A political action committee that “represents secular Democratic individuals and organizations” and “advocates for secular governance, promotes respect and inclusion of nonreligious Americans, and mobilizes nonreligious voters” has created a report for the incoming Biden administration labeling the “religious right” — or what it has also dubbed the “Christian nationalist movement” — as a national security threat.
Reps. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., and Jared Huffman, D-Calif., founders and co-chairs of the Congressional Freethought Caucus, presented the proposal, which was endorsed by Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Calif. The proposal is designed to give the Biden administration a roadmap to “reverse the damage done by the Trump administration” and “boldly restore a vision of constitutional secularism and respect in the land for religious and intellectual pluralism.” The proposal calls the religious right (also referred to as the “Christian nationalist movement”) a threat to national security and demands the separation of church and state, not as it was originally intended, but as a barring of religious representation in government and academia. The proposal asks for religious exemptions to be removed and support for crisis pregnancy to be eliminated.
Perhaps no doctrine demonstrates the divide between right and left more than that of the separation of church and state. The right views the doctrine as meaning the government shall not establish a religion and thus restrict the freedom of other faiths, while the left believes it requires that religion must be totally removed from government, which can have virtually no positive relation to religion.
This dichotomy in thought is illustrated in a recent proposal by the Secular Democrats of America PAC, which says,
“We urge you to lead our nation on a path that revives the Founders’ vision of religious freedom in our government and promotes a unifying patriotic pluralism — not dogmatic religious chauvinism — in American society. We believe that this is a moment not only to enact policies to advance constitutional secularism but to position the Democratic Party to take back the mantle of religious freedom and pluralism from the Republican Party.”
The proposal claims that the “religious right” is a security threat that is a “cover for white supremacy.”
The authors explain:
“We urge you not to underestimate the institutional strength of what we refer to (interchangeably) in this document as the ‘Christian nationalist movement’ or the ‘religious right.’ This movement is extraordinarily well-funded and well-organized, and the manifestation of its extreme and sectarian agenda is on constant display under the Trump-Pence administration. Its political ideology is anti-democratic and anti-scientific. It provides constant cover for white supremacy.”
The proposal lobs a wide array of charges at the religious right, blaming its beliefs for COVID-19 deaths, climate change, discrimination, the spread of community disease due to lack of vaccination, and more. It speaks of conservatives Christians as though they are a terrorist group, charging,
“The rise of white Christian nationalism is a national security threat….We recommend you: encourage the Department of Homeland Security and Department of Justice to dedicate resources to de-radicalization programs aimed at hate groups, including, but not limited to, white nationalists; increase monitoring of such groups, including the online environment, and take action to address increased hate crimes toward minority faith communities; and shift rhetoric to label violent white nationalist extremists as terrorists.”
The proposal calls for the removal of any mention of creationism or abstinence-only education, claiming they are “anti-science” and the reversal of all “sectarian-based restrictions” of federally funded fetal tissue and stem cell research, while also asking the Biden administration to have the Internal Revenue Service “crack down on nonprofits operating as businesses, including megachurches.” It also calls for individuals and organizations that contract with the government to be forced to violate their religious convictions or no longer be allowed to contract with the government.
This proposal can only be described as a disturbing attack on the religious freedom of Christians and the dogmatic advancement of secular ideology.
I would like to examine a few points made in this proposal, which demonstrates profound hypocrisy, not to mention a gross misunderstanding of pluralism. The first is the claim that the authors support “unbridled freedom of conscience.” That claim is preposterous. Advocating for policies that require Americans to violate their religious convictions through, for example, forced vaccination or forced funding of birth control, or by forcing Christian adoption agencies to place children with homosexual couples, is anything but “unbridled freedom of conscience” and to claim otherwise is intellectually dishonest.
Then there is this suggestion to the Biden administration:
“We implore you to help educate the American public by reasonably defining what religious freedom really means: that every American has a right to practice his or her religion without interference, but no religious group can impose religious dogma or orthodoxy on other citizens and other faiths and belief systems.”
Imposition of belief is exactly what this proposal seeks to do. Secularism, humanism, agnosticism, atheism, Islam, or any other worldview the proposal claims to defend are all belief systems. For example, evolutionary theory is not scientific fact, rather it is an idea regarding the origins of life. That is an existential question that every belief system must address. Only allowing students to hear a deeply flawed theory that supports secularism is, by definition, government endorsement and advancement of a belief system. Pluralism does not mean eliminating Christianity or any other belief from view, as this proposal calls for, but is equal respect and equal freedom for all views. True pluralism would allow creationism to be taught in schools alongside evolution.
The proposal also inadvertently admits that secularism and humanism are belief systems. The proposal includes secularism, humanism, and non-theism in the categorization of the “full spectrum of the interfaith community” and notes that “the secular community has a rich tradition of humanist and nontheistic clergy serving nontheistic congregations, as well as humanist and secular celebrants who facilitate life cycle ceremonies for the nonreligious.” It also says that these “secular” beliefs should be part of any interfaith programming and should be eligible for faith-based community grants.
Finally, it is not only slanderous but dangerous to claim that the “religious right” is some nefarious terrorist organization controlling the Republican party. Any opposition to the left’s agenda isn’t covert “white supremacy” funded by dark money. This proposal claims to want a return to the intention of the founders yet betrays a profound misunderstanding of religious pluralism by seeking to enforce one single ideology — their own.
Check out this episode of the Falkirk Center podcast with Steve Deace: Progressivism is not a political movement it’s a religious one