Many of the people Trump has nominated for open judgeships on the federal bench are little more than third-rate Christian right bombthrowers and no one exemplifies that more than Jeff Mateer, former counsel for d-list Christian legal group First Liberty Institute in Texas. As reporters dig into past speeches and writings, they’re finding all manner of stupid claims and arguments. To wit:
I would bring a $100 bill and I would say, “Alright, first person” — and everybody has their iPhone — and I would say “first person to find in the Constitution the phrase ‘separation of church and state’ gets this $100 bill” .… And you know what — and everybody knows that, right? — that phrase isn’t in the U.S. Constitution. It’s nowhere.
Oh, this old chestnut. It’s such a ridiculous argument. Neither “separation of powers” nor “checks and balances” are found in the Constitution, but no one doubts that those are accurate descriptions of concepts that the text and structure of the Constitution includes. In all three cases, they were phrases that the founders themselves used to describe those concepts. Jefferson is not the only source of that phrase, Madison – the man called the Father of the Constitution and the primary force in writing the Bill of Rights and the First Amendment — used it too, and several variations of it (he particularly liked to use “separation of religion and government” rather than “church and state,” a broader phrase). The claim that this actual phrase isn’t there and therefore the concept isn’t is simply false. This is the kind of argument that can only be made or taken seriously by someone extremely ignorant or extremely dishonest.