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“Religious liberty” is just another rightwing lie


Next time you hear a radical Christian complaining about attacks on “religious liberty,” you should know this: They’re lying. It’s not “religious liberty” they want, it’s permission for them to indulge in the orgies of racial discrimination, homophobia and anti-choice they enjoy with an almost sexual relish.

Keep that in mind when you interpret the latest Supreme Court decision on “religious liberty,” in which the extremist Catholics on the court decided it’s more important to allow superspreader events in churches than to keep Americans alive in this age of COVID-19. The five justices who struck down New York State’s limits of church attendance all were Roman Catholics of an extreme rightwing bent: Alito, Kavanaugh, Gorsuch, Thomas and Coney Barrett, possibly the most radical of them all, whose ties to the shadowy “People of Praise” cult means she subscribes to the notion that “wives must submit to their husbands.”

If this was the year 500 B.C. that might have been an acceptable belief, but in America, in the 21st century? Yet that’s what you get when you allow Biblical literalists to run things. And yet, this Republican violation of the Constitution’s separation of church and state is nothing new. Republicans have been trying to decades to promote the views of extreme rightwing Christians and enshrine them into law. Forty years ago, for instance, President Ronald Reagan sided with Bob Jones University, a fake university that was in reality a madrasa for young evangelical, rightwing propagandists, in a lawsuit the school filed against the I.R.S., which correctly denied Bob Jones tax exemptions on the basis that the school was little more than a racist institution disguising itself as an educational institution. That was but a foreshadowing of dozens of similar cases in years to come, including that notorious Kentucky county clerk, Kim Davis, who cited her own bigoted Christian beliefs in refusing to register same-sex couples for marriage. Davis, who was widely and properly reviled by most Americans, was strongly supported by other rightwing Christians who believed that their views on love and marriage should be allowed to trample on the rights of all Americans to love whom they choose. For instance, the president of the Kentucky State Senate, Robert Stivers, actually had to audacity to assert that, as a result of Obergefell v. Hodges (which legalize same-sex marriage), “the Supreme Court ruling has completely obliterated the definition of marriage.” Just whose definition of marriage, he did not make clear, but I will: the conservative Christian definition.

What we, as Americans, are going to have to reckon with, sooner rather than later, is this ongoing, concerted and dangerous attack on our historic democracy by extremist elements among the evangelicals, Pentecostals and Coney Barrett-style rightwing Catholics. They wish (and they make no bones about it) to un-do our democratic, non-sectarian principles and establish instead a theocracy in America that can only be described as Taliban light. No, they don’t want to chop off the hands of thieves, but if given the power they seek, would they force gay men to be castrated, the way the Nazis did? Certainly, there have been such suggestions from insane people over the years.

It doesn’t take much imagination to take the homophobic attacks of radical Christians like Sarah Palin, Rick Santorum and Franklin Graham and extrapolate them into a full-fledged national attack on LGBT people; indeed, while most of the Supreme Court Catholics have the sense to stay quiet about their views, two of them, Alito and Thomas, blasted Obergefell v. Hodges in the name of—you guessed it—“religious liberty.”

It should be concerning to lovers of freedom and democracy when religious fanatics, at the highest levels of government, feel unconstrained in expressing such notions of repression. These haters are limited only because our democratic system of checks and balances prevents them from the full, brazen exercise of the power they crave. One of the reasons why Trump was such a threat was because he attempted to demolish that system of checks and balances. He was largely unsuccessful, but if he continues to stoke hatred and fear among rightwing Christians during his post-presidency, and then if he runs for re-election in 2024 and wins, we’ll have the biggest fight imaginable before us. It will be a choice: Do we allow our Constitution, with the democratic liberties it guarantees, to run America? Or do we shred that sacred document, and turn our country over to the Ayatollahs who would destroy it?

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