Op-ed: My beliefs shall be your beliefs, like it or not

Op-ed: My beliefs shall be your beliefs, like it or not March 31, 2021

The US Senate has been working on a voting rights bill – that is, the Democrats have been working on it and the Republicans have been trying to kneecap it. Last week Mississippi Republican Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith felt called to bring Daddy God into it.

“I can speak for Mississippi,” she says, “on why we would never hold an election on a Sunday.”

Then she whips out a dollar bill, and says “This is a dollar bill, this says ‘The United States of America, [with emphasis] in God we trust.’ Etched in stone, in the US Senate chamber, is in God we trust.”

She points out that when the Senate swears in witnesses, the last words are “so help you God.” She goes on, with feeling (and finger-pointing):

In God’s words in Exodus 20:18, it says ‘remember the Sabbath, and keep it holy.’ So that is my response.

The fact that it talks about God on the dollar bills (and higher denominations too!) is not all that impressive or dispositive of anything when you remember that putting God on the money and the walls of government buildings was a red-hot idea in the 1950s, as part of the struggle against Godless Communism. Ok, it’s been there sixty-some years; your point is?

But that’s just flippant non-believers. Hyde-Smith knows what she meant: she meant that it’s there so we won and you have to obey it so ha! Or, really, she meant it’s a good way to conceal the fact that it’s about making it harder to vote so that fewer of The Wrong People will do it, and then people like Cindy Hyde-White will have a lock on Congress forever and ever amen.

Ed Kilgore at New York Magazine notes some complications of trying to impose sabbatarianism on government.

Aside from the chutzpah involved in lecturing Jewish U.S. senator Chuck Schumer about the meaning of the Sabbath as instructed in the Hebrew Scriptures, Hyde-Smith is inviting some follow-up questions by suggesting it is sacrilegious to allow political activity on Sundays.

Does that mean she opposes demands from many fellow Republicans and conservative Evangelical ministers to repeal the Johnson Amendment, which prohibits electioneering by nonprofit organizations, so ministers can endorse politicians like Cindy Hyde-Smith from the pulpit? Last I heard, that was a core “religious freedom” issue for the Christian Right.

But that’s ministers. Obviously ministers have to work on Sundays, because of all the preaching and offering of bits of bread and so on. It’s their busiest day.

But he says she’s faking it.

The simple truth is that proposed restrictions on Sunday voting in the Deep South are about one thing and one thing only: targeting “Souls to the Polls” events common among Black churches following Sunday worship services. It has zero to do with respect for the Sabbath, which Republicans profane as often as everyone else. It has everything to do with disrespect for churches where the faithful don’t happen to share Cindy Hyde-Smith’s point of view, but nonetheless are bold [enough] to insist on opportunities to vote.

Still, I think we can assume she enjoyed being able to do both at once – talk sanctimonious bullshit about the Sabbath and do her bit to keep Black people from voting. It’s always a thrill to be able to force one’s magical beliefs onto other people; the more absurd and rootless the beliefs are the better the fun.

Going batshit crazy outside Batley school. Image via YouTube

It’s a similar lust for the thrill of forcing One’s beliefs onto Everyone that drives the protests against the teacher who shared a Motoon at Batley Grammar School. It’s a cartoon; it refers to a guy who died 15 centuries ago; it’s a cartoon. Nobody is required to share other people’s beliefs about gods and prophets and saints – not morally speaking, that is. Of course they are required to by theocrats and their police forces, but in terms of what’s just and reasonable, belief in magic can’t be forced on anyone.

15 centuries is a long time. Maybe we could at last let people choose their own absurd beliefs?

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