Depends on the meaning of no

“I haven’t made a formal announcement about the Senate race, but I am interested about the issues,” – Former Attorney General Jeff Sessions. (link)

I’m concerned that Jeff Sessions is getting back into politics for a number of reasons, one of which is separation of church and state. Our Constitution, First Amendment, reads:“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof” 

Many modern-day conservatives, like Attorney General Sessions, only acknowledge the “free exercise” part of the above. As AG, Sessions proposed the formation of a “religious liberty” task force to enforce Session’s skewed interpretation of the constitution: “we have not only the freedom to worship, but the right to exercise our faith.” 

So, is it really religious liberty that is the true focus of the task force? Or, would the group be better named the “bigotry using religion as an excuse” task force? Isn’t that what Sessions means by his unique definition of “exercise”?

Usually, the “free exercise” misinterpretation comes with the implication that we are a “Christian nation”. Of course, there is absolutely no basis for this wrongheaded assumption. But there are consequences of using this misinterpretation as the basis for public policy decisions.

Under Sessions’ interpretation, clearly designed to promote his ideas as to the role of religion in our lives, there is unrestricted liberty to infringe on others “unalienable rights.” If Sessions had his way, for example, all of these actions would be legal due to the perpetrator citing his personal religious tenets:

  • a middle class African-American couple is refused service at a restaurant by a member of the Christian Identity Church;
  • an elderly Jewish couple is refused a room by a motel owner, a member of the Radical Traditional Catholicism sect;
  • a Hindu graduate student is refused entrance to a master’s degree program at a “Christian” college;
  • an Egyptian-American Islamic studies professor is told that an ultra-orthodox Jewish surgeon does not accept Muslim patients; and
  • a wealthy married gay couple are in a serious auto accident, but the EMS worker is a fundamentalist Kingdom Identity Ministries member who refuses to treat them.

It can’t happen here? It can and will if Sessions’ efforts succeed.

Sessions clearly does not understand how this nation was formed during the “Age of Enlightenment.” Our Founding Fathers were very aware of the problems brought about In Europe by centuries of bloody religious conflict. They obviously wanted to avoid that divisiveness here in the New World, a place where Europeans came to practice their religions freely. Therefore, they wanted a wall separating religion and government. That wall is violated when any government employee, including a former politician like Sessions, advocates directly or indirectly for religion.

The founders were Renaissance men who often did not believe in God and/or the Trinity, at least not as many current day evangelicals like Sessions do. For example, in 1787 Jefferson wrote:

  • “Question with boldness even the existence of a god.” (link)

And, in Notes on the State of Virginia:

  • “But it does me no injury for my neighbour to say there are twenty gods, or no god.” (link)

And, in a letter to John Adams:

  • “The day will come when the mystical generation of Jesus by the Supreme Being in the womb of a virgin, will be classed with the fable of the generation of Minerva in the brain of Jupiter.” (link)
  • Adams, a Unitarian, also did not believe in the Trinity, stating: “The government of the United States is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion.” (link)
  • And: “This would be the best of all possible worlds, if there were no religion in it.” (link)

Ben Franklin wrote:

  • “Lighthouses are more helpful than churches”; (link)
  • “The way to see by Faith is to shut the Eye of Reason”; (link)
  • “I have found Christian dogma unintelligible. Early in life, I absenteed myself from Christian assemblies.”; (link)
  • “To Follow by faith alone is to follow blindly.” (link)

And, George Washington instructed his agent when hiring people to build Mount Vernon:

  • “If they are good workmen, they may be of Asia, Africa, or Europe. They may be Mahometans [Mohammedans/Muslims], Jews, or Christians of any Sect, or they may be Atheists.” (link)

Somehow, I cannot see Sessions agreeing with any of those statements by our Founding Fathers. Regardless, Sessions role is not to radically reinterpret our Constitution. As a Conservative, he should know that. Obviously, he does not, given the creation of his task force which in theory will “protect” religion… but in reality, will strongly promote it.

Alabama residents need to think twice about putting him back into Congress. 


Image Credit: the feature image of Jeff Sessions with the Founding Fathers is a composite image created for The base image is a a painting by John Trumbull depicting the Committee of Five presenting their draft to the Congress on June 28, 1776 (the painting can be found on the back of the U.S. $2 bill and the original hangs in the US Capitol rotunda) and is in the public domain via; the head of Jeff Sessions was borrowed from the web (parody/fair use) for which we apologize.

Jack Bernard

Jack Bernard

Jack A Bernard is a retired SVP with a national healthcare corporation. He was Chair of the Jasper County, Ga Board of Commissioners and Republican Party. He was also on the Board of Health for Jasper County and is currently on the Fayette County BOH. Bernard has over 100 columns published annually, primarily in the South.