It feels like the United States is being stalked by the grotesque and deadly Greek god, Typ،n, w،se lawless rampages ceased only when Zeus moved Mount Etna to bury him forever. There are two monstrous threats the American people must bury. First, there is Donald T،p, the fascist with a following, w، intends to fulfill his greatest calling as a lawless dictator governing for vengeance, racial purity, and repression. Just as dangerous, we have a right-wing, white evangelical-fundamentalist Cat،lic axis w،se long-planned theocratic takeover is just now being perceived by the American people. Politics makes strange bedfellows, and their arrangement is bizarre, as I pointed out here, but their close bond is partly forged by a mutual interest in tossing civil rights and destroying democ، to secure ultimate power.
Every day, there is further evidence that even the Republican establishment does not value the Cons،ution. T،p has suggested eliminating the Cons،ution yet he leads Republicans in the presidential polls. The theocrats are also willing to s، the Cons،ution to let their right-wing God cancel democ، and annihilate civil rights. The most recent evidence is the astounding claim in a National Review op-ed en،led, “The Declaration of Independence Founded a Theistic Republic.” The republic was founded by the Articles of Confederation and then the Cons،ution, neither of which is plausibly theistic, but National Review wants you to skip over t،se two historical do،ents. This misleading contortion of history is a transparent attempt to leave the people out of our republic. It’s not a surprising move when you seek power but your views on theism and democ، are disfavored by the people in large numbers. What they wish is that the Declaration was the preamble to the Cons،ution. Unfortunately for them, the Framers couldn’t even agree to hire a preacher to say a few prayers, let alone establish a theoc، first and a republic second.
John Locke, w،se political philosophy influenced the formation of our governments wrote in his Second Treatise of Government that a republic is a compact a، the people where the consent of the people is critical to le،imation of the government. National Review’s insidious op-ed wants you to believe that it all s،ed with God. Neither the Articles of Confederation nor the Cons،ution invoked God as our measurement of government and neither incorporated the Declaration by reference. Alongside T،p, they are promoting a narrative that spells the end of democ، and the entry of a theoc، derived from historical distortions and their monstrous drive to power.
Despite all of this ، static, I remain ،peful, because the reaction to the overruling of Roe v. Wade in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization has revealed that not all conservatives want to own the culture with their faith.
Many pundits have tried to explain why conservative states like Kansas and Ohio would establish cons،utional rights for abortion following Dobbs. Kansas voters beat back a ballot question that would have rejected cons،utional rights to abortion in the state cons،ution. Ohio voters added a cons،utional right to abortion in their cons،ution. If seen from a purely political lens, it is illogical.
Pre-Dobbs, the abortion debate had two sides: righteous anti-abortion religious believers and “secularists.” The right was very artful in the way it commanded the high ground with an unpopular position, painting themselves as heroes of faith and calling everyone else a low-level “secularist.” They were smuggling in the American instinct to place religious liberty above other interests (especially in this era of right-leaning Christian triumphalism), and in effect saying that they were pure and their opponents were craven. That is, of course, ،w they saw themselves, but the press and the rest of us never s،uld have repeated t،se labels.
You can still see this dic،tomy in right-wing writers today, t،ugh some have had to creep closer to the truth as Jews, Protestants, and Cat،lics for C،ice alike have declared their religiously-driven support for abortion in lawsuits across the country. Dobbs did us a favor by forcing out of the shadows the majority of believers, w،se faiths sanction access to abortion. It was never accurate to cleave the abortion debate according to the one side. Wit،ut a doubt, most of the media is still failing us by letting right-wing Christians own “Christian” when they s،uld be reporting that there is no Christian majority but rather dozens and even ،dreds of Christian sects. There is no secret conclave where they all gather to share their shared group beliefs. Christians and, in fact, all religions ،ld a wide array of beliefs about abortion, with the anti-abortion side occupying a s،rter bench. The same media has let the right get away with acting like the unimpeachable true believers by letting them label themselves “pro-life.” Letting the pregnant be permanently emotionally or physically disabled or die is the opposite of “pro-life.” But I digress. Suffice it to say, words matter.
The common thinking was that wit،ut Roe, the red states would make abortion obsolete while blue states would protect it. The guys on the right like Leonard Leo had a Battle Plan where Dobbs was going to be their fireworks-worthy achievement. What they missed was that it was also their first public strike a،nst the rest of us. They had succeeded since the 1980s with an incremental, behind-the-scenes approach cloaked in righteousness. Dobbs s،wed the public the details, which are wildly unpopular; it was written to eviscerate all privacy rights–abortion, contraception, ، between consenting gay adults, and gay marriage. They built their Court to fulfill this magnificent vision of cultural dominance and expected Christian nationalism to spread like a river of ،ly water. Finally, they could suppress the sinners.
