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Not Even Truthy: AFA’s Fischer Says States Can Apply Religious Tests

By Leah Nelson on October 14, 2011 - 2:19 pm, Posted in Anti-Muslim

Whether he’s predicting the imminent destruction of America at the hands of “the homosexual agenda” or issuing dire warnings about Islamic Shariah law, American Family Association (AFA) spokesman Bryan Fischer can be kind of a downer.

He took a break from his usual doomsday warnings this week to offer readers some great news: Even though the federal government can’t require public officials to pass religious tests, individual states can!

Not.

“Sheer nonsense,” Ayesha Khan, legal director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, told Hatewatch.

Why? Because fully 50 years ago, the Supreme Court ruled that “neither a State nor the Federal Government can constitutionally force a person ‘to profess a belief or disbelief in any religion.’”

The case in question, Torcaso v. Watkins, revolved around a Maryland rule requiring public officials to affirm belief in God as part of their oath of office. An atheist named Roy Torcaso refused and was denied confirmation as a notary public as a result.

Maryland’s high court upheld the rule, reasoning absurdly that since Torcaso wasn’t “compelled to hold public office,” the oath did not violate his constitutional rights. The Supreme Court disagreed utterly.

“We are all agreed that the First and Fourteenth Amendments have a secular reach far more penetrating in the conduct of Government than merely to forbid an ‘established church,’” Justice Hugo Black wrote for the majority. “We renew our conviction that we have staked the very existence of our country on the faith that complete separation between the state and religion is best for the state and best for religion.”

There’s a fun postscript to this.

Fischer has argued that the founding fathers did not intend for Muslims to be accorded the same right to religious freedom as Christians.

“Islam is entitled only to the religious liberty we extend to it out of courtesy,” he wrote in March.

Wrong again.

Justice Black in his Torcaso opinion praised the “wise and far-seeing men in the Colonies … who spoke out against test oaths and all the philosophy of intolerance behind them.”

Black referred to one of those wise men in particular, citing in a footnote the words of James Iredell, a delegate to North Carolina’s 1788 constitutional convention. Iredell helped structure the court system of that state and was in 1790 appointed by President George Washington to serve on the newly established Supreme Court of the United States of America. (It doesn’t get much more Founding Father-y than that, Bryan.)

“[I]t is objected, that the people of America may perhaps choose Representatives who have no religion at all, and that Pagans and Mahometans [Muslims] may be admitted into offices,” said Iredell, as quoted in the Torcaso opinion. “But how is it possible to exclude any set of men, without taking away that principle of religious freedom which we ourselves so warmly contend for?”

We couldn’t have put it better ourselves.

  • Aquaria

    “That’s the original Marx quote. Marx wouldn’t agree that religion is the worst factor in human history. It merely plays a role in a class-based society founded on exploitation. There are many secular ideas which can be just as detrimental in justfying exploitation.”

    None have the punch or the blind and ignorant adherence that religion does.

  • JeffB

    Dear Ruslan,

    As far as my background is concerned (which you question), my four grand parents were all Ashkenazi Jews born in Europe who came over to America either before of just after 1900. My Father’s father was born in a town near the line that runs between Gradno and Bialstock in Poland. His mother was from Russia. Both of my Mother’s parents were born in Hungary.

    During the Holocaust My father’s family in the Bialstock/Gradno area, consisting of his aunts, uncles and cousins, were all lost, to my knowledge. Some of my Mothers aunts, uncles and cousins in Hungary were lost but many survived and during the Hungarian uprising in 1957 they managed to escape the Communist government and come to the United States.

    I am quite Jewish in ancestry. If you would like to speak to my personally about it, I give permission for the moderator of this blog to pass my email (which by the way contains my actual first and last name) to you, which if you would contact me, I’d be glad to arrange a phone call where we could talk. I am not a White nationalist troll posing as a Jew on this blog, as you imply!

    I am not an expert in the works of Karl Marx – my remark was just an inference drawn from how historical forces played out. But I would be quite surprised if Marx was not principally concerned with Christianity when he made his remark about the opium of the people. I will concede however that you probably are more knowledgeable about Karl Marx and his life and teachings than I am.

