10th place: Grad student essay contest — Michelle Krauser

‘God’ not part of secular Constitution

Michelle Krauser

FFRF awarded Michelle $300.

By Michelle Krauser

A  secular society in which the government is prohibited from establishing a state-sponsored religion or giving priority to a religion is a right acknowledged in the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The Free Exercise Clause, which is also found in the First Amendment, grants every citizen the freedom to exercise any religion freely. The people who founded this country recognized that politics mixed with religion is a deadly combination — a recipe for conflict, bloodshed and marginalization. In conjunction with radical politicians, Christian Nationalists have demonstrably misinterpreted the Establishment Clause and the Free Exercise Clause as a right to impose Christian moral ideology on others through political discourse and legislation. 

Christian Nationalism, ignited by the “Make America Great Again” conservative political agenda espoused by President Trump, uses the bible to categorize non-Christian and nonreligious Americans as immoral and unpatriotic, an organized force hell-bent on destroying the sanctity of the United States and establishing a state of debauchery. But what exactly does “Make America Great Again” mean? To many, this slogan is symbolic of a desperate struggle to save the United States from an onslaught of secular “non-Christian” ideals and restore the Christian fundamentals, as interpreted by Christian Nationalists, upon which this country was supposedly founded. However, the underlying message is more sinister. This propaganda is an attempt by radical politicians to harness the unparalleled power of religion to create a society in which the white male reigns supreme, women are subservient to their husbands and those who rebuke extremist Christian values are condemned to eternal damnation. 

The inclusion of religious ideology in political discourse is pervasive, as evidenced by anti-abortion and anti-lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer legislation. Pro-choice? “Life begins at conception!” Pro-LGBTQ? “It is against God’s will!” Such claims, often touted by Christian Nationalists and radical politicians, are an unabashed breach of the Establishment Clause. In the United States, Christian Nationalism is a threat to secular democracy. Conservative politicians have constructed a false war — the war on Christianity — to incite fear and mobilize the religious voter base. Controversial topics, such as same-sex marriage and abortion, are used to manipulate individuals into voting against their own best interests. Tax cuts for the wealthy? No problem, as long as access to abortion is restricted. Nepotism? Corruption? Crickets.

Christian Nationalists ignore blatant abuses of power in favor of their personal religious beliefs. 

Politicians use Christianity as a tool to influence prospective voters and control the masses. This is not a new phenomenon, as the Roman Catholic Empire, Ancient Egypt and countless other theocracies have shown. Governments have capitalized on religion and used it to maintain absolute power throughout history. Equally disturbing, governments have used religion to manipulate the masses into detesting  others on the basis of their individual beliefs or lack thereof, which has led to horrific violence, injustice and oppression across the globe. It is not a coincidence that the theocratic governments that exist today tend to be the most authoritarian and violent, a fate that the United States is not excluded from should religion continue to be exploited as a perverse political tool. The Establishment Clause and the Free Exercise Clause were incorporated into the Constitution because history has shown that the inclusion of religion in politics results in an anti-democratic state. The Constitution itself is secular. There are, in fact, two words that are intentionally absent in the Constitution: “God” and “Christianity.”   

Michelle, 30, attends Coastal Carolina University after graduated from Oakland University in 2017. “I am researching loggerhead shrikes at Coastal Carolina University. I interned with the Student Conservation Association at Elizabeth Morton National Wildlife Refuge in New York and Waccamaw National Wildlife Refuge in South Carolina. I spend most of my free time hiking with my dog and hope to pursue a career with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.”