A Crash Course on the Separation of Church and State
I’ve begun to feel like I should teach a prerequisite course on basic American Civics. That’s not to suggest that I am some sort of legal scholar who lectures on the subject of Constitutional Law at Harvard University, but when it comes to the fundamental documents that comprise the basis for American democracy, at least I have read the damn things, and this, in and of itself, seems to have become a rarity these days, especially amongst the crowd who most like to flout them in the defence of shit they clearly do not support. Ironically, this same bastion of the mentally-compromised are also the ones who like to throw around the Bible to buttress a worldview of hatred, self-indulgence, and intolerance that is directly contrary to everything Jesus actually stood for, which they might actually recognize if they read the thing every once in awhile. But what’s really disconcerting at this point is the confluence of these two groups of would-be readers in the realm of modern politics. And nowhere is this more obvious than in the recent Republican appointment for Speaker of the House, Mike “Please don’t touch my” “Johnson.
And if you are sitting there wondering to yourself, “Who the Hell is Mike Johnson?”, well, trust me, friends, you’re not alone. But tread lightly- the more you get to know about Mike Johnson, the more you wish you didn’t because while Mike Johnson looks every bit as boring as his name would suggest, what lies beneath that milquetoast exterior is a whole bucketload of bat shit crazy. This nutter has what is known as a “covenant marriage”, a draconian form of matrimony that is only legal in three states and allows for divorce only in extreme cases involving elements such as felony arrest or adultery. You know, because nothing says “I love you” like screaming right after it, “AND YOU WILL NEVER, EVER LEAVE ME- OR ELSE…..” Even creepier, he has come out and acknowledged that he and his 17 year old son monitor each other’s porn usage through a $17/month app called Covenant Eyes. Yeah, good luck to that poor kid ever getting laid, and now he doesn’t he even get to look at porn? Tell me he’s not going to be spending his family inheritance in a therapist’s office someday.
But as pathetically outlandish as some of Johnson’s personal choices may be, he is entitled to all of them under the overarching blanket of liberty that this nation provides for religious freedoms. In his personal life, he could worship baby goats for all I care, and truth be told, he probably does, but none of that precludes him from representing his constituency if they, in their deranged lunacy, see fit to elect him to that position. But the basic protections that safeguard his religious liberties are the same ones he and his cohort of right-wing loonies seemingly want to do away with. For them, separation of church and state is just a ruse they would prefer to ignore.
You see, in case you don’t really know Mike Johnson, you should, because while his benign appearance might make you think of him as relatively harmless, his outspoken desire to undo hundreds of years of societal progress through weaponising his political power to impose those same backward religious notions on others, just got a whole lot more real with his ascension to the role of Speaker of the House. This hate-mongering homophobe has spent his entire career rallying political clout in order to push forward a conservative agenda that is buttressed by his fundamental Christian ideology. In the early 2000s, Johnson worked as an attorney for the evangelical Christian legal group Alliance Defense Fund where he spearheaded legal efforts to criminalize same-sex sexual activity, block efforts to legalize same-sex marriage, allow for businesses to deny service to LGBTQ people, ban transgender people from using restrooms that correspond with their gender identities, and deny health care benefits to the partners of gay city workers. Calling homosexuality “inherently unnatural”, he has sought to reintroduce anit-sodomy laws.
In a recent interview, Mike Johnson suggested that if we wanted to know his worldview that all we needed to do was go read the Bible and that was all we needed to know about him. Which is fine. Weird but fine. He has every right to whatever worldview he likes. But the very central notion to our entire republic is the doctrine of the separation of church and state- that he cannot use government to impose that worldview onto others who do not share it. If Mike Johnson feels gay sex is wrong, he has a very clear solution available to him: Don’t fuck someone else in the ass. But what he doesn’t get to do is tell everyone else that they can’t do so either. That is what the founding fathers actually meant by those quaint notions of “personal liberty” and “separation of church and state”. If someone else’s actions don’t impact or harm anyone else, you don’t have to like it, but you also don’t get to tell them what to do. That’s what the founding fathers meant by “freedom”, not as these assholes would have us believe, “the freedom to tell others what to do”.
In the end, our government is founded upon the singular principle of personal and religious freedom. At it’s core lies the ability to believe whatever and however we like, an unparalleled contract of individual liberty. But inherent to that contract is the same liberty to be afforded to all of our fellow citizens, regardless of whether or not their worldview’s align with our own. Johnson, and his cronies who would undermine the sanctity of that tenuous contract, are an affront to everything this nation was founded upon and hopefully still represents. So be careful, my friends. This Johnson is definitely a dick.
Steven Craig is the author of the best-selling novel WAITING FOR TODAY, as well as numerous published poems, short stories, and dramatic works. Read his blog TRUTH: In 1000 Words or Less every THURSDAY at www.waitingfortoday.com