    On the subject of Hollywood and the values it promotes as well as how it presents the Christian Faith, that is a big subject that I’ll just say we have a disagreement about and leave it at that. We also disagree about what the Constitution implies about the very charged subject of “separation of church and state.” Again I think it best if we just agree to disagree. Also the question of Israeli support for the Haredi and the significance of the Israeli secular movement’s opposition to them. These are all profound and complex subjects that seem to me a little too much for us to get into here on this thread, which, for openers, would be off topic.

    Dear CM,

    Interesting that you would cite “The Passion of Christ” as disproving the statement that Hollywood “never” shows Christian in a positive light. That seems to me to be the exception that proves the rule! Nevertheless, I will concede that you are correct that I overstated my point and thus was not accurate when I stated, “… Hollywood has a de facto policy of never showing Christians or Christianity in a very positive light.” That statement was too strong.

    You said, “And yes, I was also speculating that he’s really an anti-Semite troll/provocateur, in part because dragging Israel into the discussion was so inapposite, even if he’d actually known a real fact or two about it.” Please read my response to Ruslan on the subject of my allegedly being a White nationalist troll!

  • Ruslan Amirkhanov

    I doubt he’ll be back, but you can learn alot about his ideology from the way he speaks about Marx’s “goal to overthrow the European order”. Europe’s “order” was already in upheaval long before Marx was even born, thanks to the fledgling capitalist system, private property, and the Enlightenment. Marx had no such goal of overthrowing anything. He understood that capitalism was bringing into existence many things which were both positive and negative, and that the negative aspects put capitalism in a very contradictory situation which would eventually lead to either it’s replacement, or collapse.

    Only a believer in White Nationalism or similar anti-Semitic conspiracy theories would think that everything was just fine and dandy in Europe until evil Marx appeared on the scene to mess it all up. Marx was a critic, and of course nuts like Kevin MacDonald see something insidious in this. They cannot perceive that their idyllic, ahistorical vision of old Europe had deep problems of its own. To this day conservatives and right-wingers resent academics in general for doing scientific studies of the past, as Marx did. It ruins all their myths.

  • CM

    Ruslan,

    Apparently your response to JeffB was being moderated when I wrote mine, so it’s gratifying to see my conjectures confirmed. And yes, I was also speculating that he’s really an anti-Semite troll/provocateur, in part because dragging Israel into the discussion was so inapposite, even if he’d actually known a real fact or two about it.

  • Ruslan Amirkhanov

    “I would never claim to be an expert on Marx, but my understanding is that he was an atheist-materialist, so it would seem probable that his comments on religion do in fact refer to all religion and not just Christianity. But maybe Ruslan will have a better grasp of that point.”

    Don’t worry, CM, you clearly know more about Marx than JeffB does. After all, his sources are most likely Kevin MacDonald and Stormfront.

  • CM

    JeffB,

    I would never claim to be an expert on Marx, but my understanding is that he was an atheist-materialist, so it would seem probable that his comments on religion do in fact refer to all religion and not just Christianity. But maybe Ruslan will have a better grasp of that point.

    In relation to things that I do feel somewhat competent to discuss:

    You wrote: “… in the United States, which has a higher percentage of Christians than Israel has percentage of Jews …”
    The facts: According to the respected ARIS (American Religious Identity Survey), 76.5 percent of Americans identified themselves as Christians in 2001. Meanwhile, the consensus among various sources cited by Adherents.com (including the CIA World Factbook) is that 83 to 85 percent of the population of Israel is Jewish. So your numbers are wrong.

    You wrote: “… we tend to firmly support an interpretation of our Constitution that restricts any public display of Christianity, its traditions, values, culture etc.”
    The facts: What Americans who value religious freedom reject is government-supported, taxpayer-supported displays that endorse or appear to endorse Christianity over other religions. Individuals and private businesses or organizations are perfectly free to display their Christianity, or have you never seen a “Doubt Darwin” bumper sticker? (If you have the so-called “War on Christmas” in mind, please be aware that it’s a totally fictitious concept.)

    You wrote: “This is at the same time that our movie industry in Hollywood has a de facto policy of never showing Christians or Christianity in a very positive light.”
    The facts: “Never” is a word that virtually guarantees that a statement containing it will be untrue. Thus, merely mentioning “The Passion of the Christ,” for example, disproves your claim. But there are plenty of other examples, including the recent “The Way,” with Emilio Estevez and Martin Sheen. I won’t detail the hundreds of older films that show Christianity in a favorable light but will just cite them en masse as demonstrating that there is not and never has been a “policy of never showing Christians or Christianity in a very positive light.” So the anti-Christian bigotry you thought you detected in Hollywood turns out to also be imaginary.

