First up from the God Machine this week is a story out of Alabama, where voters will decide on Election Day whether to change the state Constitution in a provocative way.
This year’s “Amendment One” in Alabama, on the surface, may seem uncontroversial. Its text seeks to prohibit “the application of foreign laws” that may violate “a right guaranteed by the Alabama Constitution or of the United States Constitution.” At first blush, it seems hard to object to a measure like this.
But taking this one step further, a question arises: since when does Alabama apply foreign laws that violate Americans’ existing rights? If that’s never happened – and it hasn’t – then why change the Constitution to address an imaginary threat?
Sarah Jones knows the answer:
The amendment’s text never explicitly references Sharia, but as the Greene County Democrat reports, it’s merely the latest incarnation of anti-Sharia legislation in the state. It’s also the brainchild of State Sen. Gerald Allen (R-Tuscaloosa), who sponsored the original, failed version of the bill in 2011. Critics panned Allen for being unable to name any examples of Alabama Muslims attempting to enforce Sharia. His bill received another major blow when the Anniston Star revealed its text had been partially plagiarized from Wikipedia.
Ah, yes, now it makes sense. This isn’t just about prohibiting “the application of foreign laws”; this is about anti-Muslim paranoia. In recent years, the threat of “creeping Sharia law” has been common in right-wing circles – it was even an element of Newt Gingrich’s 2012 presidential platform – and now Alabama voters are being asked to change their state Constitution to enshrine that paranoia into law.
If this sounds at all familiar, in 2010, voters in Oklahoma easily approved their own anti-sharia state constitutional amendment. Its chief sponsor, Republican Rex Duncan, described his measure as a “preemptive strike,” which struck me as a clever euphemism for “addressing a threat that does not exist.”
Federal courts soon after rejected the measure. Don’t be too surprised if Alabama’s proposal meets a similar fate.
Also from the God Machine this week:
* TV preacher Pat Robertson told viewers this week that we have the ability to raise the dead. “That power is there, we just aren’t using it,” he said. Maybe Robertson’s been watching a little too much “Walking Dead”?
* An ugly story out of Wisconsin: “A Green Bay, Wisc. alderman has refused to resign after he randomly asked a Muslim woman if she condemned radical Islamic terrorism. Heba Mohammad, a University of Wisconsin-Green Bay graduate, emailed Alderman Chris Wery to ask why bus service is not free on Election Day. Wery replied to say he would look into it, and then proceeded to ask Mohammed about terrorism, according to the Green Bay Press-Gazette.”
* Religious vandalism in Oklahoma: “Someone drove up a ramp near the Oklahoma Capitol steps overnight and into a disputed granite monument of the Ten Commandments, smashing it to pieces in an apparent act of vandalism, authorities said. Oklahoma Highway Patrol Capt. George Brown said the person abandoned the car and fled the scene after destroying the monument Thursday night, and that investigators are searching the sedan for clues.”
* A striking cultural shift: “If you’re dismayed that one in five Americans (20 percent) are ‘nones’ – people who claim no particular religious identity – brace yourself. How does 38 percent sound? That’s what religion researcher David Kinnaman calculates when he adds ‘the unchurched, the never-churched and the skeptics’ to the nones (thanks to reader R.P. for the tip).