Activist state

Boebert, Court Rulings Inflame Church-State Debate

Rep. Lauren Boebert’s recent comments calling the separation of church and state “trash” have sparked both criticism and concern that the influence of conservative Christians – both in the civil service and the Supreme Court – could overturn constitutional precedent.

Recent High Court rulings, such as overturning abortion rights and ruling in favor of school prayer, are prompting critics like Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) to dub the movement the “Christian Taliban”.

Religious conservatism has long been present on the right, but some fear Christian nationalism is on the rise. Right-wing Christians were at the heart of the campaign that helped former President Trump win the White House in 2016.

“I have never seen this kind of fandom in so many Church leaders who go to such lengths to defend such a flawed man,” Kinzinger said in a statement to The Hill, in an apparent reference to Trump.

Boebert, a staunch supporter of the former president, drew backlash after a speech she gave at a church in Colorado over the weekend, where she insisted that a separation of the Church and state “means nothing”.

“The reason we had so many excessive regulations in our country is because the church complied with them. The Church is supposed to run the government, the government is not supposed to run the Church,” Boebert said.

“That’s not how our founding fathers understood it. And I’m sick of this separation of church and state. It’s not in the Constitution, it was in a stinky letter, and it doesn’t mean anything like what they say,” the Colorado Republican added.

Boebert’s office said she does not support a theocracy and that she maintains that Christian principles are a guiding force in the founding of the country and in shaping policy today.

But his comments stoked fear among Christain conservatives advocating state-run religion or religion-influenced government.

Outrage over Boebert’s comments were recent Supreme Court rulings overturning the landmark Roe v. Wade abortion rights case, striking down a Maine law that made religious schools ineligible for aid to taxpayer-funded tuition and ruling in favor of a high school football coach who was disciplined for leading post-game prayers on the field.

Andrew Seidel, vice president of strategic communications at Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, said the Supreme Court’s decision on Boebert’s prayer and comments were rooted in Christian nationalism.

“He ignored everyone’s religious freedom except the coach,” Seidel said. “And it’s not religious freedom. It is religious favouritism. This is what Christian nationalism seeks. That’s what Lauren Boebert preached.

Singer and actress Barbara Streisand last week called the Supreme Court “American Taliban” arguing that he “uses religious dogma to overturn the constitutional right to abortion”. Its wording was similar to the phrase “Christian Taliban” that Kinzinger used in his review of Boebert, and hundreds of users on Twitter have been tossing around variations of the phrase over the past week.

Some on the left, however, like Daily Beast columnist Wajahat Ali, challenged the use of the term “Taliban” criticizing Boebert or the Court, arguing that it was Christian nationalism, not Islam, that posed the greatest threat to the United States and that comparing him to the Taliban was “an unnecessary distraction”.

Arguments have circulated among religious conservatives for decades that the original meaning of the separation of church and state has been distorted.

The “stinking letter” Boebert is referring to is Thomas Jefferson’s 1802 response to the Danbury Baptists Association of Connecticut after the group expressed concerns about religious freedom. In response, Jefferson pointed to the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment—”Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of a religion or prohibiting the free exercise”—which, Jefferson wrote, built “a wall of separation between church and state.

WallBuilders, a conservative advocacy organization founded by evangelical political activist David Barton, says, “The First Amendment was intended to prevent government from regulating religion, but that did not prevent religion from entering government or the public square.

The Supreme Court has repeatedly emphasized Jefferson’s letter to recognize a separation between church and state, but has pared back that notion in recent decisions.

Seidel argued that the religious conservatives’ interpretation is patently wrong, saying that “there is no freedom of religion without a government free from religion.”

“The dividing wall between church and faith is an American original. It’s an American invention,” Seidel said. “We should be proud of that fact. And people who claim to be patriots are undermining it with myths about a Christian foundation.

With regard to politics, many other candidates beyond Boebert repeated similar arguments about the separation of church and state, or argued for government to be influenced by religion.

Doug Mastriano, the GOP gubernatorial candidate in Pennsylvania, has put Christianity at the heart of his campaign and has also called the separation of church and state a “myth”.

Rep. Mary Miller (R-Ill.), a Trump-backed incumbent who won a primary against Rep. Rodney Davis (R-Ill.) on Tuesday, was one of the most outspoken members of the House to inject more of prayer and God in society.

“Our children are hurting and we are facing a mental health crisis in our country because the radical left has spent decades removing God from our school and our society,” Miller said at a recent press conference. Second Amendment Caucus. “Our country must be guided by our Judeo-Christian faith… We must return to God, people.