FFRF formally objected to the attorney general’s use of the bible as justification for the Trump administration’s draconian immigration procedures.
“Religion has no place in shaping public policy in our secular nation,” FFRF Co-Presidents Dan Barker and Annie Laurie Gaylor wrote in a letter of complaint to Attorney General Jeff Sessions. “Under our godless Constitution, which separates state and church, the bible is not a legitimate justification for any action our government takes. In fact, the Supreme Court has said that if a government action lacks a secular purpose (i.e., it has a religious purpose) that action is unconstitutional.”
In his now-infamous June 14 speech in Indiana, Sessions cited the bible (Romans 13) to rationalize the Justice Department’s separation of children from their refugee and immigrant parents. FFRF condemned both the child separation tactic and Sessions’ use of the bible to justify it.
To this day, the Trump administration is still struggling to reunite thousands of these refugee and immigrant children with their parents.
Though a so-called holy book should not be used to justify actions by our secular government, FFRF expressed a lack of surprise that the White House has invoked the bible to defend inhumane policies. “The bible has brought out the worst in America and been used to justify our greatest shames. From slavery, to segregation, to the subjugation of women, the bible has been used as an engine of regression since America’s founding,” FFRF noted in its letter.
That is precisely why our Founders adopted our entirely secular Constitution and, when they did so, they did not pray at the Constitutional Convention, FFRF reminded Sessions. The only references to religion in our godless Constitution are exclusionary. The United States was first among nations to adopt a secular Constitution — investing sovereignty in “We the People,” not a divinity.
“President Trump’s child separation policy is doing serious damage not only to parents and children, but also to America,” FFRF wrote. “Sessions’ use of religion to justify it is an egregious violation of the spirit of the First Amendment.”
FFRF points out that the bible should not shape public policy — not only because it is a behavioral grab bag full of primitive and outdated ideas and morality, but because we live in a secular nation and under a secular government. Imagine the consternation had Sessions preached instead from the Quran. It is equally inappropriate for the attorney general to preach from the Christian bible.
Ironically, Sessions himself acknowledged his secular duty in the same speech in which he preached from Romans 13. “But I am a law officer, a law officer for a nation state, a secular nation state, not a theocracy; it’s not a church,” he said. Yes, America is not a theocracy, FFRF emphasizes, and that’s why Sessions should stop treating his government office as though it were a pulpit.
The changing demographics of the United States make biblical rationalizations even more unsuitable. Today nearly one-quarter of Americans (24 percent) are religiously unaffiliated, for a total of nearly 30 percent non-Christians. Not only are a huge number of younger Americans religiously unaffiliated, but 21 percent of Americans born after 1999 identify as explicitly atheist or agnostic.