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Blogging against theocracy is actually very easy. There's only one point that needs be made: read the U.S. Constitution.

From Article VI:

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.

 

One of the strangest aspects to being a religious liberal is that your beliefs are often assaulted from both sides: right wing fundamentalists have taken what you consider to be one of the most profound and beautiful aspects of existence, and bastardized it into a hatemongering fascism; while some atheistic liberals, whose understanding of religion has been defined by the bastardized version, make blanket denigrations of what they apparently don't understand; and while it's impossible to briefly explicate a non-dogmatic spirituality, it is both possible and necessary to emphasize the single most important aspect of religious liberalism, as it pertains to American politics. It's from Article VI of the United States Constitution:

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.

Bill Maher and Duncan Black (Atrios) are two of the most prominent American critics of religion's role in American politics. They are both atheists. Not that either would necessarily be interested, but both know that their atheism precludes the possibility of their ever being elected to high public office. Both are disgusted by this fact. They should be. We all should be.

To keep it in simple terms, Kurt Vonnegut is an atheist and a secular humanist; and while, from a purely literary standpoint, he may not be the greatest of writers, he is certainly one of the most humane. It would have been much to the world's benefit had most ostensibly religious American presidents shared just a fraction of Vonnegut's humanity.

It is an outrage and a moral failure that an atheist cannot be elected to high public office in the United States. It's also clearly not in the spirit of the U.S. Constitution.  

From Article VI:

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.

Right wing religious nuts often claim that the Constitution is really meant to be a religious document. They point to the legitimate fact that many of the Constitution's Founders were deeply religious. For emphasis, they often come armed with quotes from the Founders' personal and public writings. To rebut the claim that these personal beliefs were intended to be part of the Constitution, critics burrow deep into the arcane writings of other Founders, including those of Thomas Jefferson and James Madison. It is not necessary to engage in such debates. There is only one argument that needs be made, to thoroughly and definitively eviscerate the right wing argument. It comes from another document written by the Framers, and adopted by the Founders. It's called the U.S. Constitution. From Article VI:

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.

If I've been repetitive, it is not without purpose. This simple fact cannot be overemphasized. It's salience in the debate over separation of Church and State cannot be overstated. It should be repeated, over and over, again and again. It should be inscribed on every federal office building. It should, in fact, replace the slogan "In God We Trust" on our currency. It is simple and concise, and its meaning could not be more clear. It is the only reference to religion in our Constitution. From Article VI:

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.

It has become so standard for Presidential candidates to be asked about their religious beliefs, that none any longer even blink. Their answers are as rehearsed and ready as are their answers to any questions on any major political issues; but this question should not be a political issue. I would love to see a candidate have the courage to tell anyone who asks about their religious beliefs that it is none of their business. Religion is a personal matter, and what one believes or claims to believe about it does not in any way necessarily reflect on what kind of person they are, or how they will behave in office; more importantly, it has no place in our political process. All a candidate needs to say, to prove qualification for public office, is that she or he believes in the Constitution of the United States; and the Constitution includes the following passage, in Article VI:

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.

Do our Presidential candidates believe in the Constitution, or do they not? They shouldn't be afraid to say so.

Originally posted to Laurence Lewis on Sun Apr 08, 2007 at 08:53 AM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  and a special easter message (32+ / 0-)

    for bush and his supporters:

    Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.
    -Matthew 7:15

    © 2007 because i needed a homepage, and the world needed another blogger...

    by Laurence Lewis on Sun Apr 08, 2007 at 08:47:25 AM PDT

    •  Thanks for this Turkana (6+ / 0-)

      In all the flash and noise of the recent religion and atheism diaries I have, once again, been surprised by the lack of civility here at DKos.

      It seems to me that we all, both atheist and religious progressive, have a common goal and that is to prevent the creeping invasion of theocracy into our government.

      If we weren't all so busy fighting with and offending one another, perhaps we could fight that.

      Economic Left/Right: -7.00 Social Libertarian/Authoritarian: -6.31

      by DMiller on Sun Apr 08, 2007 at 09:28:47 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Theocracies... (8+ / 0-)

    ..seem to be doomed to be failed states.  Founding a country solely on religious beliefs will inevitably sow the seeds of divisiveness.
     The true believer cannot tolerate diplomacy.
     Thank you, Turkana, for repeating Article VI.

