Rethinking America, Richter Scale

The Creeping Saudi Arabization of America

The U.S. Supreme Court chips away at the separation between church and state.

The Bill of Rights to the U.S. Constitution

Takeaways


  • Does the Supreme Court aim to bring more Middle Eastern spirit to America?
  • The fundamentalists on the Supreme Court undermine the fundamental principles of America’s founding.
  • The latest move by the US’s highest court is akin to a creeping Saudi Arabization of America.
  • Given Europe’s bloody example, the US wisely made the practice of religion a private matter.
  • The legal “logic” is always the same with the Supreme Court: define the political outcome you want to see.
  • The old US safeguards of the freedom and privacy of religion are being thrown overboard.
  • Prior to the Roberts Supreme Court, the US used to be among the leading forces of modernity.

You have to leave it to the conservative majority on the U.S. Supreme Court: As all the world knows, the U.S. adventure to bring democracy to the Middle East is failing rather miserably. Undeterred by this failure, the Supreme Court is doing its level best to bring more Middle Eastern sectarian spirit to America.

Case in point: The 5:4 ruling, rendered in early May 2014, that it is fine for a town council government in New York State to begin its sessions with a Christian prayer.

If any part of the U.S. constitution is known virtually worldwide, it is probably the principle of separation of church and state and the lack of a state religion. Nevertheless, according to the court’s majority, prohibiting such a prayer in a government context (in line with precedents going back to 1947) is “beyond the authority of government.”

The legal “logic” is always the same with this court: First, they define the political outcome they want to see. Then they come up with a freewheeling legal doctrine that fits their political tastes.

In a different case – one where the justices would want to prohibit a practice they don’t like – they would flip their current “reasoning” on its ahead. Then, the decision would argue that a specific practice must be “under the authority of government.”

Against the core founding principles

Whatever the Supreme Court justices’ semi-artful way of reinventing American law, they are going against the core principles promoted by many early leaders of the United States — and the colonies before them.

Indeed, before the United States started its journey among nations, refugees in pursuit of religious freedom were among the early settlers of this country. Many had fled state religions that did not allow them to practice freely.

While some groups were less than tolerant toward other sects in individual U.S. states, when it came to writing the nation’s constitution, the framers maintained this spirit of tolerance as a core principle.

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To keep the federal government unsullied by considerations of religion, they embraced the separation of church and state. They had good reason to do so. Europe’s history at the time was pock marked by long wars of religion between neighboring principalities and states of different faiths – and the believers in the U.S. states were similarly varied. Wars of religion could easily have erupted between the new American states too.

Given Europe’s rather bloody example, it was deemed advisable to make the practice of religion a private matter. Eventually, this national principle was applied to the states and local governments via the post-Civil War 14th Amendment and Supreme Court rulings. Now, these old safeguards are being thrown overboard.

Given the proud starting point of the United States, one can only deem the latest move by the country’s highest court as akin to a creeping Saudi Arabization of America.

To be sure, Saudi Arabia is among the most intolerant countries in the world when it comes to religion. The United States is obviously far removed from the Wahhabis’ arrogance, cynicism and grave intolerance toward other religions.

Destruction by fundamentalism

The band of fundamentalists serving on the court these days has but one goal – to go up against the fundamental principles of America’s founding and destroying them brick by brick, on one issue after another.

Sophists that some of these justices are, they will always find some shady principle or phraseology on which to pin their latest attempt to move the United States out of the 21st century and back toward the late 18th century, if not further back than that.

Editor’s note: This essay was originally published on May 7, 2014, and was updated by the author on June 28, 2014.

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About Stephan Richter

Stephan Richter is the publisher and editor-in-chief of The Globalist.

  • zmanbk

    I don’t agree with the Court’s ruling in this case, but to call this “Saudification” or whatever is just bananas-level rhetorical excess. Allowing expressions of faith in the public square doesn’t violate the Establishment clause – indeed, it’s an expression of modest religious tolerance. We have many such expressions – reverence for God is expressed on our money, in the fact that we have a Congressional Chaplain who offers prayers at the beginning of each session, etc. What is actually “shameful” is Mr. Richter absurd equating of this longstanding attempt at gentle balancing of faith and secularism with a country – Saudi Arabia – which has religious police who kill people for perceived noncompliance with orthodoxy (see http://www.nytimes.com/2014/02/11/opinion/rein-in-the-saudi-religious-police.html). This kind of grandiosity is the sort of thing one expects from bombastic polemicists like Rush Limbaugh or Glenn Beck… don’t put yourself in such poor company, Mr. Richter.

  • Donald Hogue

    In my opinion, diversity and pluralism are grounded in the civic religious views of the founders which allowed all religions a place in the public square without requiring any test to participate. The Saudi view is just the opposite, excluding all views but one: its own. You also advocate an excusive although secular test which would ironically join the restrictive Saudi world view by approving only one view: your own.

  • Shirley_Mae

    Would ‘Talibanification’, or ‘Al Quedafication’ work better for you?

  • zmanbk

    No. If you even marginally understood my my point, the answer would be obvious to you. The US is in no way turning into Saudi Arabia, the Taliban or Al Qaeda.

  • Shirley_Mae

    Oh, I ‘marginally understand’ a whole lot more than you think. The ‘gentle balancing of faith and secularism’ is to the exclusion of all other forms of religious expression save christianity. As for the ‘reverence for god’ being expressed on our currency, “In God we trust” was adopted as the official motto of the United States in 1956. It seems to me that you can join the ‘bombastic polemicists like Rush Limbaugh or Glenn Beck…’