It was the ol’ lexicographer Samuel Johnson who, condemning the tactics of the Elder Pitt, observed, “Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel.”

          He was not condemning the true love of one’s country, but hucksters who wrap themselves in their flags to justify self-serving, unpatriotic actions.

          Many of today’s politicos have found another, farther place to hide their biases: religion – in this country, Christianity.

          The most egregious recent example comes from State Sen. Dusty Deevers of Elgin. But his indiscretion is not the only point of concern for those who love our secular republic. Democratic State Party Chair Alicia Andrews also recently promoted exclusionary beliefs in a political setting.

          Deevers, also a pastor of Grace Reformed Baptist Church, was duly sworn in with the Constitutionally prescribed oath of office, which says among other things that he would “solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support, obey, and defend the Constitution of the United States, and the Constitution of the State of Oklahoma…(and) that I will faithfully discharge my duties as senator to the best of my ability.”

          Pretty basic stuff. Yet, the Rev. Sen. Deevers’ oath meant spit when on March 13 on the Senate floor, he announced:

          “Government doesn’t make the law. The people rise up, power rises up from the people, and the people make the law. And that law should be in accordance with God’s word, and the conscience. And these federal laws are restricting both of those things so when this authority, namely the federal government, commands what God’s forbid. … We are not to obey them.”

          Both of those constitutions Deevers swore to “support, obey and defend” place constitutional authority over any religious predilections. Oklahomans get two guarantees that public business is to be separated from religious beliefs.

          His oath breaking (yeah, it is lying) is reminiscent of the Congressional Republicans – many public Christians among them – who backed Trump’s stolen election lie against their own oaths. 

          Deevers drew quick condemnation from the Freedom from Religion Foundation, which called on him to resign since he was openly prejudicial against those who disagree with him. (And, which Deevers will likely trumpet as a sign of his persecution by evil unbelievers.)

          In a joint letter to Deevers, FFRF co-presidents Annie Laurie Gaylor and Dan Barker countered:

          “While you are correct that ‘the people make the law,’ your assertion that the law ‘should be in accordance with God’s word,’ is not only wrong, but egregiously so. Your declaration shows brazen support for Christian nationalism – the claim that America is a Christian nation, that religious law should prevail and that certain Christian adherents are the true Americans – and blatant disregard for the separation of state and church, in betrayal of your oath of office to the entirely secular U.S. Constitution.

          “The constitutional principle separating religion from government was the uniquely American vision of our revolutionary Founders. After centuries of bloody religious wars, inquisitions, crusades and pogroms in the Old World, and of the persecutions in the name of religion in most of the original colonies, the Framers were acutely aware of the danger and folly of mixing state and church. They deliberately and purposefully adopted the first constitution in history excluding any mention of a deity.

          “Every reference to religion in the U.S. Constitution is exclusionary.”

          So, too are the references in Oklahoma’s Bill of Rights – which Republican Christian zealots brazenly ignore in their drive to funnel public funds into indoctrinating religious schools.

          The FFRF leaders cite numerous Supreme Court rulings which have ”long held that the Establishment Clause ‘mandates government neutrality between religion and religion, and between religion and nonreligion.’”

          They claim this neutrality has proven beneficial in that, “This wise separation between religion and government embodied in the Establishment Clause has largely protected the United States from the religious slaughter and persecution rife around the world and historically whenever the government and religion are aligned.”

          In calling for Deever’s resignation (ain’t gonna happen), Gaylor and Barker chastised him for not doing, “your duty…to support the state and federal Constitutions and to protect the rights of conscience of your constituents.”

          As a practicing, voting, duly-elected Democratic county chair, I would prefer to end the story with the reverend senator. But, I believe in fair play, consistency in my moral stands. (I’m still waiting for all of the Republicans with whom I stood in denouncing Bill Clinton’s immorality to come forward to stand with me against the multiple degradations practiced by Donald Trump.)

          On March 29, Oklahoma Democratic Party Chair Alicia Andrews sent out the following email  under the party’s letterhead:

          ” As we observe Good Friday today, we pause to reflect on the values of compassion, empathy, and unity that define this sacred day.

          ”In the spirit of this occasion, the Oklahoma Democratic Party extends our warmest wishes to you and your loved ones. May this day be a time of solemn reflection, renewal, and blessings for all.”

          No “time of solemn reflection, renewal and blessings” had been endorsed for other recent religious holidays such as Holi, the start of Ramadan or Purim, as “sacred” to their followers as Good Friday is to Andrews.

          The Oklahoma Democratic Party should not be seen as endorsing any religion. No such message should carry its imprimatur.

          Andrews, as with Deevers, should keep her religion out of her politics, especially since she was elected to represent the “big tent” party that prides itself on inclusiveness. 

          As stated, Deevers’ Senate floor repudiation of his oath to uphold our constitutions is more egregious than Andrews’ cheerful thoughtlessness. It reflects the false doctrine of the Christian nationalists who pervert both Christianity and true patriotism in their drive toward political power.

          By cherry-picking quotes, they claim that our deistic founders – condemned as atheists in their own time – were fundamentalists. The Christian nationalists claim this justifies their oppression of all who do not hold their same narrow views.

          The Creator of the Declaration of Independence was a god without denomination demanding no religious obligations.

          In Faiths of the Founding Fathers, David L. Holmes observes that Deism, which proved “influential in the United States from roughly 1725 through the first several decades of the nineteenth century,” emphasized “human inquiry, reason and personal freedom, it catered to American principles of individuality.”

          Those are pretty solid tenets. We need well-reasoned people with inquiring minds who are free to confront the problems facing us today and who recognize and welcome that same freedom in others. Dogmatic obedience is anathema to our designedly secular republic.

          Belief systems forge character. Some seem to fail some of their adherents.

            (Gary Edmondson is chair of the Stephens County Democratic Party.)

Politicos show religious biases

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