    In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act. - George Orwell

    by drchelo on Sun Apr 08, 2007 at 08:55:15 AM PDT

  •  Bill Maher an Atheist, (5+ / 0-)

    I thought he was a Libertarian. Our values determine our voting. The unfortunate part is so many folks vote their religious beliefs and in doing so risk forcing their beliefs on the whole country ie: abortion and gay marriage. While they would tell it is exactly what they want, it is a classic case of being careful what you wish for. They can't get it thru their heads, no one not a single person is stepping on their rights, but if they let this country slide into the abyss of a theocracy not even their rights are safe because it is virtually impossible to insure this country will remain primarily Christian. The Constitution protects them equally and it has to be enough for all of us.

    •  I remember asking (6+ / 0-)

      a very religious friend of mine about this very question.  What happens if chrisitianity is no longer the majority religion?  What if, through immigration and conversion, a muslin majority happened in the United States? How comfortable are you with this trend towards combining government and religion, if your religion is no longer the religion under which  you would be governed?

      She pooh pooh the concept, but I could tell it was the first time she had considered it and she was bothered.

      Economic Left/Right: -7.00 Social Libertarian/Authoritarian: -6.31

      by DMiller on Sun Apr 08, 2007 at 09:21:33 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  What you're saying is that the Constitution is (0+ / 0-)

      profoundly undemocratic, if it will not allow amendments to it that allow theocracy.

      If it allows amendments that could make it theocratic, what do you say if it happens?

      Democracy is a ten-edged sword.

      The wisdom of crowds is the mantra of the mob.

      Solicit.Agreement.First.

      by ormondotvos on Sun Apr 08, 2007 at 09:31:00 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Moderation in all things... (5+ / 0-)

        including moderation.

        The Founders viewed "democracy" as meaning mob rule.  That's a bad idea.  Thus the Republic.  What we have is a hybrid system, and it's been modified since their time.

        It's an experiment, a system which is intended to be tweaked and improved upon... to make it work better.

        It has become an increasingly democratic Republic; the franchise has been extended to larger and larger numbers.  But the fundamental argument against direct democracy has never been refuted; it is terribly vulnerable to becoming rule by the mob.  A republican form of government provides a buffer against that.

        So does an entrenched system of law, upheld by men and women who are intent on applying the law fairly and justly.

        Amendments to make it a theocracy could be -- in theory -- passed.  But that would radically change it; it would no longer be the same, no longer be a system which has been tweaked to improve it, but rather a system which has been massively violated.  One only has to read the experience of religious war, and religion and intolerance that the Founders were intimately familiar with to get that.

        "I desire what is good. Therefore, everyone who does not agree with me is a traitor." King George III

        by ogre on Sun Apr 08, 2007 at 09:39:54 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  Technically we are a Republic not a Democracy (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Turkana, Unitary Moonbat, possum

        There are many safe guards in our Constitution to protect the rights of minorities that alone doesn't make us a true democracy because the majority doesn't rule with impunity. It does allow us to change and evolve thru the interpretation of the Supreme Court and by Amendment. I don't see an Amendment to make our country a theocracy happening and in the unlikely event it was, ever passing. We are talking about a very small but incredibly noisy group of people who just don't get it. We were foolish, and the Republican Party committed suicide by allowing a radical religious agenda a bigger voice than the voice of reason.

      •  What are you talking about? nt (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Turkana

        "If the people themselves appear not enlightened enough to exercise their power, the remedy is to INFORM THEIR DISCRETION." ~Thomas Jefferson paraphrased

        by MzAnnThrope on Sun Apr 08, 2007 at 10:23:38 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  "When thou prayest, (9+ / 0-)

    thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.

    But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly."
                                                                --Jesus

    What an abomination these political "Look at me, I'm religious" fools and phonies are.

    Little known Constitutional fact: the phrase "executive privilege," does not exist anywhere in the Constitution! Justice Scalia...?

    by Jim P on Sun Apr 08, 2007 at 09:22:26 AM PDT

  •  The broken border separating church & state (5+ / 0-)

    is the one of the prime issues that raises my ire.  We must repair the damage done and not allow further erosion.  

    (I'm still battling the flu and am not up to saying much more than thanking Turkana for this diary and entering my simple statement.)

