Toward a Christian Nation

Vic Stenger

Fundamentalists have made it clear that they will not rest until America is officially declared a Christian nation. They now seem to be well on their way. The recent U.S. Supreme Court decision, allowing the government to forbid workers in federally supported family planning clinics from even mentioning abortion as an option, is itself an abortion of the U.S. Constitution. I find the decision incredible and its possible long-term consequences apalling. After a decade of Reagan and Bush, a majority of the Supreme Court now appears in place that is willing to sacrifice even Freedom of Speech in the relentless drive to Christianize America.

The Chief Justice, William Renquist, has decalared: "The 'wall of separation between church and state' is a metaphor based on bad history which has proved useless as a guide to judging. It should be frankly and explicitly abandoned." He now finally has the votes to do it. Reproductive rights and other freedoms are in grave danger.

Most people do not recognize the abortion issue as an element in the battle over the separation of church and state. Yet, look at the anti-abortionists. They are mostly Catholics or fundamentalist Christians. Their priests and preachers are the leaders of the movement.

The basis of the Christian argument, the reason they are so implacable on abortion, is a primitive, dualistic belief that human beings are more than matter. Fanantical Christians believe, without a shadow of doubt, that we all possess something that transcends matter - a soul. Not even considering the possibility that this belief might be wrong, and not conceiving of how others could even think otherwise, they view abortion as murder because they assume the fetus is a fully complete human being - not in body of course, but in something obscure and undetectable they call soul.

How many anti-abortionists does it take to screw in a light bulb? Three. Two to do the screwing, and one to testify that the light went on the moment the screwing started!

Important as it is, however, abortion will not be the only church-state issue that this rock-conservative Court will address in coming terms. A graduation prayer case is on the docket, Lee vs Weisman, brought by a jewish family in Rhode Island. Obscure by itself, the Bush administration has chosen to use this case as a vehicle to overturn decades of church-state law. The Solicitor General, Kenneth Starr, has filed a 19 page brief going far beyond the narrow confines of graduation invocations.

Fundamentalists failed in their attempt to get religion into the public schools by using the argument that the schools already promote the "religion of secular humanism." So they have found a new, more promising angle. Recognizing the importance of buzz-words in todays's politics, where image is everything, and that"pro-choice" has been an effective counter to "pro-life," they have appropriated "choice" as the buzz-word for their latest campaign in the schools. And, again, the Bush administration is cooperating gleefully.

The new scheme (or is it scam?) is to provide tax-supported vouchers to parents who send their children to private schools. The President has unveiled a $200 million plan of incentives for school districts who develop "choice" policies. Since most private schools are parochial, this amounts to tax support for religion. Undoubtedly the matter will be fought all the way to the Supreme Court; but in the light of that august body's latest rulings, we can predict already what will happen.