Watching the Christians: More Proof Madison Was Right

WC doesn’t usually read the Salt Lake City Tribune, but one of WC’s readers pointed WC to an opinion piece appearing there and WC’s correspondent was right: it’s a perfect illustration of why James Madison was right to separate church and state.

Would you buy a used dogma from this man?

Would you buy a used dogma from this man?

One Stuart C. Reid, described as a “former U.S. Army chaplain, government relations manager for LDS Public Affairs, LDS bishop and Utah state senator,” issued a screed.1 He opens with these lines:

All is not well in America, and it is not because of the irreligious. It is because more than half of religious Americans and their capitulating clergy have apostatized.

As amusing as it may be to see religious extremists and Christianists squabbling among themselves, and accusing each other of apostasy, this is a perfect illustration of the perils of a state religion that were a focus of Madison’s Bill of Rights.

Reid goes on to assert:

According to the Pew Research Center, the majority of the religious now adhere to the “sexualcratic” stratagem, including supporting same-sex marriage. They have abandoned their moral standards and religious orthodoxies to advance appeasement policies corroborating their heretical loyalties.

And there you have it: the term “heretics.” The thing about religions, obviously including Reids, is that there is one and only one True Way. And the problem, of course, is that there are so many different True Ways. At least in America, we no longer burn heretics at the stake, although you get the sense reading Reid’s screed he wouldn’t mind a return to the Old Ways. Reid states:

Eighteen months ago, at the Utah Capitol, an agreement between advocates of religious freedom and sexual rights was fashioned through legislation that became known as the “Utah Compromise.” The media recorded for all time public officials standing shoulder to shoulder with sexual rights advocates, waving the signed legislation before a cheering crowd — a crowd that believed peace had indeed been achieved for our time. Many hoped the “Utah Compromise” would become the model of “fairness for all” throughout the nation.

You just knew this was going to be about sex, didn’t you, and specifically LGBTs. Reid draws analogies to Neville Chamberlain’s compromise with Adolf Hitler, quoting stern Winston Churchill aphorisms. Which both makes the supporters of gay rights Nazis by inference and confirms Godwin’s Law.2 It took Reid just five paragraphs.

Reid sees himself as a martyr and assures us his view will triumph:

Undoubtedly, taking a stand for religious freedom will elicit attacks upon the faithful as it already has throughout the nation. Nonetheless, history has proven those religions that tamely surrender to the tyranny of the cultural consensus fall, while those that steadfastly stand for their God-given moral standards and freedoms, even to the point of suffering persecution, rise. Surely, standing for religious freedom requires the courage to counter the cultural consensus no matter the consequences.

The Bible specifically condones slavery. There are, for example, specific instructions on how to treat your slaves, and what should happen to slaves who don’t “please” their masters. Does Reid think that the God-given moral standard of allowing slavery is his right, that the 13th Amendment and Brown v. Board of Education is also the “tyranny of the cultural consensus.” And don’t get WC started on the right to stone apostates, or sacrificing animals, or a host of other Biblically-endorsed behaviors.

Is every phrase of the Bible that one sect or another seizes upon entitled to protection from the “tyranny of cultural consensus”? If not, and WC suggests absolutely not, then where do you draw the line? James Madison, and the supreme court cases that have flowed from Establishment Clause of the First Amendment, are very clear. It is not a violation of the First Amendment for Congress to adopt laws that contradict religious tenets. Congress cannot forbid most religious practices among believers; Southwest American Indians can use otherwise illegal peyote in relgiious ceremonies, Rastafarians can use marijuana and so on. But they cannot impose their religious on others.

And that’s exactly what Reid wants, to build a movement that would have his interpretation of his religion impose its values on the rest of us. Screw the other guy’s interpretation; his interpretation, which, of course, is the One True Way.3

All of which is why James Madison was right.


  1. Note the ambiguity as to when Reid held all these various offices. Is he a current or former “Utah State Senator”? 
  2.  As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazism or Hitler approaches 100%. 
  3. In this regard, see Mark Twain, “Man Is the Reasoning Animal.”