The Republicans say that they put America first, but what is their actual agenda? They spell it out in the 2008 Republican Party platform, and that document makes it clear that the Republicans actually want to put some Americans first, and make other Americans second class citizens.
That support for discrimination is illustrated in the Republicans’ treatment of religion. Instead of leaving religion a matter of private conscience, as the Constitution says it must be, the Republicans want to create the government establishment of religion through government funding of religious groups. (The Republicans, to avoid showing the obvious unconstitutionality of this agenda, don’t call these groups “religious” – they call them “faith-based”.)
The Republicans want to go further than just giving government funding to religious groups, though. They want the religious groups to take over the work of the government, shutting down the government and replacing it with religion.
The GOP platform states:
“Bureaucracy is no longer a credible approachto helping those in need. This is especially true in light of alternatives such as faith-based organizations… To accomplish their missions, those groups must be able to rely upon people who share their faith; their hiring must not be subjected to government regulation and mandates.”
Notice the rhetorical trick at the beginning of this part of the Republican platform? It says that bureaucracy is no longer credible… and then promotes using government money to support religious bureaucracies. All the Republicans want to do is replace one kind of bureaucracy with another kind of bureaucracy – a theocratic bureaucracy. In this political equation, the word “bureaucracy” is a distraction used to get people to think that the problem is secular government itself. What the Republicans want to do is dismantle our secular, constitutional democracy and replace it with religious bureaucracies.
The second part of this statement in the GOP platform initially sounds reasonable as well. “Government regulation and mandates” – it sounds like such a bad thing. But, let’s stop and think about what those government regulations and mandates actually do. They protect the rights of every American who is the employee of a government-funded program.
Those mandates include the right to work in an environment free of harassment and intimidation. They also include prohibitions on racial, gender, and religious discrimination in hiring and firing. Those government mandates mean that any program that accepts government funding cannot hire people on the basis of ethnicity, cannot pay someone a lower wage on the basis of gender, and cannot fire someone on the basis of religion.
When the Republicans say in their platform they want to do away with government regulation and mandates for government-funded religious groups, what they’re really saying is that they want to allow government-funded religious groups to engage in discrimination on the basis of religion, and gender and ethnicity as well. Sexual orientation? Sure, throw in that discrimination as well.
In their platform, the Republicans focus on the ability of government-funded religious bureaucracies to discriminate on the basis of religion. That means that if there’s a Catholic church that gets government money, it can choose to use that government money to give jobs only to Catholics. It means that the church can fire someone from a government-funded job for refusing to convert to Catholicism.
This system of government-funded religious bureaucracies is really a form of corrupt patronage through which rich and powerful churches can buy influence in the government through the kind of illegal partisan campaigning they have been engaged in throughout this election cycle. The big churches that support the political candidate who wins, then get big government handouts, and can use that government money to force people to undergo religious conversions in order to get work. Thus, government power is used as a crowbar to pry religious belief apart from individual conscience, and make church membership a matter of institutional coercion.
The Republican platform says that, “to accomplish their missions, those groups must be able to rely upon people who share their faith,” but that’s only true if the mission of these religious bureaucracies is to spread their religion. If their purpose is truly to help people without discrimination, there is no problem with cooperating with people of other religions, or of no religion at all. Why would any church, if it is truly wanting to help people, and not just gain power for itself through coerced conversions, refuse the help of Americans with different beliefs?
The purpose of these government-funded religious bureaucracies supported by the GOP platform is to use the power of government to establish religious power over communities that are currently served, without discrimination, by the government. The purpose is to give politically-connected churches more power than those who are not politically-connected.
That is the essence of government establishment of religion. Abolishing the government establishment of religion was the first order of business in the very first amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America.
That’s because the founders of our nation knew from personal experience how government-supported religion had corrupted the colonies under British rule. They knew how mixing church and state had led to centuries of bloodshed in Europe.
If we do not want a return to those dark days, we Americans must stand in opposition to the attempt, by both the Republican and the Democratic parties, to use the power of government to engage in the establishment of religion.