The Tea Party, the Constitution and Theocracy
By Jean Kastanek
The Tea Party is dangerously close to having the power needed to dismantle our democracy and replace it with a theocracy based on a twisted misinterpretation of the Bible. The Tea Party is one state legislature away from being able to call a Constitutional Convention.
As patriots who love the Constitution as it was written by the founding fathers, and improved by the limited amendments since then, we must counter the Tea Party at every turn. Most of America has been unaware of the true motives of this party while they quietly took over state legislature after state legislature and Democratic leaders failed to stop it.
Texas Governor Greg Abbott has made assembling a convention of states a top priority during his time in the governor’s office. In January, 2017, he put forward nine constitutional amendments, including a proposal to allow a two-thirds majority of the states to override U.S. Supreme Court decisions.
While legislation calling for a convention of states did not make it through the Texas legislature during the 2015 session, supporters believe a few factors might work in their favor this time around.
One of those factors is that 34 states are required to trigger a convention for constitutional amendments; the GOP currently controls the state legislatures in 33 of them.
The Constitution provides that an amendment may be proposed either by the Congress with a two-thirds majority vote in both the House of Representatives and the Senate or by a constitutional convention called for by two-thirds of the state legislatures (34 states). Three-fourths of the states would be required to ratify an amendment (38 states). (www.Congress.gov/constitution).
According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a constitutional convention likely would be extremely contentious and highly politicized.
The Tea Party movement, created in September, 2004, includes references to religion throughout its website. For example:
“The Tea Party includes those who possess a strong belief in the foundational Judeo-Christian values embedded in our great founding documents.”
“Yes, we are a Christian nation.”
In a September, 2011, NPR article entitled, “The Tea Party’s Tension: Religious Role in Politics”, some Tea Party supporters expressed this alarming religious intolerance:
That’s what started this whole downfall of America — taking God out of everything, and political correctness. We were founded on Judeo-Christian principles, and it’s like ‘What’s happened? Why aren’t we fighting to save that?’ They (our founding forefathers) fought hard for that, so why aren’t we? So we’re out here trying to fight for those principles.
Another Tea Party supporter, an evangelical Christian, said, “We are a Judeo-Christian country, and I don’t care who says we’re not, we obviously are,” adding that religious conservatives are the sleeping giant in the Tea Party. www.npr.org/2010/09/30/the-tea-partys-tension-religious-role-in-politics
Dominionism and the Establishment Clause
A few years later in February 2015, an article featured in Politicususa did not mention the Tea Party but does reveal a disturbing trend in our society:
A Public Policy Polling (PPP) national survey conducted between February 20th and February 22nd of Republican voters, found that an astonishing 57 percent of Republicans want to dismantle the Constitution, and establish Christianity as the official national religion. Only 30 percent oppose making Christianity the national religion.
Although the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment clearly states that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion,” GOP voters want to cast aside that provision and impose Christianity as the official American religion.
While a number of red states have passed statutes forbidding the implementation of Islam-based sharia law in their states, Republicans apparently have no misgivings about turning the United States into a Christian theocracy.
While a clear majority of Americans self-identify as Christians, most Americans outside the GOP, would be uncomfortable with conservative Dominionist theology. Dominionism calls for imposing a theocracy in America where Christianity is declared the official religion, and the nation is governed by ‘Biblical law’.”
By 2016, while still adhering to its core values that are “non-negotiable”, such as reduced federal spending, the Tea Party has embraced extreme right religious views that oppose abortion even in cases of rape or incest, seek to void gay marriages, and are intolerant of any religious views other than their judgmental and angry misinterpretation of Christianity.
The First Amendment
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
What are the consequences of changes in the First Amendment? We are already seeing attempts to limit freedom of the press, freedom to peaceably assemble, and the right to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
Is the freedom to exercise our religious beliefs threatened as well? Will a teacher be able to legally refuse to teach a student because he or she “suspects” the student is gay? What if a teacher refuses to teach a Muslim student because that student’s beliefs are not “Christian”? Is the push towards private religious schools using a voucher system nothing more than a cover-up for a movement towards a theocracy in our country?
What if there is a Muslim majority in a particular community? Will the City Council there have the right to declare Islam the city’s official religion?
Christianity and other religions have thrived in America because the government has been prohibited from trying to “help” them. Mixing government and religion is poisonous to both and risks creating an environment like that in many European countries where religion faces a steep decline. Whether you are Christian, Muslim, Jewish, “none of the above,” or otherwise, protecting the First Amendment from change protects your right to belief what you want and to reject other beliefs. It has what made us great for more than 200 years—why change it now?
Even some very conservative groups, such as Texas Eagle Forum, are opposed to a constitutional convention. They understand that once that process starts, there is no telling where it might end up. One group might get rid of the First Amendment, while another group tries to get rid of the Second Amendment. Fundamental rights are too important to subject to a popularity contest.
The Tea Party has steadily amassed the power necessary to accomplish its aims. It has aggressively campaigned for its chosen candidates, both locally and nationally. It aggressively lobbies those in power in Washington and at the state level to pass legislation that more closely aligns with the party’s radical “non-negotiable” core beliefs.
The Tea Party has been credited by some as being responsible for the election of Donald Trump as President of the United States. Others dismiss this and claim the Tea Party has run out of steam and is operating mostly at a local level these days.
The election of Donald Trump illustrates that the Tea Party has enough influence over the Republican Party to fulfill its aims. The Tea Party dogma has been strengthened by his election and it strengthened its alliance between white supremacists, Christian fundamentalists and anti-choice reactionaries during the 2016 campaign. alive and well. But no threat from the Tea Party compares to the gravity of the danger of a constitutional convention. All religious communities in the United States are put at risk when religion beliefs can be dictated by law. The First Amendment protects us all and we cannot risk it being weakened or eliminated.