Justice Scalia’s recent comments about the First Amendment allowing the government to favor religion over non-religion met with some controversy, but Georgia Republican House candidate Jody Hice supports them completely. And he’s using a familiar rhetorical trick to defend them:
Hice wholeheartedly endorsed Scalia’s remarks, in spite of the fact that the words “under God” were not added to the U.S. Pledge of Allegiance until it was more than 60 years old and in spite of the Constitution’s First Amendment’s Establishment Clause, which explicitly forbids the U.S. government from endorsing any religion.
“To be in the midst of a fight against secularists who are trying to impose on all of us that it is unconstitutional to acknowledge God and to honor God,” said Hice, “the secularists want to tell us that that’s unconstitutional. And Scalia is arguing that not only is that, in fact, constitutional, but it is in the best interests of who we are.”
Let’s spot the trick. He wants his listeners and constituents to believe that secularists want to prohibit people from acknowledging God, but that is false; we only want to prohibit the government from taking any position at all on the subject. This is similar to the “remove religion from the public square” rhetoric, it’s designed to blur the line between private religious activity and government religious activity so that their credulous followers will be scared into thinking that they’re going to be prevented from practicing their religion. And that’s nonsense.
This is a problem, Hice said, because for Americans to view the Constitution through “the lens of secularism” is not what God intended.
“Folks, that is problematic, that is an enormous danger,” said Hice.
“When it comes to the idea of religious liberty,” he said, “it is not constitutional for the state, if you will, just to be neutral towards religion.”
Religion, Hice said, is “an entrenched part of who we are” as Americans “and a necessary part of who we are.” God-fearing governments, he said, produce “a moral people who are self-governing of their own lives and thus don’t need the big arm of intrusive government all over us. Because we are self-governing people.”
“You remove God and you remove religion,” he said, “and you remove the state from encouraging religious belief and you get more secularism, you get more problems, you get more crime, you get all, whatever, fill in the blank out there.”
Really? So why is that America is by far the most religious modern western democracy yet we have far higher rates violence, teen pregnancy and virtually every other measure of social dysfunction?