  • Ruslan Amirkhanov

    For another example, there are plenty of Jews who struggle to make Israel a secular, inclusive state, as the massive protests a few months ago proved. Second, the marriage law currently in effect in Israel is still based on the Ottoman Millet system. A fact like that is so intriguing it’s rather strange that a Jew so familiar with Israel and its marriage laws wouldn’t have noted that.

  • Ruslan Amirkhanov

    JeffB, I can’t help but notice that for a Jew you seem to express a lot of anti-Semitic memes, while praising and defending people like Kevin MacDonald. Very curious.

    “When Karl Marx said that religion is the opiate of the people, he was talking about Christianity rather than religion in general.”

    No, he was talking about religion, hence the use of the word “religion” and not Christianity. Whether you agree or not, Marx saw religion as idealism, and thus the opposite of materialism. This would include any religion.

    “The context of his discussion was how to successfully wage class warfare.”

    Not exactly. This was from a letter. Some liberals of that era talked about religion being abolished, Marx on the other hand believed that you couldn’t abolish religion, instead you had to abolish the conditions which made religion necessary to so many people.

    ” He had a strong dislike for the Christian Faith, not unusual among many Jews, which he considered an impediment to his goal of overthrowing the existing order.”

    Quite wrong. First of all, church control of commerce and the state had already been seriously undermined long before Marx was even born. The Reformation and the rise of liberal, Enlightenment values had shattered the Catholic church’s grip on power. What you say here shows you know very little about Marx’s philosophy or writing.

    Now as I said, I can’t help but notice that you claim to be a Jew, while repeating common anti-Semitic memes and referring to “us” as though the views or behaviors you speak on are common to all Jews.

    Also you say bizarre things such as this: “we tend to firmly support an interpretation of our Constitution that restricts any public display of Christianity, its traditions, values, culture etc.”

    The Constitution’s establishment clause is quite clear. The fact that you act like Jews are the only group the significantly supports interpreting the Constitution in this proper way is VERY telling. There are many groups which support the 1st Amendment.

    The idea that public displays of Christian culture are not allowed is simply laughable.

    “This is at the same time that our movie industry in Hollywood has a de facto policy of never showing Christians or Christianity in a very positive light.”

    So Jews run Hollywood as their own private propaganda mill? Check. This is simply nonsense. Christianity is portrayed positively in many films, such as Saving Private Ryan, Band of Brothers, The Patriot, Braveheart, Michael Collins, Kingdom of Heaven, and many other major films.

    Judging by your behavior on here, it’s clear you are not a Jew but a WN “concern troll”. You repeat meme after meme from Kevin MacDonald and other WNs, and it’s obvious you know little about Jews otherwise you wouldn’t pretend it’s such a monolithic group.

    If you want to argue your conspiracy theories on here, do it open and honestly like the other WNs and casual racists. You’re not fooling anyone.

  • JeffB

    When Karl Marx said that religion is the opiate of the people, he was talking about Christianity rather than religion in general. The context of his discussion was how to successfully wage class warfare. He had a strong dislike for the Christian Faith, not unusual among many Jews, which he considered an impediment to his goal of overthrowing the existing order.

    On the issue of “separation of church and state”, we Jews tend to have a dual view. We support Israeli law that 1. outlaws marriage between a Jew and a non-Jew, 2. provides for each municipality having a an appointed rabbi whose salary is paid by the state, 3. allows for special privileges for the Haredi, the Orthodox Jews, and generally supports the Jewish identity of the state. But in the United States, which has a higher percentage of Christians than Israel has percentage of Jews, we tend to firmly support an interpretation of our Constitution that restricts any public display of Christianity, its traditions, values, culture etc. This is at the same time that our movie industry in Hollywood has a de facto policy of never showing Christians or Christianity in a very positive light. To me this is a kind of bigotry, which as a Jew makes me feel uneasy.

    I

  • CM

    Underpinning this move toward deliberate dishonesty (including the rewriting of history by Barton) is a movement led by followers of Leo Strauss and neo-Machiavellians like Michael Ledeen (a frequent guest in years past on Pat Robertson’s 700 Club). Basically, their attitude is “Whatever works” in the struggle to dominate American culture and politics. Along with this raw power-seeking goes the attitude of Christian Reconstructionism’s founder, R.J. Rushdoony, who proclaimed that Christianity and democracy are incompatible.

