarah Palins of the country, would return us to that very same tyranny.
Sarah Palin has often claimed that America is a Christian Nation. Ms. Palin, joined by a growing number of politically active, religiously biased, novice candidates, erroneously asserts, without any factual basis, that the founders of this country, and authors of the Constitution and Bill of Rights, intended for American law to be based on the Christian bible and the ten commandments.
SARAH PALIN: “I have said all along that America is based on Judeo-Christian beliefs and, you know, nobody has to believe me though. You can just go to our Founding Fathers’ early documents and see how they crafted a Declaration of Independence and a Constitution that allows that Judeo-Christian belief to be the foundation of our lives. And our Constitution, of course, essentially acknowledging that our unalienable rights don’t come from man; they come from God. So this document is set up to protect us from a government that would ever infringe upon our rights to have freedom of religion and to be able to express our faith freely.”
The reality is that there are no references to Christianity or Jesus in the Declaration of independence or the Constitution. There are a few references to a ‘Nature’s God,’ but certainly not to any religious figures or deities of either Christian or Jewish theology. The principle misunderstanding of Mrs. Palin’s, the Constitution Party, and the New Right, is that their interpretation of “our rights to have freedom of religion” translates in her mind to ‘the right of Christians to impose their beliefs and practices on American law, politics, society and education.’
There is at least as much well documented doubt, and even disdain, for Christianity among some of the framers, as there is acceptance by others. This was not a strictly homogeneous group of men. They were as individual and diverse as any such group of men would be today. They recognized their individuality and desired to preserve their freedom of expression. It was for this reason that they were so careful when ensuring the protection of those rights by establishing the separation of church and state. It is only through a secular government that an impartial body can ensure the religious freedoms of all individuals in a tolerant, pluralistic society.
The only reference to anything that may be misconstrued as a profession of Christianity might be the date. The “Seventeenth Day of September in the Year of ‘our Lord’ one thousand seven hundred and Eighty seven” is the sentence in the last section of the fourth and final page of the Constitution and was the common way of marking the date according to the Gregorian calendar. ‘In the year of our Lord’ translated to Latin is ‘Anno Domini’ which is abbreviated as the familiar ‘A.D.’ and is still used by countries who have not adopted the BCE (Before Common Era)-CE (Common Era) method of recording the year. It is merely a tradition and holds no religious significance. Another factor worth considering is that in order to justify their defiance of the King’s authority, the founding fathers, out of political expediency, had to invoke a higher authority that even the King could not dismiss, and make the case that they were endowed with that higher power’s blessing. This mention of a higher power was clearly not intended to imply a Christian power.
The laws of the United States are based on English common law, not the Bible. The principles of American law are traced through this provenance back to Roman law, not Hebrew. It was the non-Christian Romans who introduced civil law, trials by jury, and the concept of innocent until proven guilty. These principles are found nowhere in the Bible. The purpose of a written law was to protect people from the potentially abusive power of the state, or a majority; not to define a god’s rules and religious prescriptions for his subjects. Where these principles are clearly evident in the Constitution and the development of American law, they are clearly absent and often contradicted in the Christian Bible and Decalogue.
Simply because some of the principles of American law seem similar to some of the principles one might find in the Christian bible, does not mean that those laws were based on the Christian bible. Such an assertion could be made with equal credibility by many other world religions. Similar incidental commonalities may be discovered in the Islamic Qur’an, the Jewish Talmud, and many other religious texts. Many of these principles in American law predate Hebrew text, going back as far as The Code of Hammurabi. To contend that the American Constitution, Declaration of Independence, and legal code, are all based on Judeo-Christian theology is simply, and blatantly, erroneous.
The first amendment states;
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof“
Clearly the founders did not intended for our laws to be based on the bible.
In 1785, in the Memorial and Remonstrance Against Religious Assessments, James Madison further explained when he wrote;
“Who does not see that the same authority which can establish Christianity, in exclusion of all other Religions, may establish with the same ease any particular sect of Christians, in exclusion of all other Sects? ” and The preservation of a free Government requires not merely, that the metes and bounds which separate each department of power be invariably maintained; but more especially that neither of them be suffered to overleap the great Barrier which defends the rights of the people. The Rulers who are guilty of such an encroachment, exceed the commission from which they derive their authority, and are Tyrants. The People who submit to it are governed by laws made neither by themselves nor by an authority derived from them, and are slaves.”
It was not until the 1950’s, 176 years after the founding of the country, and during the frenetic ‘Red Scare’ days of McCarthyism, that Christian Fundamentalists were able to infuse their doctrine into the politics of a frightened and bewildered nation. It was during this time of fear-mongering about communist insurgents (like the fear-mongering about terrorists, socialists, communists etc. today), and of ideological purity tests (like the litmus tests we see among the Tea Party, Constitution Party, and conservatives today) that the religious right began to gain its foothold in American Society, battling against social progress and equal rights.
The voice of conservative Independents, Republicans and Libertarians has been stolen. Political ideology has been infused with fundamentalist religious theology with the hope of gaining additional votes. The result has been internal division, further loss of credibility, and the abdication of responsible political discourse. The productive and necessary views and desires of non-religious libertarians and conservatives have been silenced in favour of the media friendly, accidentally-comic hyperbole of the entertainingly ridiculous rhetoric of Angle, Palin, Paul, Beck, et al.
Political Parties pandering for votes is a reality of the political process, but to allow a platform to be usurped by delusional religious fundamentalists with a counter-constitutional agenda is a threat to freedom, the Constitution, and the rights of all Americans.
We need to get the rational, the middle, and more of the left, out to vote. Politicians will pander to whomever will vote for them, and represent the desires of their constituents as represented in the polls. We need to get the rational vote out and let it show in the exit polls. That seems to be the poll that matters the most. The politicians and Political Action Committees want to see who came out to vote and then figure out how to get those people to vote for them next time. Those who lose are looking to win, and the winners are looking to win by a greater margin. Until the politicians see that the religious fanatics are not the only ones voting, they’ll keep ignoring the real American voice. As long as the religious fundamentalists are given control, they will take it. We need to get the rational vote out.
The new crop of candidates are often entertaining. Much like Sarah Palin, they garner more than their fair share of media simply because they are so ridiculous that they make for good press. However understandable this may be, and we all indulge in a good laugh at the expense of the foot-in-mouth crowd, allowing these people to influence domestic, social, economic, national and foreign policy is unconscionable.
America cannot afford any more politicians like George W. Bush. He may not even pass the current conservative litmus, or religious fidelity tests, of this New Religious Right and their current candidates. Vote. There is certainly no need for the likes of Angle, Palin, Paul or any of the other New Religious Right and the Constitutional Party as America deals with some of its most challenging issues of its short history. To invite the erosion of the constitution, while simultaneously allowing democracy to be usurped by the authoritative dictates of religion, will only compound and exacerbate the problems at hand and deny any future remedy.
Know your candidates. Know their platform. Know who butters their bread; and vote. These candidates represent a direct attack on the Constitution, the freedoms of American citizens, and the American way of life. Get informed, get involved, and vote.