  •  Be vigilant (6+ / 0-)
    There was a scary article in the paper today about how the fundies have law schools that pour out into the Bush Administration. Fundies are training a whole generation of lawyers, have established legal institutes to support their causes, and have planted operatives throughout the court system.

    Watch the state bar associations. That is probably their next target. Imagine if the fundies get the power to determine who is allowed to practice law or not.

  •  Great work here Turkana :-) (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Turkana, possum

    Thanks!

  •  Jesus (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Turkana, possum

    http://en.wikipedia.org/...

    My question to the fundies is this: Where in the Bible does it tell them to do what they are doing in government? And what Christian teaching have they observed today?

  •  An old article I wrote before the '04 election (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    buckhorn okie, Turkana

    A gentile friend of mine recently asked me how Jews would vote this year (presuming a monolithic block), and was surprised that George W. Bush's perceived support of Israel was not the only or deciding factor for many.  I began to explain some other concerns I personally had, and found myself able only to speak in generalities.  Therefore, I did my own research on issues I believed most important in this election cycle.  I wrote the memo to follow after considering the possible future of the Supreme Court's interpretation of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.  I have edited it carefully, to excise reference to any specific candidate or party, and to limit discussion to the issue itself.  If you feel this would be of value to yourself, your family, your congregation, or your community, please feel free to reproduce, publish, and/or disseminate at will, in whole or in part.  If you feel this to be an imposition, I offer my apologies.

    The Establishment of Religion

    The Supreme Court of the United States will undergo significant changes in the next few years.  Two of the Justices, including the Chief Justice, are 80 or older, and two are over 70.  Two of the youngest members are Justice Scalia and Justice Thomas, and Justice Scalia has been mentioned by many as a candidate to replace Chief Justice Rehnquist on his retirement.  A new Supreme Court will soon begin to consider issue of significance to all Americans, including the role of religion in our public lives.  This term the Court agreed to hear a case considering the public display of the Ten Commandments.  This decisions, and many others, will be decided based upon the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the Constitution. It is, therefore, of interest to consider how a new Court might rule on such issues.

    The First Amendment, in relevant part, states, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof...."

    The Fourteenth Amendment, in relevant part, states, "*No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; ...."

    The issue, then is the meaning of the First Amendment, and its application to the States through the Fourteenth Amendment.  To date, the Court has applied the Establishment Clause through the Fourteenth Amendment, prohibiting the establishment of state religions, particularly in cases related to school prayer, graduation day prayers, and the Pledge of Allegiance.  Justice Thomas and Justice Scalia, in different opinions, have suggested a different conclusion, a conclusion that would permit individual States to establish public religions, and to delegate state authority to churches.

    Lee v. Weisman

    In a dissenting opinion in Lee v. Weisman, 505 U.S. 577, 112 S.Ct. 2649, 120 L.Ed.2d 467 (1992), Justice Scalia castigated the majority of the Court for deciding its opinion in a graduation prayer case on the psychology of coercion rather than history.  The majority decision found that a graduation prayer was coercive, as students attending graduation were required to stand and either join the prayer or remain silent.  The Court considered evidence of psychological that this created a coercive atmosphere violative of the Establishment Clause.  Justice Scalia ridiculed the Court's decision, stating "[a]s its instrument of destruction, the bulldozer of its social engineering, the Court invents a boundless, and boundlessly manipulable, test of psychological coercion...."  He went on to state "interior decorating is a rock-hard science compared to psychology practiced by amateurs.  A few citations of 'research in psychology' that have no particular bearing upon the precise issue here cannot disguise the fact that the Court has gone beyond the realm where judges know what they are doing."  