    These guys only like freedom of religion when it helps them and are vehemently opposed to it when it helps their enemies. In other words, the thing they really value is worldly power.

  • Ruslan Amirkhanov

    “Religion is, indeed, the self-consciousness and self-esteem of man who has either not yet won through to himself, or has already lost himself again. But man is no abstract being squatting outside the world. Man is the world of man—state, society. This state and this society produce religion, which is an inverted consciousness of the world, because they are an inverted world. Religion is the general theory of this world, its encyclopedic compendium, its logic in popular form, its spiritual point d’honneur, its enthusiasm, its moral sanction, its solemn complement, and its universal basis of consolation and justification. It is the fantastic realization of the human essence since the human essence has not acquired any true reality. The struggle against religion is, therefore, indirectly the struggle against that world whose spiritual aroma is religion. Religious suffering is, at one and the same time, the expression of real suffering and a protest against real suffering. Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people. The abolition of religion as the illusory happiness of the people is the demand for their real happiness. To call on them to give up their illusions about their condition is to call on them to give up a condition that requires illusions. The criticism of religion is, therefore, in embryo, the criticism of that vale of tears of which religion is the halo.”

    That’s the original Marx quote. Marx wouldn’t agree that religion is the worst factor in human history. It merely plays a role in a class-based society founded on exploitation. There are many secular ideas which can be just as detrimental in justfying exploitation.

  • Richard

    No, Marx said “It is the opium of the people.” Don’t see much difference.

    The point is that religon has so many people in its thrall that it has become a massive, zombie-like conglomeration of mind-controlled, lemmings.

    Worse than fascism and naziism, religion infects humanity and spreads the disease of human degradation. .

  • Ruslan Amirkhanov

    I think the assumption that the problem is under-educated working class people is a bit elitist. In Lies my Teacher Told Me, the author shows how throughout the Vietnam war, college graduates tended to support the war, not oppose it. The reason was rather simple- upper class people have better access to education. Formal education these days can’t teach the kind of critical thinking skills which are necessary to cut through conservative BS.

    And consider all those “studies” put out by the American Enterprise Institute, CATO, the Heritage Foundation, etc. You think those are written by “rednecks”?

    Giving too much credit to formal education and writing off the working class is precisely why the left is in such poor shape in the US.

    And incidentally, Marx’s saying about religion being like opium(a popular painkiller) doesn’t appear in the Communist Manifesto.

  • Richard

    IludiumPhosdex is correct. I think Karl Marx hit it right on the head when he said in the “Communist Manifesto”:
    “Religion is the Opiate of the masses.” Lower-income, under-educated whites comprise the Tea Party and some religious groups where their thinking is done for them.

  • IludiumPhosdex

    “Matthew Bright” has it bang-on right with this observation:

    These groups seem to be going for a targeted audience that doesn’t have access (for whatever reason) to any information that would counter what they have to know are flat out lies, told over and over to where they become accepted belief.

    I think hate in America is an industry, conducted by the most unscrupulous bottom feeders in the country.

    To which I could add:

    The “targeted audience” referred to being mostly lower-income, undereducated whites whose minds are easily open to potentially dangerous influenced without knowing the consequences thereof; perhaps a byproduct of a strict upbringing?

  • Richard

    A core resurgence of mindless religious belief is giving Christianity a black eye lately. It is time for moderate and law abiding Christians to corner the extremists and put them out of business. If you think the Taliban are the only religious supremacists around, think again. Fischer and his ilk are just as extreme but until now had to bite the bullet and obey civil law. He now feels his brand of Christianity is powerful enough to begin pulling strings. We must show him and the other Christian Dominionists that we will not stand for it.

  • Matthew Bright

    These groups seem to be going for a targeted audience that doesn’t have access (for whatever reason) to any information that would counter what they have to know are flat out lies, told over and over to where they become accepted belief.

    I think hate in America is an industry, conducted by the most unscrupulous bottom feeders in the country. Reading the SPLC newsletters have given me the distinct impression that the people pulling the strings and organizing all this hate are simply in it for the money.

  • David Hart

    Bryan’s historical scholar is David Barton. Ugh!