Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas argues states may establish an official state religion, and sees no problem with an individual state making Christianity the official state religion.
Thomas believes the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause does not apply to the states. The Establishment Clause is that part of the First Amendment that says “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.”
The Establishment Clause not only forbids the government from establishing an official religion, but also prohibits government actions that unduly favor one religion over another, or none.
While Thomas believes that the Establishment Clause “probably” prohibits the federal government from establishing an official, national religion, he sees no problem with individual state establishing an official state religion.
In the recent, disastrous Supreme Court ruling that found Christian prayers used to open government meetings to be constitutional, Thomas went further than his other conservative colleagues in condoning sectarian prayers at government functions. In his dissenting opinion Thomas disputes the widely accepted notion that the First Amendment’s ban on the “establishment” of religion even applies to state and local governments.
MSNBC summarizes Thomas’ official opinion:
“If policymakers in your state chose today to establish Christianity as the official state religion, Clarence Thomas believes that would be entirely permissible under the First Amendment.”
It is a position Thomas has staked out before. In 2011 Thomas made a similar argument. Rob Boston, writing for Americans United, summarized Thomas’ position:
Thomas’ constitutional views are extreme, dangerous, and out of touch. Even more worrisome, there are plenty of Christian conservatives who will embrace Thomas’ perverted reading of the U.S. Constitution as they pursue their twisted vision of a Christian theocracy for the U.S.A.
“Perhaps most shockingly, Thomas once again states his view that the First Amendment’s religious liberty provisions apply only to the federal government. In his view, the 50 states are free to “establish” any religion they want. In Thomas’ world, the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution was apparently never ratified.”