Christian Fundamentalists Declare War on Civil Liberties

by Lewis Loflin

Sept. 11 launched a surge of patriotism that has increasingly becoming intertwined with religion. A Dec. 10 Chicago Tribune report ("Crusading for a Christian nation") states "Christian conservatives have declared war on civil libertarians for the soul of America."

Along with trying to slam through one law after another in state legislatures like Virginia and Tennessee, part of the plan is the raising of money and support "for local officials who have voted to erect Ten Commandments plaques in city halls, county buildings and courthouses." This is in protest to a 1980 Supreme Court ruling that placing the Ten Commandments in public school classrooms violates the First Amendment's prohibition of government-established religion.

THE First Amendment protects the "free exercise of religion," the apparent conflict between those two clauses of the First Amendment has been embedded in American history from pre-Revolutionary times. But there is a deeper division in the nation, as the Chicago Tribune story makes clear: "For many devout Christians, the Ten Commandments movement is not just about saving souls or the First Amendment. It is about reasserting Christianity as American's dominant religion, a message being preached by some of the nation's most prominent evangelists."

But this Christianity is limited to Protestant Evangelicals only and excludes Christian groups such as Catholics, Mormons, Jehovah's Witnesses and any other non-Protestant, non-Trinitarian Christian church. See the Trinity Debunked. It often carries undertones of racism and anti-Semitism as well. As for non-Christians, Judge Roy "Boy" Moore says it all.

Alabama Supreme Court Justice Roy Boy is the target of two federal lawsuits for having installed a 4-foot monument of the embattled Ten Commandments in the rotunda of the state judicial building in Montgomery. Says Chief Justice Moore: "This is not a nation established on the principles of Buddha or Hinduism. Our faith is not Islam. What we follow is not the Koran, but the Bible. This is a Christian nation." Think any of these people would get a fair trial with Roy Boy?

Typical is Pat Robertson of Regent University in Virginia. In 1993 he called the separation of church and state "a lie of the left. There is no such thing in the Constitution." (Actually Thomas Jefferson said it in his Letter to the Danbury Baptist Association.) He was reminded that Article VI of that very Constitution states unequivocally: "no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to an office or public trust under the United States."

We have to assume that Alabama's Chief Justice, Roy "Boy" Moore has also read the Constitution and knows that, in addition to the clause in Article VI, there is no mention of God in the Constitution. "Nature's God" is cited in the Declaration of Independence, but it is the Constitution that is the law of the land. See Who is Nature's God?

ALSO, AS CORNELL University professors H. Laurence Moore and Isaac Kramnick point out in their book, The Godless Constitution, "although 11 of the 13 states did have religious tests for public office in their constitutions in 1787, the no religious tests clause" sailed through the Constitutional Convention in that year They quote Maryland delegate Luther Martin, who said that this assurance that even Americans of no faith can hold public office "was adopted by a very great majority of the convention without debate." This is a country of so many different faiths that it is needlessly divisive, in any case, to proclaim that any one of them is, or could become, the dominant religion. We should rejoice in the constitutional fact that each of us is indeed free to exercise our beliefs.

"We have had fights over the translations of the Bible," noting 1844 riots in Philadelphia after Catholics asked the school board to allow Catholic students to read from Catholic Bibles. "When you talk about the Ten Commandments, you are talking about a religious document, and saying it isn't doesn't make it so," said Rev. J. Fletcher Lowe.

As for the rabid Ten Commandments Movement, Northwestern University law professor Steven Lubet notes in the Chicago Tribune, that 23 verses in the Bible are part of the Ten Commandments, "and Protestants, Jews, and Eastern Orthodox religions all extract different sets of them." Is placing any set of them in public places more important than actually doing something good for another person?

Some of the above material taken from Ten Commandments Drive is a Religious Test in Itself by Nat Hentoff, who writes for the Newspaper Enterprise Association.