First up from the God Machine this week is an alarming concern raised separately by several Republican presidential candidates: the imaginary prospect of Christianity being “criminalized” in the United States.
Right Wing Watch reported this week, for example, on Republican presidential hopeful Mike Huckabee’s latest warnings, this time issued to Billy Graham’s Decision magazine.
In an interview with Decision, Huckabee repeated his warning that marriage equality will lead to the “criminalization of Christianity,” saying, “When you elevate a lifestyle to the status of a civil right, I don’t think a lot of believers fully understand or comprehend that once it’s risen to that level and our government accepts it, then anyone who disagrees with it could be at least civilly liable, but more than likely would be criminally liable.”He warned that if marriage equality is legalized nationwide, it will become a “criminal act” for a pastor to preach against gay marriage.
It’d be easier to ignore such nonsense if it weren’t increasingly common. Also this week, for example, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) argued that liberals are trying “to essentially outlaw firmly held religious beliefs that they do not agree with.”
And even Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), ostensibly a more mainstream candidate, said last week, “We are at the water’s edge of the argument that mainstream Christian teaching is hate speech…. That’s a real and present danger.”
An electoral dynamic in which far-right candidates deliberately try to scare their party’s base is not uncommon, but the notion of a major American religion and/or its scriptural tenets being “criminalized” is plainly ridiculous. It’s deeply irresponsible for leaders in positions of authority to argue otherwise.
For one thing, we already have a First Amendment, which protects not only the free exercise of religion, but also the right of religious leaders to preach whatever they wish on the major issues of the day. There were Christian ministers who preached for years against interracial marriage – in some areas, such sermons may still occur – and while American society and American laws have obviously progressed, Christian critics of interracial marriage have never faced, and could never face, criminal penalties.
For another, marriage equality already exists in much of the country. The grand total of prosecutions against pastors preaching against equal-marriage rights stands at zero.
Rubio, Huckabee, and Jindal are free to make the case against marriage equality, but they really should stop casually throwing around demagogic fantasies.
Also from the God Machine this week:
* A big story out of Minnesota yesterday: “Criminal charges were filed Friday against the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis for its handling of a priest who molested children, with a prosecutor saying church leaders ‘turned a blind eye’ to problems with the priest.”
* An important occasion for Mormons: “There’s no telling when LDS authorities will fill the void left by Saturday’s death of longtime Mormon apostle L. Tom Perry, nor who will be chosen. But that it will happen is an essential process in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.”
* There’s something about this story that I can’t get enough of: “Creflo Dollar doesn’t need your help buying a $65 million luxury jet – not when his international ministry team has promised to buy him one. The board of directors behind the popular televangelist’s nonprofit organization World Changers Church International has reaffirmed its support for him – and his dream of purchasing a luxury Gulfstream G650 jet.”
* And as you’ve probably seen, much of Texas has struggled of late with deadly flooding, which comes just a few years after the state struggled with drought conditions. Glenn Beck this week credited a prayer proclamation issued by then-Gov. Rick Perry (R) in 2011 for the change.