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Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Sheriff Morgan: Muslims Do Not Have Constitutional Freedom of Religion


Sheriff Morgan's August 2013 speech before the Rotary Club of Pensacola was also remarkable for the assertion that religious pluralism in America was morally wrong--the equivalent of appeasing Nazis before the Second World War.

In the context of recommending William Manchester's three-volume biography of Winston Spencer Churchill, Sheriff Morgan stated:

"And what you’ll find striking, and I find striking by the way, is the policy of appeasement that we go through in almost a cyclic mode throughout our communities and our societies.  An appeasement across the board.  We intend to appease crime; we intend to appease political opponents; we intend to appease those who have different religious beliefs than we do.  And the frightening thing about these volumes is this, if you changed NAZI to Muslim, you'll have a terrific eye opener in the history and the way the world is progressing." [emphasis added]

"Appease...Different Religious Beliefs"

Indicative that Sheriff Morgan does derive his beliefs about politics from the authoritarian, moralistic, dominionist, conservative religious wing of the Republican Party is his statement that "we intend to appease those who have different religious beliefs than we do."  This statement then segued directly into the substitution of "Muslim" for "NAZI."

Thus, one can reasonably infer that the different religion he was talking about was Islam.  While that is dangerous enough coming from a Sheriff, his statement is also broad enough to include just about anyone Sheriff Morgan might disagree with on theological grounds.

Under the First Amendment's Establishment and Free Exercise clauses, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof," the idea that a Sheriff can state categorically that what we are doing in America is "appeasing those who have different religious beliefs than we do" constitutes nothing less than an abridgement of the freedom of religion.

The Possible Influence of the Christian Right on Sheriff Morgan

Where did Sheriff Morgan get this idea that accommodating other religious beliefs was wrong and that his beliefs were not contrary to the U.S. Constitution?  One source may have been the Christian Reconstructionist's Constitution Party.  Here is the preamble to its 2008 party platform:

"This great nation was founded, not by religionists, but by Christians;
not on religions but on the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  For this very
reason peoples of other faiths have been and are afforded asylum,
prosperity, and freedom of worship here."

While it is simply not true that the country was founded by Christians on the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the statement makes clear that anyone other than the right sort of Christian is a second-class person who could be deported at anytime.

It is quite possible that Sheriff Morgan has never heard of the Christian Reconstructionists or the Constitution Party, though he almost surely ran into its presidential candidate--the one endorsed by Ron Paul--Chuck Baldwin from Pensacola at the Pensacola confab for Ron Paul in 2008.  This is the same Chuck Baldwin included in a 1996 article on David and Susan Morgan being ardent opponents of abortion and strong supporters of the racist, anti-Semitic Pat Buchanan.  What influence, if any, did Pastor Baldwin have on Sheriff Morgan before he left Pensacola to become the national chaplain of the pro-secessionist, pro-militia Oath Keepers?

Surely, however, Sheriff Morgan's ideas could have been influenced by pseudo-historian David Barton who has worked assiduously for nearly three decades to spread a false history of America as a Christian nation into the Republican Party and is part of the Christian Right.

Barton was the former vice chairman of the Texas Republican Party.  He is an advisor to Republican state and local governments.  He influences Republican members of Congress to introduce Christian nationalist resolutions.

Not only is Barton a dominionist close to the New Apostolic Reformation religious movement and proponent of its Seven Mountains doctrine, but Barton managed to have Newt Gingrich include the statement from the Constitution Party's preamble (and Barton's book) into Gingrich's video and program declaring that the U.S. Constitution is based on the Old Testament.

Barton was also Representative Michelle Bachmann's choice to lecture Republicans in Congress on the biblical foundations of the Constitution.  In 2004, Barton helped the Republican Party get out the vote by mobilizing pastors, and in 2010 partnered with Glenn Beck to get out the vote by promoting his America is a Christian nation schtick.