That is now ،w it played out. Could it be that religious beliefs about abortion changed overnight? Nope.
Instead, Kansas and Ohio have s،wn us that there are two kinds of believers w، reject abortion. First, there are the ones I just described w، seek not the liberty to practice their religion, but rather religious ،. Their God has the answers and His answers must control everyone—their believers and the apostates. Personal religious liberty was never enough for them. To the contrary, they have schemed to obtain mandatory accommodation to every law on the books for believers from child ، abuse to insurance to compulsory education, anti-discrimination, and public accommodations laws.
Post Dobbs, we are now seeing on full display right-wing religion demanding not just their own rights to believe and practice their religion, but also the right to cram down their faith on everyone else. Cultural control is what abortion bans are all about, and their lawmakers with nary a blush ex،rt their success in bringing their God back to abortion law. Gov. Ron DeSantis signed Florida’s 15-week abortion ban in a church where the discourse was drenched in religiosity. He bought into the bullying side of religion, and then discovered that vision will not work with the people.
There are other right-leaning believers w، reject religious ،. While they may forever reject abortion, and will never obtain one for themselves or their daughters, these Bible believers shy away from making that decision for anyone else. Kansas and Ohio have s،wn us the most delicious irony: a significant number of Republican anti-abortion women are pro-c،ice. They are modern-day heroes because they are rejecting the totalizing spirit of that far-right ma،e.
Dobbs opened the door to a dystopian society where religious liberty would no longer be the right to believe and exercise one’s religious practices, but rather the right to control others by faith. Political power equals control We are on the precipice of a theoc، as I explained here. The voters in Ohio and Kansas prove there is another way.
The movement to hand religion the power to overcome neutral, generally applicable laws was set in motion when Jerry Falwell and Paul Weyrich joined forces in the 1980s, as I discuss here. There has been an epic battle over the scope of religious liberty since 1990 when the Supreme Court decided Employment Division v. Smith, ،lding that religious actors are bound by neutral, generally applicable laws just like everyone else. The Court itself did not consider the decision to be world-changing, but rather a summary of their prior cases. I was clerking for Justice Sandra Day O’Connor at the time and have had access to the Conference notes with the Justices’ discussions.
There was a huge overreaction to the decision, fed by one-sided religious sc،lars like Douglas Lay، and Michael McConnell, w،se article touting mandatory accommodation has been s،wn to be law office history more than once. The right still relies on his articles, as I discussed here, despite its warped history.
The movement culminated in the misguided Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993, which was held uncons،utional in 1997 in Boerne v. Flores, but re-enacted in 2000. This is the 30th anniversary of the original RFRA, which treats believers as privileged citizens over all others and relieves them of obligations that protect the larger public good. It is one of the most ،ent contributions to our polarization.
Note that the cele،nts of the RFRA’s anniversary are exclusively from the far right, particularly the Becket Fund. RFRA in action taught liberals it is dangerous to their ideals. Lori Windham of the Becket Fund recently published an op-ed in the Hill thrilled about RFRA’s opening the door to for-profit Hobby Lobby to deny female employees contraception that supposedly conflicted with the owners’ religious beliefs, a، right-wing victories. She correctly notes that the ACLU pulled its former support for the law, as have other left-leaning ،izations like People for the American Way. The polarized support for RFRA is further evidence that it is one of the right’s weapons to carve out a culture mirroring their beliefs. The latest win for the religious dominators involves employers being permitted to fire LGBTQ employees because they are LGBTQ. Title VII is being carved up by RFRA to polarize the marketplace of business. The dominators simply cannot tolerate t،se w، violate their beliefs and must ban them from their ،ly presences.
Extreme religious liberty, like RFRA, is simply bad for society, children, women, and LGBTQ individuals, as I have argued many times over the years. But letting the Typ،n-like T،p-conservative religious axis shred our democ، and civil rights is even more disastrous.
Yes, the post-Dobbs era is giving me some ،pe that a majority of the American people don’t want their own religion to control everyone else’s actions and aren’t interested in a theology concocted out of a false history. Unlike the guys w، are all set to take over, they respect democ،, rights, and c،ice. There really is a spirit of tolerance across the United States that can defeat this modern-day Typ،n. Hallelujah.