April 2018 Commentary: Threats to our Democracy

April 2018 Commentary: Threats to our Democracy

Commentary: Threats to our Democracy: Religious Authoritarianism

You will see a website reference below to an earlier essay of mine on Religious Authoritarianism and the Trump Administration.*  In that essay I laid out the extreme religious affiliations of a number of administration officials (including former members), especially Betsy DeVos, Steve Bannon, Mike Pence, Jeff Sessions, Tom Price, Ben Carson, and Mike Pompeo. It hasn’t gotten any better. The list of administration figures who explicitly do not believe in the separation of church and state has increased.

Scott Pruitt, Director, Environmental Protection Agency

New information has surfaced about those on our original list of religious extremists.  One of those is Pruitt, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) administrator. In 2003, Pruitt supported an unsuccessful bill that would have required textbooks in Oklahoma to use language that evolution is only a theory. Other Pruitt views have just been revealed in a 2005 interview he gave in a article in Politico, views he has not rejected. In that 2005 interview he said that states might need to call a constitutional convention to propose amendments that would allow expression of religion in government, declare abortion illegal, and bar same-sex marriage. In the 2005 recordings, Pruitt also backed a broad interpretation of the Second Amendment’s right to bear arms, saying it derives from a divine mandate and thus cannot be limited. Pruitt belittles the rule of law and Constitutionally guaranteed rights. He has said we have “a judicial monarch.”

Sarah Huckabee Sanders

We now have as the White House Press Secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, who shares her religious beliefs with those of her father, Mike Huckabee. He expressed his views on the relation of church and state in his 2008 Presidential campaign: “I have opponents in this race who do not want to change the Constitution. But I believe it’s a lot easier to change the Constitution than it would be to change the word of the living God. And that’s what we need to do is amend the Constitution so it’s in God’s standards rather than trying to change God’s standards so it lines up with some contemporary view of how we treat each other and how we treat the family.”

Huckabee’s daughter Sarah deflects all questions on President Trump’s moral standards by saying that, in effect, as humans we are all weak and should look for our “model” not to humans but to God, who has decree what happens – such as the election of Trump – is for his purposes. Huckabee Sanders, by making all humans generic in this “God space,” is making human institutions, and humans in this world, unimportant. Everything is bad about Trump, or everything is good. It is all the same.

Religious Beliefs and Job Qualifications

A person’s religious beliefs aren’t off the reservation for discussion and judgment on that individual’s interactions with fellow members of his or her community, including the nation. They are legitimately part of a review of their qualifications for certain jobs – including all public sector jobs. They are not determinative, but they are relevant. Part of one’s qualification for public service in America means serving the community and treating its members as equally valuable in terms of the human spirit. If you don’t believe that and believe, for example, that God decreed that some who are poor deserve to be poor, then you aren’t qualified to be a public servant.


–Elizabeth Clark, Vice President for Public Policy and Political Action, and Chair, Foreign Policy Task Force