Given David Barton's out-sized influence on the Republican Party, it is not unreasonable to assume that there is some degree of ideological affinity between Barton's views and those of Sheriff Morgan--a long-time social conservative.

But, let us not even consider the specificity of Islam or Muslims because Sheriff Morgan made a broad statement of Christian nationalist supremacy and dominionism, that is, supremacy for a particular kind of Christian, a dominionist Christian.

Who is the "we" in his statement?  It is not at all clear who "we" is, but it certainly establishes that there is an undefined "we" and an undefined "they."  The "they" could be anybody--Catholics, Jews, mainline Protestants, non-dominionist Christians, Muslims, Mormons, indigenous peoples, atheists, and others.  And, any compromise with "they" is equivalent to appeasement.

Coming from a Sheriff who must enforce the law, including constitutional provisions, that is a very chilling statement.  It should give every resident of Escambia County pause as to how Sheriff Morgan perceives his constitutional duties.

Sheriff Morgan v. the Constitution of the United States of America

Instead of going to scholars, let us just go straight to the Constitution and the clearest statement that religion has no role to play in our democratic governance.  I have already noted that Sheriff Morgan's statement is contrary to both the Establishment and Free Exercise clauses of the First Amendment.

The words of the U.S. Constitution are so clear that even Sheriff Morgan--a sworn officer of the law, an officer who has sworn allegiance to protect and defend the U.S. Constitution--should understand.

Article VI, part of the Constitution ratified by twelve states prior to the inclusion of the Bill of Rights, the first ten amendments to the U.S. Constitution, states, in part:

"The Senators and Representatives...shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States."

In other words, anyone holding any religious beliefs or no religious beliefs can hold office.  A person vying for political office cannot be tested to see if they hold the "correct" religious beliefs.  There is no "we" in Article VI, except every single citizen of the country.  There is definitely no "they."  Article VI is absolutely clear that no religion can have primacy or supremacy or be favored or be used in any way to discriminate against someone running for office or holding office.

And yet here we have Sheriff Morgan stating that it is wrong to "appease those who have different religious beliefs than we do."

Clearly, Sheriff Morgan is implying that he is promoting some kind of religious test regarding which ideas are protected under the Constitution and which religious ideas are not protected.

Concluding Observation

In the context of stating in the next sentence that one could "change NAZI to Muslim," and the context of abhoring political and religious compromises, particularly since the word "appeasement" was used in the context of World War II and "Nazi," it is fair to conclude that he meant Muslims are not to be afforded constitutional protections to practice their beliefs without interference from the government, or Sheriff Morgan?

Sheriff Morgan's apparent belief that Muslims and undefined others who may not share Sheriff Morgan's religious beliefs are not fit to practice their religion freely should require him to issue a lengthy clarification.

Instead of seeing the give-and-take of politics and compromise as a normal part of the democratic contest, he sees "appeasement."  Instead of seeing religious pluralism as a normal condition of American society, he sees "appeasement."

Sheriff Morgan's statements at the Rotary Club of Pensacola cast serious doubts on his qualifications to be Sheriff of Escambia County.  Sheriff Morgan, why do you get such settled constitutional issues so wrong?

1 comment:

  1. The irony is almost painful.

    He's reading a speech to the Rotary Club that somebody else probably wrote, touting a three-volume biography he's never read, in front a banner that promotes the Four-Way Test which the Rotary Club, an organization dedicated to service and ethical business practices, believes should be applied to all we think, do or say:

    1. Is it the TRUTH?

    2. Is it FAIR to all concerned?

    3. Will it build GOODWILL and BETTER FRIENDSHIPS?

    4. Will it be BENEFICIAL to all concerned?

    And he's doing it with a straight face! The mind reels.

    Oh, Mr. Kafka, you're not gonna believe this! Be sure to tell Mr. Orwell that he absolutely nailed it. Hope you guys are having a good laugh. Wish you were here.