First up from the God Machine this week is an alarming poll, which found a significant number of Americans who like the idea of establishing an official national religion.
A majority of Republicans nationally support establishing Christianity as the national religion, according to a new Public Policy Polling survey released Tuesday.The poll by the Democratic-leaning firm found that 57 percent of Republicans “support establishing Christianity as the national religion” while 30 percent are opposed. Another 13 percent said they were not sure.
The irony is rich. Many Republican activists like to describe themselves as “Constitutional Conservatives,” but under the Constitution – at least in this country – the very idea of a national religion is antithetical to the American tradition. Indeed, the opening words of the Bill of Rights explicitly say, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.”
There’s nothing “conservative” about a theocratic agenda in which one faith tradition is endorsed by the government above all other belief systems.
But this week, it wasn’t just the poll results that highlighted the problem. A county Republican Party in Idaho pushed a resolution that intended to identify Idaho as a “formally and specifically declared a Christian state.” One local activist told reporters, “We’re a Christian community in a Christian state and the Republican Party is a Christian party.”
The resolution was ultimately defeated by the state party, but the fact that it was considered, and enjoyed a fair amount of support, was unsettling for supporters of church-state separation.
Also from the God Machine this week:
* Fascinating case at the high court: “A closely watched case before the Supreme Court Wednesday could have big consequences for religious rights in the workplace. It involves Abercrombie & Fitch, the preppy, mall-based retailer, and a young Muslim woman who wore a headscarf to a job interview at the company seven years ago.”
* Another interesting case, this time out of Michigan: “If a church can have a prayer station inside city hall, then an atheist can have a reason station there, too. That’s what a federal judge concluded today in ordering the city of Warren to allow an atheist man to set up a so-called ‘reason station’ in the atrium at city hall, similar to the one his religious counterparts have” (thanks to my colleague Laura Conaway for the heads-up).
* Rome: “A homeless man who used to roam the streets around St. Peter’s Basilica has found his final resting place among bishops. Willy Herteller, an 80-year-old Flemish man, died on a cold December night last year. According to the Holy See’s press office, Herteller has been interred in the Teutonic Cemetery, a medieval German burial plot inside Vatican City that is usually reserved for clergy and aristocrats.”
* And the Public Religion Research Institute published an interesting report this week, highlighting the religious diversity by state. In quite a few states, especially in the Northeast, “unaffiliated” wasn’t a majority, but it was a plurality.