Texas: What the Hell? Thou Shalt Honor Thy First Amendment
5/25/2003 — Update below.
Once again, the Texas Legislature leads by example! Erroneous and wrongheaded example, but, Bless Their Little Hearts, they’re just not real good at thinking complicated things through.
The present lawmaking adventure of the GOP-controlled Lege is an attempt to impose a militant brand of Christian Nationalism as the official public religion of Texas. Throughout history, such right-wing attempts to subvert a pluralistic society’s sense of the Common Good with the narrowest mindset of one particular pietistic group has led to both great harm and unintended hilarity. Indeed, the Lone Star State has a long and daffy history of getting the Bible jumbled up in public policy. In the 1920s, for example, Governor Miriam A “Ma” Ferguson rejected a proposal for bilingual education in our schools: “If English was good enough for Jesus Christ,” she explained, “it ought to be good enough for the children of Texas.”
Likewise, today’s trio of Republican numbskulls running our state government – the governor, lt. guv, and attorney general – are acting as Bible-thumping Pentecostals. Lt. Governor Dan Patrick recently rose up on his hind legs to proclaim that ours is “a Christian nation,” that “there is no separation of church and state,” and that God Almighty himself “wrote the Constitution.” To enshrine this religious absolutism into law, these sanctimonious Texas politicos are now enacting a dictate that all public schools must conspicuously display The Ten Commandments “in every classroom,” and the nitpicking autocrats even specify that the displays “must be at least 16-by-20 inches.” It’s rule by rulers.
TIDBIT: The sanctity of the Ten Commandments derives from its devotees contention that the instructions were literally handed down by God. So, every word is sacrosanct. Except “ass.” The 10thCommandment directs: “Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s house… wife… manservant… maidservant… ox… ass….” But the sponsor of the Texas bill, a self-righteous pissant of a senator named Phil King, took the ungodly liberty of removing ass from the holy version of the Lord’s Word. Thus, the children will be instructed by law to obey a religious code co-authored by Yahweh and Phil King. And, thanks to Phil’s red-ink editing pen, they will be morally free to covet their neighbor’s ass.
As proof that these Christian edicts are the holy foundation of US law, pushers of the public indoctrination of children point out that a frieze along the east Wall of the US Supreme Court is emblazoned with the numbers I through X. This shows, they assert, that our nation’s laws are derived from the higher authority of Christian commandments.
But – Holy Ma Ferguson! – they’re flaunting their ignorance. Those numbers refer not to the Bible, but to the Constitution, specifically the 10 Amendments that itemized our people’s original Bill of Rights. And remember that the very first one of those secular amendments prohibits government from enacting any law for the “establishment of religion.”
Note, too, that none of America’s founding documents (Declaration of Independence, Constitution, Federalist Papers) even mentions the Christian commandments. Finally, the various writers of the Bible itself don’t agree on the proper wording of the so-called commandments, how many there are, and what they mean.
Unfortunately, what happens in Texas will not stay here, for political craziness and right-wing cynicism recognize no state boundaries. Indeed, the Lone Star charlatans who’re leading this Ten Commandments political ploy gloat that they are creating a national model for infusing our public sphere with the hegemony of Christian Nationalism. As one of the Texas acolytes put it: “We think we can really set a trend for the rest of the country.”
To get the lowdown on the Ten Commandments (or is it 13? Or more?) The Freedom From Religion Foundation provides factual insights and historical context for each one. FFRF is the leading source for tracking theocratic assaults on religious freedom and for providing how-to action items for battling right-wing efforts to turn our local, state, and national government into autocratic theocracies. Connect at ffrf.org.
5/25/2023 - Update
Hooray, commonsense, sanity, and the People's will made a surprise raid on the TX House and hogtied the GOPs scheme to dictate a core piece of Christian Nationalism as the official state religion.
A hardy band of progressive (ie, sane) legislators used a daylong procedural stall to prevent a vote on Tuesday, the last day to approve bills before the legislative session ends. The victory won't end the effort by right-wing religious autocratic to install their theocracy over the people of this diverse state, but it stops them this year—giving grassroots progressives time to organize and mobilize against Christian Nationalists' next attack on democracy.