Skepticism

America’s Looming Theocracy

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Well, the Christian nationalists have finally done it: public schools in Louisiana will now be required to display the Ten Commandments despite the fact that this is blatantly unconstitutional. Fun!

Last year, I celebrated the death of a bill in Texas that would have required public schools to display the Ten Commandments, but I pointed out that evangelicals were doing their usual thing of introducing the same unconstitutional legislation in every state they could in the hopes that at least one will pass. Well, last month Louisiana succeeded, meaning that starting in January every single public classroom, kindergarten to college, will have the Ten Commandments prominently posted on the wall.

The legislation is kind of unintentionally funny because it says things like this:

“Recognizing the historical role of the Ten Commandments accords with our nation’s history and faithfully reflects the understanding of the founders of our nation with respect to the necessity of civic morality to a functional self-government. History records that James Madison, the fourth President of the United States of America, stated that “(w)e have staked the whole future of our new nation . . . upon the capacity of each of ourselves to govern ourselves according to the moral principles of the Ten Commandments.””

Here’s the problem: James Madison never said that. The quote actually comes to us from this stupid hick–David Barton, an evangelical Christian nationalist hellbent on turning America into a theocracy. He included a version of that quote in his book “The Myth of Separation,” aloong with severall other completely made up quotes from Founding Fathers. In that book, he cited a source that turned out to admit the quote came from a “1958 calendar of Spiritual Mobilization.” The quote got a lot of publicity back in the ‘90s when conservative shock jock and all-around piece of shit Rush Limbaugh said it on his shitty radio show, at which point the editors of Madison’s papers stepped in to report, “We did not find anything in our files remotely like the sentiment expressed in the extract you sent us. In addition, the idea is inconsistent with everything we know about Madison’s views on religion and government, views which he expressed time and time again in public and in private.”

So yeah, the basis for Louisiana requiring schools to display rules like “don’t lie” is a lie. But of course it is. It has to be, because the US was quite obviously founded, as a country, with religious freedom as an important concept. Not only is it enshrined in the first amendment, but also in a multitude of other documents, and letters, and rulings for the past 150 years or so. They MUST lie in order to pass this legislation.

The last time a state passed a law requiring the ten commandments be displayed in public schools was in 1978 in Kentucky. For many years prior, Kentucky schools had already done that despite it being unconstitutional, so it’s VERY funny that it was only stopped because they tried to make it a law. Parents sued, that lawsuit ended up in front of the US Supreme Court, and in 1980 the justices made the obvious ruling that the law was unconstitutional. It was so obvious that they made the rare decision to not even bother hearing oral arguments. No. It’s unconstitutional. Go home and read your commandments there you idiots.

And that’s where this Louisiana law is going. Parents from a broad variety of faiths as well as atheism have already filed a lawsuit, which the Louisiana courts will reject, and so eventually it will end up at the Supreme Court, who will…well, who knows? The Burger Court in 1980 was conservative, and the court today is batshit insane. They could honestly just rule that the Louisiana law is constitutional and finally just demolish the wall separating church and state and make America an official theocracy.

Meanwhile, other states are continuing to try to pass this same law. In Oklahoma, the state superintendent announced that he’s not even waiting for legislation to pass, and that he would be requiring every teacher in the state to keep a Bible in the classroom and teach from it. He didn’t detail exactly what lessons should be taught but if I were a teacher I would absolutely welcome the opportunity to tell students all about the contradictions, the ridiculous stories, the goofy laws…like literally every day I would carve out just a fun 20-minute “Look How Fucking Stupid this Shit Is” lesson. Maybe I’d pair it with readings from other religious texts to illustrate how everyone else also thinks their god is the One True God, and we could go over the odds that the religion YOU believe in just because your parents believe it is the One True Religion. I would absolutely turn my classroom into an atheist factory. I would welcome little Christian children in and by the time June rolls around some asshole atheists will be walking out. I’d also sponsor an after school Satanism club. We’d listen to death metal, paint our nails black, burn stuff, whatever.

Anyway, Oklahoma is also trying to pass a Ten Commandments law. Arizona, Utah, and South Carolina also have the same law waiting to be passed. So if you live in one of those states, first of all I am so, so sorry. Second of all, call your representatives and curse at them. Third of all, have you considered the teaching profession? I’ve heard it can be quite rewarding. Not monetarily but in terms of encouraging children to challenge their own parents’ deeply held beliefs. Just throwing it out there.

Rebecca Watson

Rebecca is a writer, speaker, YouTube personality, and unrepentant science nerd. In addition to founding and continuing to run Skepchick, she hosts Quiz-o-Tron, a monthly science-themed quiz show and podcast that pits comedians against nerds. There is an asteroid named in her honor. Twitter @rebeccawatson Mastodon mstdn.social/@rebeccawatson Instagram @actuallyrebeccawatson TikTok @actuallyrebeccawatson YouTube @rebeccawatson BlueSky @rebeccawatson.bsky.social

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