The Christianist Impulse

YouGov has a new poll out via HuffPo (yes, I know…) that finds minority support for making Christianity (which one?) the official religion of the United States (32%), and slightly higher minority support for making it the official religion of one’s state (34%). Fortunately there is majority opposition to such a blatantly unconstitutional and insane idea (52%).

However, the breakdown by party affiliation is what’s really distressing, though not at all surprising:

Republicans were more likely than Democrats or independents to say that they would favor establishing Christianity as an official state religion, with 55 percent favoring it in their own state and 46 percent favoring a national constitutional amendment.

While I’ve dealt with the party’s image problem before, this is really the root of our policy problems. It’s fine that the majority of the party is Christian; the vast majority of the country still is. What’s not fine is that half the party wants to force that on everyone else. Not only does this fly in the face of the small government ideals of conservatism and libertarianism, it also leads to many of our worst and most unpopular platform planks.

The least popular part of the GOP platform is the moral statism, the desire to enforce moral behavior through law, most of which stems from the strong evangelical Christian base of the party. The most obvious and current example being the position on marriage. National support for same-sex marriage is roughly equivalent to the opposition to state religion in this YouGov poll, both now majorities. The effort to mandate “traditional” marriage on the state, and even federal, level is a symptom of the disease of Christianism, the desire to codify religious preferences into secular law. Eliminate the Christianist impulse, and the opposition to enforcing such things fades with it.

It’s especially silly on a foundational level for the party of limited government to advocate for state endorsement of anything, especially in violation of one of the basic freedoms enshrined in the Bill of Rights. The party that obsessively quotes the Founders should not be the same one that wants to end one of the basic reasons for the founding, religious freedom. This is where the conservative (contra libertarian) ideology exposes its inconsistency. Conservatives like small government on economic matters, but big, intrusive government on moral and social ones. Libertarians (and Rand Paul’s “new GOP“) consistently prefer small government on both.

One massive contradiction this exposes is the far right’s obsession with sharia law in the US, the use of Islamic code to govern the state. There’s no way to exactly correlate the two populations without more specific polling, but it’s likely that most of the same people concerned about the influence of the religion of 0.6% of the population on the law would favor enshrining the religion of 78.4% in it instead. Our republican form of government is specifically designed to prevent this type of majoritarian abuse. The majority should not be able to vote away the rights of the minority, but that’s exactly what having an official state religion would do.


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