The House Judiciary Committee has a Subcommittee on the Constitution and Civil Justice — and that latter group includes Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX).
Gohmert is about as conservatively Christian as you can get. In April, he said that church/state separation really meant that “the state would not dictate to the church, but the church would certainly play a role in the state.” In 2012, after the movie theater shootings in Aurora, Colorado, he suggested that the tragedy could have been avoided if the country placed a higher value on God.
He’s just that awful a person.
So when Rev. Barry Lynn of Americans United for Separation of Church and State came to testify at yesterday’s hearing on the “State of Religious Liberty in the United States,” you can imagine how Gohmert was taken aback by how this “reverend” was claiming to be a Christian. (Because if you don’t perfectly fall in lockstep with Gohmert’s views, you’re not really a Christian…)
It led to this frustrating exchange between the staunch defender of church/state separation and the Congressman who doesn’t even understand what that is:
Gohmert: I’m curious, in your Christian beliefs, do you believe in sharing the good news that will keep people from going to hell, consistent with the Christian belief?
Lynn: I wouldn’t agree with your construction of what hell is like or why one gets there. But the broader question is, yes, I’m happy to —
Gohmert: So, you don’t believe somebody would go to hell if they do not believe Jesus is the way, the truth, the life?
Lynn: I personally do not believe people go to hell because they don’t believe in a specific set of ideas in Christianity. I have never —
Gohmert: No, not a set of ideas. Either you believe as a Christian that Jesus is the way, the truth, or life, or you don’t. And there’s nothing wrong in our country with that — there’s no crime, there’s no shame. There should never be a law against those beliefs because God gave us the change to elect to either believe or disbelieve. And that’s what we want to maintain, is people’s chance to elect, yes or no, the chance that we were given, so do you believe —
Lynn: Congressman, what I believe is not necessarily what I think ought to justify the creation of public policy for everybody, for the 2,000 different religions that exist in this country [or] the 25,000,000 nonbelievers. I’ve never been offended, I’ve never been afraid to share my belief. When I spoke recently at an American Atheists conference, it was clear from the very beginning of the first sentence that I was a Christian minister. I was there to talk to them about the preservation of the Constitution, and in fact, I said, you know, we can debate the issue of the existence of God for another 2,000 years. I want to preserve the Constitution and its effect on all people, believers and nonbelievers, in the next five years. That’s what I talk about–
Gohmert: So, the Christian belief as you see it is whatever you choose to think about Christ, whether or not you believe those words he said, that nobody basically “goes to heaven except through me.”
Lynn: We could have a very interesting discussion sometime, probably not in a Congressional hearing…
Gohmert: Well, I was just trying to figure out when you say Christian… there’s no judgmental [sic]. That’s not my job. God judges people, pardon my opinion. But just try to figure out what we meant by Christian, so I appreciate your indulgence. Thank you.
That’s how Gohmert chose to spend some of the hearing time: questioning how truly Christian Rev. Lynn really was in an effort to discredit whatever else he was going to say.
Can they switch spots?
Please? Someone let them switch spots.
The wrong person is in Congress.
(On a side note, The Blaze‘s Billy Hallowell referred to Lynn as a “church-state separatist.” Which connotes something far worse than how he uses it… and I know he knows that because I’ve said it before.)
By the way, in case you’re wondering what Rev. Lynn actually came to say, here’s an excerpt from his written remarks:
The largest threats [to religious liberty] as I see them today can be placed into two broad categories: threats to religious minorities and non-believers, and efforts to radically redefine religious liberty. Threats to the Christian majority are few, far between, and sometimes, frankly, untrue.
Non-believers and adherents to less popular faiths are still denied the basic rights that many of us practicing a majority faith take for granted every day. They face religious coercion, harassment, exclusion, and overt religious employment discrimination.
Another threat is the mounting attempts to radically redefine religious liberty. To me, religious freedom means having the right to practice your religion free of harassment and undue influence from governments at any level. Categorical religious or “faith specific” exemptions to law and other generally applicable rules and regulations should be granted only where they will not unduly burden the legitimate rights of others. But what are often described as threats to religious freedom today are really attempts to obtain sweeping exemptions that could deny others fundamental rights to make lawful moral choices and exercise their own individual conscience; efforts to seek privileges reserved for religious entities by organizations that are engaged in commercial enterprises or that serve as a government provider of services; and attempts to use the machinery of government to promote particular religious beliefs, often resulting in the coercion of others to follow those doctrines. Ironically, under these circumstances, the accommodations and privileges sought in the name of religion become a real threat to religious freedom overall.
That’s the view of a person who truly respects religious liberty for everyone.
That’s the view of the guy who’s not in Congress.