America’s experiment as a sort-of democratic republic has lasted for about 235 years, and for the most part, the system has worked relatively well. Since 1980 though, there has been a movement to change the nature of this country and the Republicans’ man-turned-god, Ronald Reagan, is responsible for unleashing the Religious Right on the nation and they are close to achieving their goals after the 2010 midterm elections that gave power to malignant teabaggers to collapse the government. Republicans are awash with funding from religious groups to enforce biblical laws against gays and women, but there is a bigger threat from Dominionists to form a theocratic government that is just now becoming evident to many Americans.
Two weeks ago this column addressed the Mississippi ballot initiative that replicates the personhood amendments many states have attempted to enact at the behest of fundamentalist Christian groups, the Catholic Church, and the American Family Association (AFA). The article pointed out that Mississippi’s ballot initiative 26 will most certainly pass and will withstand court challenges because the state supreme court’s bench is filled with 7 devout Christians reflecting Mississippi’s population that is fervently Christian (82%). The amendment is undoubtedly an attack on women’s right to choose their own reproductive health, but there is an insidious motive beyond just restricting contraceptives, stem cell research, in vitro fertilization, and abortion.
The personhood amendment’s author, Les Riley, said his amendment would have “international implications” and should be “the biggest news in the pro-life movement in 20 years,” and that it will engender a court challenge to overturn Roe v. Wade. As horrible as that sounds, it is not Riley’s only goal and his history informs the beginning of a movement to change America into a theocracy. In 2003, after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down anti-sodomy laws because they were unconstitutional, Riley was part of a movement to remake South Carolina into an independent theocratic republic dedicated to forming a “free Southern Republic” based on biblical law. The neo-secessionist movement, Christian Exodus, had as its goal formation of “an independent Christian nation that will survive after the decline and fall of the financially and morally bankrupt American empire.”
Riley was leader of the Mississippi chapter of the League of the South whose neo-confederate theory was that the nation could be saved by breaking it apart. They called for a nation rooted on European principles and population (read White) based on Christian Reconstructionism, and believe America was founded on and needs to return to biblical law. Riley calls Washington D.C. “Sodom on the Potomac” and follows the teachings of Reconstructionist leader R.J. Rushdoony who says “all ideas are inherently religious.” One of the ideas of Riley’s personhood amendment are that rape or incest victims are not eligible for abortions or the morning after pill because they claim that although rape or incest are unfortunate, “you don’t execute the product of the crime,” because “that’s what abortion does.” They also say that after fertility procedures, unused embryos “can’t be destroyed if people want to adopt embryos just like they want to adopt children” and that instead of using them for research or throwing them out, they should be frozen. An opinion writer in Jackson suggested that freezing embryos may be classified as child abuse, and the Yes on 26 website said using embryonic stem cells for research is tantamount to “human cannibalism.”
Although men like Riley are the epitome of insanity, they are gaining momentum in their drive to change the government into a theocracy. Mississippi is the most religious state in the nation, but it is not alone in pursuing personhood for zygotes. PersonhoodUSA is a national movement that is active in all 50 states and they claim that their movement is the “most important civil rights struggle of our age.” Whether or not it is a civil rights movement is questionable at best, but it is telling that Christians in every state are supporting a radical notion, but zygotes as persons are the least of the country’s problems if the Dominionists are not stopped in their tracks. Republican presidential candidates Rick Perry, Mitt Romney, Michele Bachmann, and Rick Santorum all signed an anti-gay pledge to appoint Christians for all federal courts as well as a presidential commission to investigate proponents of gay marriage for attacking Christians who support traditional marriage.
It may seem alarmist to give attention to these sinister personhood amendments, but they are precursors of Christian rule in America. The entire concept of a zygote as a person has as its basis the Christian bible and these extremists will not stop at punishing women; or gays. Riley’s history gives a hint that, in pursuing a European population model based on the bible for the new America, all ethnicities except Caucasian are in danger if the Christian Reconstructionists gain power. There have been arguments proffered that the Dominionists are not in power at the federal level, but they are entrenched in many states’ governments and that is where the danger really lies. The “tenther movement” is gaining momentum along with personhood movements and a Republican president and Congress could allow states to dictate their religious agenda to the entire country regardless the Constitution’s separation of church and state. However, as Republican Christian conservatives are infiltrating the government at every level, their goal of replacing the Constitution with biblical law is becoming more of a legitimate threat.
Most Americans are not aware of Christian Reconstructionists or Dominionism, but they should be. The problem is not necessarily all Christians, but given the choice of supporting the Constitution or the bible, there are few Christians who will opt for the Constitution. There is nothing as dangerous as religious frenzy and although the religious right has been involved in the government since Reagan gave them a voice, they are making progress towards establishing a theocracy. It is important to remember that not all Germans were anti-Semites, but as the movement gained momentum and nationalism became intertwined with Hitler’s final solution, it was not long before exterminating Jews became a national movement. The fanatics in the Dominionist movement are having success with the notion that America was founded as a Christian nation, and with support from groups like the tea party that dreams of collapsing the government to reshape it into a Christian, family-values theocracy, a religious takeover could happen before decent Americans knew what hit them.
The question still remains; where are the Christian voices who are not fanatical extremists? Apparently, they either condone a theocratic takeover by Dominionists or they are too frightened to speak out against the fundamentalist threat. Now that nearly all of the Republican presidential contenders are unapologetic Christians who tout their faith as a positive attribute, the threat is more credible than ever. However, there is a dysfunctional belief in this country among most of the population that Christians are basically good folk who can do no harm and it plays a role in helping Dominionists reach their goal. It is a goal of the bible as the rule of law and an Inquisition to root out non-believers for punitive regulation and the first victims will be those who are speaking out and attempting to warn Americans that democracy is finished unless the Dominionists are stopped. It may be unbelievable, but just ask people who face death threats from Christians every day.