by Maury Marcus
May 26, 2019
Next year (2020), all candidates in all parties, for any office at any level, must be confronted with three definitive choices. Republican statements on these three issues show contradictions, but office-seekers in all parties need to come clear on these three controversies.
The first is between two interpretations of the Second Amendment. Wayne LaPierre of the National Rifle Association claims that the right to keep and bear arms is an absolute and unalienable right. Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonin Scalia wrote in Heller v. D.C. (in December 2009) that the right to keep and bear arms is an individual and personal right but a limited and regulatable one. With which Second Amendment does each office-seeker stand? Scalia’s or with LaPierre’s?
Shortly after September 11th, 2001, President George W. Bush addressed Congress. He said that Islam was a noble and peaceful religion, and that the terrorists who had perpetrated that crime and other acts of mass murder had hijacked Islam for their evil purposes. Thus one could not blame Muslims as a class for these acts of terror. More recently, Mr. Donald Trump has said that he believes that Islam itself hates America. With whom does each office seeker stand? With Trump or with Bush?
Over the past 30 years, the religious right has repeatedly claimed that America is “a Christian nation”. I have often wondered what they mean by this. Do they mean we have a strong Christian majority? If so, the answer, according to the Pew Research Center, is 71 per cent. Do they mean that Christianity permeates our national culture? The answer to that is “Obviously!” But I suspect that the cultural reactionaries really intend that America should become an officially sectarian state.
Our Constitution does not mention any of the great world religions by name. It says explicitly in three clauses (Article VI, paragraph 3 and Amendment I, clauses 1 and 2) and implicitly in a fourth (Amendment XIV, Section 1) that government should keep out of religion. So this is the question for aspiring politicians: do you believe (a) the United States is by founding definition a Christian state that generously tolerates other religions, or (b) that the United States is by founding definition a republic of universal and maximum personal religious liberty, where every man or woman is equally free to follow his religious conscience?
Each office seeker needs to make clear his position on each of these issues. Citizens need to clarify to themselves their own feelings on these clashes. As one dedicated Democrat, I stand with Scalia, Bush, and the framers of the American Constitution.