Well, it seems that Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt is determined to protect “religious liberty.” Steve Benen reported that the great culture warrior has declared to school superintendents that he will not stand for them interfering with students’ “religious liberty.” And by “students” he means outsiders coming in and by “religious liberty” he means the ability of those outsiders to distribute Bibles. I’m sure he would be horrified if outsiders came in distributing the Quran or The Tibetan Book of the Dead or The Satanic Children’s Big Book of Activities (pdf). As Freedom From Religion Foundation attorney Andrew Seidel noted, “Open forums are meant to privilege the religious majority.” Pruitt — in addition to pandering to his socially conservative base so he can help the fossil fuel industry — is only interested in pushing Christianity.
But just think about what a truly open discussion of religions would do in a country that is three-quarters Christian. You see, I know a little bit about different religions. And one of the conclusions that I’ve drawn is that they really aren’t all that different. That’s certainly true of the Abrahamic faiths: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. The recent Pew Research report on religion found that 78.4% of Americans were Christian, 1.7% were Jewish, and 0.6% were Muslim. So all else being equal — without rigging the contest with early childhood indoctrination — Christianity would lose a lot of followers and Judaism and Islam would gain a lot. This says nothing of Buddhism, which is objectively a less horrible religion. And let’s not forget America’s fasting growing faith, “Nothing in Particular”! (Really: currently at 12.1% and growing.)
As Benen noted, we have seen this all before. Pruitt may think that the US Constitution gives people the right to pass out Bibles at public schools, but that’s only true if other faiths are able to do it too. And you can bet that the Satanic Temple is going to be there passing out its literature. And the truth is that people like Pruitt are terrified of a fair fight. So if it is a question of allowing all faiths or no faiths to compete for the market of young minds, they will choose no faiths. Christianity is a musty old faith that even Pastor Carl Lentz can’t make cool. I don’t care how many Jehovah’s Witness artists render the Bible in pleasant colors, it’s still guys living in big fish, guys building big boats, and guys getting seduced by their their horny daughters. Oh, and the bearded one wandering around Palestine, supposedly able to do magic tricks, but never once doing a really cool one like making an elephant disappear.
I explained what’s going to happen just two months ago, School Board Not Open to Real Religious Debate. But what Scott Pruitt is doing has a long history — and not just in terms of these ridiculous stunts of trying to turn Christianity into an official state religion by arguing for “religious liberty.” What’s he is doing is making a symbolic point that in the end will only fail and cost his constituents money. I discussed this yesterday with regard to a totally different issue, Obamacare Hatred Is Destroying Red States. Yes, I’m sure that Oklahoma generally and the Oklahoma public schools specifically need all the money they’ve got, but what is that compared to Pruitt getting to beat his chest and pretend to be defender of religious liberty? Anyway, we all know who elected this corrupt and evil man.
Meanwhile, Benen reported that Tennessee narrowly stopped a new law that would have made the Bible the official state book. But of course, that isn’t about religion. They just think it’s a hell of a read! Of course, doing that would be the same kind of unconstitutional symbolic act that would only result in the state spending millions of dollars defending the law in court. This seems to be all that Republicans are cable of doing anymore. Is it possible we could just make a deal? We liberals will all agree that those Republicans really, really hate Obama and everything he stands for. And we will also agree that those Republicans think that Christianity is the One True Faith™. And in return, those Republicans would never again make totally stupid symbolic gestures that hurt their own constituents. But I know that will never happen. Costing yourself $37 billion each year is the only way that people will really, really know that you really, really hate Obama. And losing really, really costly really, really stupid lawsuits is the only way that people will know that you really, really love Jesus. And if it hurts the poor, so much the better! We all know Jesus said, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. And that news is: no more food stamps or public education!”