The ramifications of the Trump/Pence victory may very well jeopardize the freedoms, rights and values cherished by secular-thinking Americans.
Adding Trump’s picks thus far for key administrative positions, all branches of our government will now likely be composed of Republicans with strong commitments to Christianity. Part of that commitment will include evangelizing the faith. And, many will see government service as an ideal way to do that.
Secularists are rightly concerned these officials will impose their faith as the primary lens through which our laws and policies (from their point of view, our collective morality) will be determined.
Secularists are wary that religion rather than reason will determine how matters such as church-state separation, taxpayer funding of religious schools and charities, climate change, the rights of gays, employers/employees and of those seeking safe and legal abortions will be considered. Will children in public schools receive only abstinence education rather than age appropriate and medically correct reproductive and sexual health information? Will they be taught religion (creationism/intelligent design) rather than science (evolution)? And, will they be subjected to prayers led by public schools officials?
Vice President-elect Mike Pence who stated that he is “a Christian, a conservative and a Republican in that order” and thousands of his like-minded officials will take their instructions on how to evaluate and decide these issues based on what their Bible tells them to do. As governor of Indiana, Pence signed a bill into law that let businesses use religion to discriminate against gays and others, such as atheists. He also signed into law severe restrictions against legal abortion.
President-elect Trump’s first cabinet appointments also give us concern:
Senator Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., is Trump’s choice for Attorney General. He was quoted saying, “If you have secularization in the world and don’t believe in a higher being, maybe you don’t believe there is any truth” during a Supreme Court confirmation hearing. His legislative record reflects he supports religious privilege over fairness and equality.
Rep. Tom Price, R-Ga., is his choice for Secretary of Health and Human Services. He is an fierce foe of reproductive rights with a 100 percent grade from the anti-choice group, National Right to Life.
And, Betsy DeVos, nominated for Secretary of Education, wants to get taxpayer money into private religious schools. Federal education policies will likely see taxpayer dollars used to support schools that teach creationism and that legally discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation and religious affiliation.
Eddie Tabash, a constitutional lawyer and Chair of the Center for Inquiry, our nation’s leading secular think tank stated, “We are concerned that Christianity will be used as an excuse if not a weapon to limit and deny many Americans their Constitutional rights.”
Those who take an oath to support our secular Constitution (Article VI, Clause 3) and then violate it by using religion as the primary basis for our laws and policies should be held accountable for their actions. The excuse they are responding to a higher calling is both irrelevant and (more importantly) unconstitutional. It is also a conflict of interest when public officials state their faith, not reason, should guide legislation.
Both matters should be addressed immediately before these misinformed, misguided and often miseducated people control our government. But, who will oversee and adjudicate this matter if those in authority are themselves religious ideologues?
For now, it is up to a responsible media to get the public informed and outraged about this situation. Reporters and journalists should start by questioning officials who act inappropriately .
It is for all of us, however, to remind all government employees that public service is a secular duty that requires decision-making to be based on reason, experience and science.