Right-Wing Attacks on Religious Freedom

Religious Right activists like pseudo-historian David Barton and political operative David Lane have spent years promoting a false version of American history designed to buttress their opposition to church-state separation and support the idea that American laws and policies should be grounded in their interpretation of the Bible.

David Lane, for example, argues that the U.S. has a national mission to advance the Christian faith. While this Christian-nation revisionism has been repeatedly debunked by scholars, including Christian historians, these views have been accepted widely among Religious Right activists and Republican officials. David Barton falsely claims that portions of the Constitution were taken “verbatim” from the Bible. Barton argues that the Bible opposes unions, progressive taxation, capital gains taxes, estate taxes, and more.

There are many problems with the promotion of these “Christian nation” narratives. Among them:

  • They spread a false and divisive version of American history.
  • They inflame religious resentment by telling conservative Christians that the nation has been taken away from them by judges, secularists, and religious minorities
  • They feed a toxic political climate in which one’s political opponents are not just wrong, but evil and anti-God
  • They suggest that people of other faiths, or members of the growing group of religiously unaffiliated Americans, are somehow less American than Christians, less deserving of respect and legal protection

While Religious Right leaders posture as champions of religious liberty, they do not apply this principle consistently. The Family Research Council’s Tony Perkins has said that the beliefs of gay-affirming Christians do not merit the same level of legal protection as those of more “orthodox” Christians.

Many Religious Right leaders have resisted rather than protected the freedom of American Muslims, often justifying discrimination on the basis that Islam is more of a political ideology than a religion and so it doesn’t deserve First Amendment protection. Perkins even put a number on it, declaring absurdly that only 16 percent of Islam is religion, while the rest is political and economic ideology. Remember, this argument comes from the same people who believe our laws and economic policies must be grounded in their interpretation of the Bible.

Having Religious Right leaders argue that American Muslims do not deserve the protection of the First Amendment makes it easier for Donald Trump to call for religiously discriminatory policies such as a ban on Muslim immigrants or a registry of American Muslims. People For the American Way strongly opposes such religious discrimination and the bigotry in which it is grounded.

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