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As horribly immoral, thoughtless, and unconstitutional as the Supreme Court’s decision to strike down Roe v. Wade, was, in this blog I want to explain why I think it was far worse than you might realize. 

This decision also marks the moment in our history when the nation’s highest court chose to do what the establishment clause in the 1st Amendment says Congress cannot do, “make no law respecting an establishment of religion.” Roe v. Wade made a new law that replaced one that had given women at least some control over their own bodies in regard to reproductive rights and they did so based on their personal religious beliefs rather than the Constitution. 

We know that because the constitutional justification Samuel Alito gives for the decision has been criticized and, in some instances, shredded by constitutional scholars that at the very least begs the question of why the conservative majority chose to make such an historic decision that discarded the principle of stare decisis, the legal principle of making decisions according to precedent.

I submit that the answer to why they did is religion, specifically, Christianity, and even more to the point, Catholic teaching and Protestant evangelicalism, with roots that can be traced back directly to the presidency of George W. Bush.  

Bush did far more than appointing Alito and Roberts to the high court. His entire presidency paved the way for the court’s recent decisions not only regarding Roe, but also the state of Maine being forced to provide tax dollars funding to religiously sectarian schools and football coaches being free to hold mid-field prayer sessions with their team at public schools.

A self-identified evangelical who named “Christ” as the most influential “philosopher” on his life in an election debate, W. Bush filled his administration with evangelical Christians whose personal belief was that religious freedom was under assault by godless secularism and something needed to be done about it.

The inevitable next step was for them to use their power and influence to turn the tide, beginning with Kay Cole James, former Dean at Pat Robinson’s Regent University, who Bush named as head of White House Office of Personnel where she played a major role in staffing decisions, including seeking evangelicals for as many as 4000 possible openings.

He appointed political evangelical John Ashcroft to be his Attorney General whose entire tenure reflected his effort to impose his evangelical beliefs on the nation through decisions he made and policies he implemented, including his creating a “religious freedom” unit within the Civil Rights division of the Justice Department with the unstated purpose of protecting evangelical businesses from prosecution for denying service to customers they deemed morally objectionable.

Bush established the Faith Based Initiative program that allowed religious groups, organizations, and churches to be eligible for receiving tax dollars in support of their social outreach ministries, even if the ultimate stated goal of the program was evangelistic. This program ended up being a disaster with its first Director, John Dililio resigning in protest over too much politics being involved in funding decisions by a staff he considered incompetent.   

Bush’s inner circle of advisors had deep religious ties, especially personal advisor Karen Hughes and speech writer Michael Gerson both of whom were evangelical Christians. He also appointed David Hager, an opponent of the morning after pill to the board of the Food and Drug Administration who managed to persuade the FDA not to approve over-the-counter sale of it.

He chose an abstinence-only and anti-choice doctor named Erick Kerouack to be deputy assistant secretary in the Department of Health and Human Services that was in charge of distributing millions of tax-payer dollars to family planning programs, including those under the control of evangelicals.

Bush also issued an executive order that stopped federal funding of embryonic stem cell research seeking cures for major diseases such as Huntington’s Disease and Parkinson’s. 

He also advocated teaching “intelligent design” in public schools…restored a gag rule on aid to international organizations that counseled women on abortion issues…spent $170 million on abstinence-only schooling in 2005…forced the CDC to remove a study from its website that found abstinence-only programs didn’t work… agreed with 27 anti-choice Congress members who wanted the National Cancer Institute to remove from its online fact sheet findings that proved the claim that abortion caused breast cancer was false.  

Perhaps the most public and misguided pro-evangelical step Bush took was to get Ashcroft to take whatever legal steps possible to keep Terri Schiavo alive, a 41 year old Florida woman who had been kept alive artificially for 15 years when her husband made the very difficult decision to allow a feeding tube to be removed, something to which her parents objected and went to court to stop.  

Bush flew back to Washington for the sole purpose of signing into law a bill passed by a Republican Congress that sided with the parents, but which was later ruled unconstitutional. An autopsy confirmed that Terry’s brain was half the normal size and irrevocably damaged by oxygen deprivation that occurred as a result of her automobile accident injuries.

Beyond all this, Bush named a Christian Nationalist named General William Boykin as undersecretary for defense intelligence who gave speeches in which he said that God had put Bush in the White House and that the U.S. was fighting a Holy war with Islam. (Primary source: Pulitzer Prize winning historian Garry Wills’ book, Head and Heart: American Christianities)

I list these actions by Bush not to drag out his dirty laundry or to suggest Bush was anything like Donald Trump. He wasn’t and he isn’t. From all indications, the entire Bush family loathes all things Trump.

My point here is that Trump Republicans are not the only threat to our democracy, something I believe all of us simply must understand for the sake of the country.

The reality is that even traditional Republicans like Bush are willing to play fast and loose with the Constitution not only for political power, but because of their evangelical beliefs.

As such, over a long span of time they have become a conduit for allowing the influence of conservative Christian beliefs and views to shape public policy, and in many instances to be the determining factor.

This is why the three recent Supreme Court decisions are disturbing beyond the decisions themselves. They suggest that the trend Bush institutionalized in his administration of allowing religion to have an undue and narrow-minded influence on decisions has now reached the nation’s highest court.

The alternative still available to those of us who want our government to remain religiously neutral not only institutionally, but in policy as well, is legislation. That avenue of protecting, however, is threatened by elected traditional Republicans as we are seeing in red states who are passing laws banning choice with no exceptions, and are now talking about going after gay marriage and birth control.

If Republicans, Trumpers and non-Trumpers, gain control of the Congress in the mid-terms, we know what will happen. Indeed, some of them are already telling us what they are planning to do. Mitch McConnell says Congress will pass a national ban on abortion. Ted Cruz vows he will go after gay marriage. Several Republican sources say birth control rights will also be targeted and a law will be passed that will put prayer back in schools.  

Not even the majority of Republican voters say they support either of these efforts, but those same voters will likely vote to give Republicans the power to do it anyway. I admit that I don’t understand that kind of thinking. It makes no sense to me to vote for people who are telling you they will take away your rights. It’s as if Republican voters believe they won’t lose the same rights everyone else will lose.

Obviously, this prospect should drive Democrats and independents to the polls in November, which may be the last hope we have of preserving freedom of and freedom from religion that most Americans rightly believe the Constitution guarantees.

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