There are limits to freedom of religion. It does not extend to some right or power to truncate or abridge the freedoms and rights of others. It has no right to impose itself on others. America's Founding Fathers recognized this when they prescribed the separation of church and state.
Today, we're challenged by radical religion, fundamentalism. We have spent lives, time and treasure in a futile battle against Islamist fundamentalism in distant lands. We have denounced them for seeking to impose their religious will on others - religiously, politically, and socially.
Yet we have a surprising indifference to this same sort of fundamentalism as it works to insinuate itself and its ways in our own nation. We have allowed the contagion of Christian fundamentalism to seep into our civil and supposedly secular institutions.
Veteran Republican insider, Kevin Phillips, warned of this in his 2005 book, "American Theocracy: the Peril and Politics of Radical Religion, Oil and Borrowed Money in the 21st Century."
Career US Army commander turned historian, Andrew Bacevich, discussed at length the invasive influence of Christian fundamentalism on America's armed forces in his book, "The New American Militarism: How Americans are Seduced by War," a summary of which can be found here, here, and here.
Chris Hedges, Pulitzer Prize winning journalist and author, explored America's fundamentalist scourge in "American Fascists: the Christian Right and the War on America," which, if you haven't read it is available free in PDF format here.
Veteran Republican Mike Lofgren, has written a book about the rise of "politicized religious fundamentalism and how the GOP evolved into anti-intellectual nuts."
Lofgren's book, "The Party is Over: How Republicans Went Crazy, Democrats Became Useless and the Middle Class Got Shafted,"
Religious cranks ceased to be a minor public nuisance in this country beginning in the 1970s and grew into a major element of the Republican rank and file. Pat Robertson’s strong showing in the 1988 Iowa presidential caucus signaled the gradual merger of politics and religion in the party.
The results of this takeover are all around us: If the American people poll more like Iranians or Nigerians than Europeans or Canadians on questions of evolution, scriptural inerrancy, the presence of angels and demons, and so forth, it is due to the rise of the religious right, its insertion into the public sphere by the Republican Party, and the consequent normalizing of formerly reactionary beliefs. All around us now is a prevailing anti-intellectualism and hostility to science. Politicized religion is the sheet anchor of the dreary forty-year-old culture wars.
The Constitution notwithstanding, there is now a de facto religious test for the presidency: Major candidates are encouraged (or coerced) to share their feelings about their faith in a revelatory speech, or a televangelist like Rick Warren will dragoon the candidates (as he did with Obama and McCain in 2008) to debate the finer points of Christology, offering himself as the final arbiter. Half a century after John F. Kennedy put to rest the question of whether a candidate of a minority denomination could be president, the Republican Party has reignited the kinds of seventeenth-century religious controversies that advanced democracies are supposed to have outgrown. And some in the media seem to have internalized the GOP’s premise that the religion of a candidate is a matter for public debate.
The religious right’s professed insistence upon “family values” might appear at first blush to be at odds with the anything but saintly personal behavior of many of its leading proponents. Some of this may be due to the general inability of human beings to reflect on conflicting information: I have never ceased to be amazed at how facts manage to bounce off people’s consciousness like pebbles off armor plate. But there is another, uniquely religious aspect that also comes into play: the predilection of fundamentalist denominations to believe in practice, even if not entirely in theory, in the doctrine of “cheap grace,” a derisive term coined by the theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer. By that he meant the inclination of some religious adherents to believe that once they had been “saved,” not only would all past sins be wiped away, but future ones, too—so one could pretty much behave as before. Cheap grace is a divine get- out-of-jail-free card. Hence the tendency of the religious base of the Republican Party to cut some slack for the peccadilloes of candidates who claim to have been washed in the blood of the Lamb and reborn to a new and more Christian life. The religious right is willing to overlook a politician’s individual foibles, no matter how poor an example he or she may make, if they publicly identify with fundamentalist values.
Of course, the proper rituals must be observed before an erring politician can obtain absolution. In November 2011, at a forum sponsored by religious conservatives in Iowa, all of the GOP presidential candidates struck the expected notes of contrition and humility as they laid bare their souls before the assembled congregation (the event was held in a church). Most of them, including [Herman] Cain, who was then still riding high, choked up when discussing some bleak midnight of their lives (he chose not to address the fresh sexual harassment charges against him, which surely would have qualified as a trying personal experience preying on his mind). Even the old reprobate Gingrich misted up over some contrived misdeed intended to distract attention from his well-known adventures in serial matrimony.
Said Gingrich: "If we look at history from the mid-1960s, we’ve gone from a request for toleration to an imposition of intolerance. We’ve gone from a request to understand others to a determination to close down those who hold traditional values. I think that we need to be very aggressive and very direct. The degree to which the left is prepared to impose intolerance and to drive out of existence traditional religion is a mortal threat to our civilization and deserves to be taken head-on and described as what it is, which is the use of government to repress the American people against their own values."
That is as good an example as any of cheap grace as practiced by seasoned statesmen like Gingrich—a bid for redemption turned on its head to provide a forum for one of the Republican Party’s favorite pastimes: taking opportunistic swipes at the dreaded liberal bogeyman. How quickly one forgets one’s own moral lapses when one can consider the manifold harms inflicted on our nation by godless leftists!
Some liberal writers have opined that the socioeconomic gulf separating the business wing of the GOP and the religious right make it an unstable coalition that could crack. I am not so sure. There is no basic disagreement on which direction the two factions want to take the country, merely how far it should go. The plutocrats would drag us back to the Gilded Age; the theocrats to the Salem witch trials. If anything, the two groups are increasingly beginning to resemble each other. Many televangelists have espoused what has come to be known as the prosperity gospel—the health-and- wealth/name-it-and-claim-it gospel of economic entitlement. If you are wealthy, it is a sign of God’s favor. If not, too bad! This rationale may explain why some poor voters will defend the prerogatives of billionaires. In any case, at the beginning of the 2012 presidential cycle, those consummate plutocrats the Koch brothers pumped money into Bachmann’s campaign, so one should probably not make too much of a potential plutocrat-theocrat split.
...The Tea Party, which initially described itself as wholly concerned with debt, deficit, and federal overreach, gradually unmasked itself as being almost as theocratic as the activists from the religious right... If anything, they were even slightly more disposed than the rest of the Republican Party to inject religious issues into the political realm. According to an academic study of the Tea Party, “[T]hey seek ‘deeply religious’ elected officials, approve of religious leaders’ engaging in politics and want religion brought into political debates.” The Tea Party faithful are not so much libertarian as authoritarian, the furthest thing from a “live free or die” constitutionalist.Closer to home, we saw an example of this political fundamentalism earlier this week when rejected fundamentalist, Shifty Steve Harper, an avowed Likudnik and Armageddonist-in-Waiting, couldn't restrain himself from adding his endorsement to a full page newspaper ad praising Trump for breaking the Iran nuclear pact.
This Christian fundamentalism has been an unhelpful presence in Canadian politics ever since the "advent" of Preston Manning's Reform Party. My MP for many years was a chiropractor-doctor, James Lunney, who did not a stitch of good for his riding but was always ready to champion Israel, no matter how extreme the policy.
Perhaps it's time Canada came up with a clear statement embodying the separation of church and state, a provision that leaves no doubt that no religion shall have a say in Canadian politics.