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Serving Northern St. Louis County, Minnesota

American theocracy

Christian nationalists seek to impose a dictatorship of religion


The America that our founders framed in our Constitution guaranteed religious freedom, yet that’s a tradition that is under threat in this country like never before. As we reported last week, a large national survey recently revealed that sizable percentages of Americans believe that the United States is a Christian nation and that government should aggressively enforce Christian theology (or, more accurately, an ultra-conservative version of it) through the laws and policies it enacts.
The survey sampled more than 20,000 Americans, including over 400 here in Minnesota, many of whom either espoused or were sympathetic to the following statements:
 The U.S. government should declare America a Christian nation.
U.S. laws should be based on Christian values.
If the U.S. moves away from our Christian foundations, we will not have a country anymore.
Being Christian is an important part of being truly American.
God has called Christians to exercise dominion over all areas of American society.
The good news in the survey is that a clear majority of Minnesotans (about 70 percent) overall recognize that the above statements are antithetical to America’s founding principles. Yet the same survey shows that a majority of Republicans, both in Minnesota and nationally, not only favor the establishment of Christianity as America’s religion but believe that religious principles should be enforced by government, not unlike the system in place in the Islamic Republic of Iran.
The push to enact a Christianized version of Sharia law in America isn’t just idle chatter. This idea has become known as “Christian nationalism,” and the organizations espousing this philosophy are working closely with the Heritage Foundation, a prominent right-wing organization, to elevate the imposition of fundamentalist Christian principles into all aspects of government as a top objective in a possible second Trump administration.
Our nation’s founders must be rolling over in their graves at the prospect. The founders certainly could have made Christianity a founding principle of the United States had they so desired. They could have written scriptural principles into the Constitution if they believed that America’s governance should be controlled by the loudest bible-thumpers.
Yet, the Constitution most of us still respect and try to uphold, makes no mention of a god. Rather, it was drafted as a purely secular document, a blueprint for the development of a large and stable republic that could serve the interests of people of many faiths, or those without religious beliefs at all. The founders made clear their objectives for the government, which include (in their words) “to establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity…”
The only mention of religion comes in the first sentence of the Constitution’s Bill of Rights, which states that: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”
It’s encouraging to see that most Americans still recognize the value of religious neutrality as a governing principle. Most Americans don’t see Iran, or “The Handmaid’s Tale” as a model for America’s future.
Yet, we have a political party that once stood strongly for religious liberty in which a majority of members now seek to overturn the Constitution and the vision of our founders to establish their radical religious views as the law of the land.
We’ve already seen some of the implications. The recent Supreme Court ruling in Alabama related to in vitro fertilization, was based almost entirely on the court’s religious views and used purely religious language in place of the usual legal arguments. Is that the direction we want for our courts?
In Florida, Gov. Ron DeSantis’s so-called “Stop Woke Act” used the force of government to prevent the private sector from providing diversity training to employees to encourage tolerance of racial, ethnic, or religious minorities, as well as LGBTQ individuals. Fortunately, the old-school conservatives on the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, correctly recognized that much of the law was a violation of the First Amendment’s guarantee of free speech.
Traditional conservatives, after all, naturally oppose Christian nationalism, which is a radical vision for overturning the Constitution and reshaping our secular nation into a religiously based authoritarian dictatorship. Those espousing Christian nationalism also typically back national abortion bans, as well as bans on many forms of contraception. They would repeal same-sex marriage, reinstate laws against same-sex relations, and impose much stricter limitations on things like divorce. Indeed, Christian nationalists, were they to gain political power, would intrude on the private lives of Americans to a degree never before experienced in this country.
While we’re encouraged that these views still represent a minority of Americans overall, it is disturbing to see the degree to which such clearly anti-American and anti-democratic views have metastasized within the Republican Party. That makes the GOP a clear and present danger to America’s future.