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Tue, May

Behold! Trump's GOP Theocracy Is Coming

VOICES

FREE OR NOT - In a case centering on wrongful-death claims for frozen embryos that were destroyed in a mishap at a fertility clinic, the Alabama Supreme Court ruled last Friday that frozen embryos are “children” under state law. As a result, Alabama in-vitro fertilization (IVF) clinics are ceasing services, afraid to store or destroy any embryos.

The underlying issue is whether government can interfere in the most intimate aspects of people’s lives — not only barring people from obtaining IVF services but also forbidding them from entering into gay marriage, utilizing contraception, having out-of-wedlock births, ending their pregnancies, changing their genders, checking out whatever books they want from the library, and worshipping God in whatever way they wish (or not worshipping at all). 

All of these private freedoms are under increasing assault from Republican legislators and judges who want to impose their own morality on everyone else. Republicans are increasingly at war with America’s fundamental separation of church and state. 

According to a new survey from the Public Religion Research Institute and the Brookings Institution, more than half of Republicans believe the country should be a strictly Christian nation — either adhering to the ideals of Christian nationalism (21 percent) or sympathizing with those views (33 percent).

This point of view has long been prominent among white evangelicals but is spreading into almost all reaches of the Republican Party, as exemplified by the Alabama Supreme Court’s ruling.

It is also closely linked with authoritarianism. According to the survey, half of Christian nationalism adherents and nearly 4 in 10 sympathizers said they support the idea of an authoritarian leader powerful enough to keep these Christian values in society.

During an interview at a Turning Point USA event last August, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., said party leaders need to be more responsive to the base of the party, which she claimed is made up of Christian nationalists.

“We need to be the party of nationalism,” she said. “I am a Christian and I say it proudly, we should be Christian nationalists.”

A growing number of Republican voters view Trump as the second coming of Jesus Christ and see the 2024 election as a battle not only for America’s soul but for the salvation of all mankind. 

Many of the Trump followers who stormed the Capitol on January 6, 2021, carried Christian symbols, clothes, and signs invoking God and Jesus. 

An influential think tank close to Trump is developing plans to infuse Christian nationalist ideas into his administration if Trump returns to power, according to documents obtained by Politico.

Spearheading the effort is Russell Vought, who served as Trump’s director of the Office of Management and Budget during his first term and remains close to him. Vought, frequently cited as a potential chief of staff in a second Trump White House, has embraced the idea that Christians are under assault and has spoken of policies he might pursue in response.

Those policies include banning immigration of non-Christians into the United States, overturning same-sex marriage, and barring access to contraception. 

In a concurring opinion in last week’s Alabama Supreme Court decision, Alabama’s chief justice, Tom Parker, invoked the prophet Jeremiah and the writings of 16th- and 17th-century theologians. “Human life cannot be wrongfully destroyed without incurring the wrath of a holy God,” he wrote. “Even before birth, all human beings have the image of God, and their lives cannot be destroyed without effacing his glory.” 

Referring to the Book of Genesis, Parker noted that “the principle itself — that human life is fundamentally distinct from other forms of life and cannot be taken intentionally without justification — has deep roots that reach back to the creation of man ‘in the image of God.’”

Before joining the court, Parker was a close aide and ally of Roy Moore, the former chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court who was twice removed from the job — first for dismissing a federal court order to remove an enormous granite monument of the Ten Commandments he had installed in the state judicial building, and then for ordering state judges to defy the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision affirming gay marriage.

So far, the U.S. Supreme Court has not explicitly based its decisions on scripture, but several of its recent rulings — the Dobbs decision that overruled Roe v. Wade, its decision in Kennedy vs. Bremerton School District on behalf of a public school football coach who led students in Christian prayer, and its decision in Carson v. Makin, requiring states to fund private religious schools if they fund any other private schools, even if those religious schools would use public funds for religious instruction and worship — are consistent with Christian nationalism. 

But Christian nationalism is inconsistent with personal freedom, including the First Amendment’s guarantee that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”

We can be truly free only if we’re confident we can go about our private lives without being monitored or intruded upon by government, and can practice whatever faith (or lack of faith) we wish regardless of the religious beliefs of others. 

A society where one set of religious views is imposed on a large number of citizens who disagree with them is not a democracy. It’s a theocracy.

(Robert Reich, is the Chancellor's Professor of Public Policy at the University of California, Berkeley, and a senior fellow at the Blum Center for Developing Economies. He served as secretary of labor in the Clinton administration, for which Time magazine named him one of the 10 most effective cabinet secretaries of the twentieth century. His book include: "Aftershock" (2011), "The Work of Nations" (1992), "Beyond Outrage" (2012) and, "Saving Capitalism" (2016). He is also a founding editor of The American Prospect magazine, former chairman of Common Cause, a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and co-creator of the award-winning documentary, "Inequality For All." Reich's newest book is "The Common Good" (2019). He's co-creator of the Netflix original documentary "Saving Capitalism," which is streaming now. This article was first featured in CommonDreams.org.)