Religion in Government – The "Back Door" Problem

My copy of FFRF’s Freethought Today recently went upside my head with a statement quoted on Page 3 of their November 2018 issue:

The bottom line is that while church and state are formally separated, religious legislators are still driven by their religious beliefs when voting in the Senate on all issue areas. This mechanism circumvents the formal separation of church and state and brings religion into politics through the back door.
-- Daniel Arnon, Emory University

The above statement relates to a study by Mr. Arnon, entitled: “The Enduring Influence of Religion on Senators’ Legislative Behavior.

On one level, someone might react, “Oh, well, of course their religious beliefs are going to enter into their legislative behavior.” The problem is that each one of these senators took an oath, either swearing or affirming to “support and defend the Constitution.” Being that the Constitution is a secular document which mandates the separation of church and state, any practice of inserting personal religious beliefs into legislation by any member of the Senate would constitute a violation of the above-mentioned oath! And if Senators are doing it, hardly any imagination is required to infer that members of the House of Representatives are equally compromised. In the case of the Supreme Court, I would say that this problem is obvious and therewith endemic to at least two of the three branches of our government.

Thinking ideally, that oath of office places a considerable expectation on any Congressperson or judge: it expects them to leave their personal biases at the door and legislate or judge purely based on the law. This requirement may not be stated in boldface, but it remains the impression left with your author in this case. That said, if there is a fatal flaw to the intent of the founders or the Constitution itself, here it is. There are religious Congressmen and women who either cannot or will not set their beliefs aside when formulating laws for this country and are so convinced of the necessity of their beliefs being universally accepted that they will compromise a promise made to those they represent in order to kowtow to their god.

So what to do about this? The Congressional Freethought Caucus has recently been formed, designed to encourage reason, science, and moral values in the workings of Congress. This sadly amounts to little more than a nicety when the wall which Thomas Jefferson intended to install between State and Church is suffering the death of a thousand cuts from legislators who insist on inserting their own religious bents into bill after bill. My own sense is that there needs to be an impartial, bipartisan review committee, whose only purpose is to examine any religiously questionable legislation for such influence and advise its authors and sponsors of its problematic nature. Any bill voted down by this committee would be ineligible for consideration by the full body, either House or Senate, until its problems were corrected and approved by the committee.

A very tall order, true, but the fact is that our secular government is being actively subverted by those who have no interest in a religiously egalitarian country, but one where their own preferred hallucination holds an immutable advantage. For the sake of every Jew, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, Jain … and atheist who lives within the borders of the United States, we cannot afford to allow the tyranny of what is no longer a majority hold sway over the rest of us.

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Comment by Joan Denoo on December 3, 2018 at 5:42pm

"For the sake of every Jew, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, Jain … and atheist who lives within the borders of the United States, we cannot afford to allow the tyranny of what is no longer a majority hold sway over the rest of us."

~ Loren Miller 

OH! I see the making of a new coalition."The majority in resistance to the tyranny of the minority."

What would it take to get the Jew, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, Jain, and atheist to form a coalition? 

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