    Having first ridiculed the majority's decision, Justice Scalia turned next to the Establishment Clause.  "The Establishment Clause," he wrote, "was adopted to prohibit such an establishment of religion at the federal level (and to protect state establishments of religion from federal interference)."  The import of the last statement might well be hidden by its location in a parenthetical statement, but it can not be underestimated, for it is the heart of Justice Scalia's opinion.  His final position is that States are free to establish official religions.  Further, he would only limit such establishment to prohibit actual coercion, "acts backed by threat of penalty" by the State government.  In other words, short of statutory punishment, such as imprisonment or fine, a State could establish an official religion, and delegate to it official state functions.  Justice Scalia went on, arguing on behalf of public and institutional prayer.  He wrote "[c]hurch and state would not be such a difficult subject if religion were, as the Court apparently thinks it to be, some purely personal avocation that can be indulged, entirely in secret, like pornography, in the privacy of one's own room.  For most believers it is not that, and has never been.  Religious men and women of almost all denominations have felt it necessary to acknowledge and beseech the blessing of God as a people, and not just as individuals."  While, on its face, this argument has validity, combined with the establishment of an official State religion it legitimizes public devotion, not at individual churches or synagogues, but at public institutions and events.

    Elk Grove

    Justice Thomas built on Justice Scalia's Lee dissenting opinion in his own dissent in Elk Grove Unified School District v. Newdow, No. 02-1624. Argued March 24, 2004--Decided June 14, 2004, the recent Pledge of Allegiance "Under God" case.   He introduced his opinion stating "I would take this opportunity to begin the process of rethinking the Establishment Clause."  He wrote that he accepted the Free Exercise Clause as applied against the States through the Fourteenth Amendment, but "the Establishment Clause is another matter," and "it makes little sense to incorporate the Establishment Clause."  Justice Thomas opined that the Establishment Clause protects only the States, and not individual rights.  "[T]he Establishment Clause," he wrote, "is best understood as a federalism provision--it protects state establishments from federal interference but does not protect any individual rights."

    Justice Thomas went on to discuss exactly what he meant by "state establishments," describing official endorsement of a particular religion throughout State governmental authority.  He began where Justice Scalia left off, discussing legal coercion, and finding (inconsistently with his thesis, that the Establishment Clause simply does not apply to States) that coercion through force of law and threat of penalty remained prohibited.  However, he went on to state, there were other ways for a State to establish a religion without coercion.  He wrote "[i]t is also conceivable that a government could 'establish' a religion by imbuing it with governmental authority, or by delegating its civic authority to a group chosen according to a religious criterion."  This opinion is disturbing for two reasons.  First, it encourages official public endorsement of, and delegation of authority to, an individual religion.  Second, and even more pernicious, the internal illogic hints that Justice Thomas' limitation against coercion is a temporary public sop, promising religion without Inquisition.  However, if his opinion is accepted at face value, the Establishment Clause simply does not apply to states, and therefore contains no limitations.  Individuals might remain protected by the Free Exercise Clause, indeed that might have been Justice Thomas' point, but his opinion as written does not state that.

    Conclusion

    The Supreme Court will consider issues of great importance to all Americans.  In the next few years, the Court will address issues of religion and State's establishment of religion, handing down decisions that will affect us for at least a generation.  These cases could be of particular import to any member of a religious minority,  be they Jewish, Moslem, Hindu, or even a non-Protestant Christian.  At least two present Justices interpret the Constitution to allow, not only official State endorsement of religion, but actual delegation of governmental authority to official churches.  This conclusion is derived directly from the writings, in Court opinions, of Justices Scalia and Thomas, and portends one possible future for our country.

    A cartoon is worth a thousand words.

    by dhonig on Sun Apr 08, 2007 at 10:41:33 AM PDT

  •  Good diary... better term is "theofascism" n/t (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Turkana
  •  No religious test shall ever be required (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    sberel, Turkana

    but god damn, they should have to pass a Constitution test.

    Ask me (-7.88, -6.46) about Lamar Alexander.

    by Sidof79 on Mon Apr 09, 2007 at 08:57:34 AM PDT

  •  I wish you'd been a bit more inclusive. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    samddobermann, Turkana

    There are quite a few non-Christians here.  Lots of Wiccans and pagans and Buddhists and Jews and et al.  We get hassled just as much as liberal Christians do.

    But I DO agree that it is up to liberal Christians to take back their religion and the moral high ground. The problem is you guys actually read the gospels and are loathe to condemn those who interpret scripture differently. Tolerance can be a bitch. They also need by taking on the Religious Right with the youth vote--because as I diaried about here <http://www.dailykos.com/story/2007/4/9/145941/0823> they are recruiting our children.

    The last time we mixed religion and politics people got burned at the stake.

    by irishwitch on Mon Apr 09, 2007 at 03:34:34 PM PDT

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