by guest blogger: Mathew Goldstein
Brian Tubbs, in his New Year's Day article, Dependence on God: An American Tradition, advocates for voters imposing their own religious test on government officials by voting exclusively for theists. In making this argument he depicts himself as a defender of the "desires" and "prerogatives" of the American people, saying "If they want only a President who is left-handed, that is also their right. An individual voter has the unqualified right to vote for whomever he or she pleases, based on whatever criteria he or she sets. That's the heart of democracy. Lose that, and you're in serious trouble!". He comments that "At this point in the discussion, those frustrated by these realities point to the First Amendment's establishment clause or the constitutional prohibition against religious tests." He counters this with the observation that "Challenging the reality of this theme is an exercise in futility." This is a misrepresentation of the goals of advocates for non-establishment of monotheism. While it is true that we are frustrated with widespread prejudice against atheists, we are seeking only equality of opportunities, not equality of results.
Advocates for non-establishment of monotheism want to make the opportunities for participation in our democracy more inclusive by ensuring that governments avoid assuming the role of advising citizens that majority right-handedness is preferred over minority left-handedness or that majority monotheism is preferred over minority atheism. This does not entail requiring anyone to vote for people they don't want or limiting the criteria anyone employs to make their decisions. People can vote for only right-handed candidates without the government declaring "in right-handedness we trust" and that we are "one nation, right-handed, indivisible". Defenders of the establishment of monotheism want government that favors their own monotheistic beliefs while defenders of non-establishment of monotheism want government that doesn't tilt the playing field for or against any one's religious beliefs. To see this lets look at the current EC lawsuits of the Freedom from Religion Foundation.
They filed suit in U.S. District Court, Spartanburg Division, Greenville, S.C., on June 17, 2009, challenging the awarding of academic credits for evangelical release-time instruction by a public school district. On December 30, 2008 they filed a lawsuit seeking to enjoin the Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court from adding the religious phrase, "So help me God," to the Presidential oath of office. The Foundation took the County of Manitowoc, Wis., to court in mid-December 2008 over its prominent display every December since 1946 of a nativity scene bearing the words "Glory to God in the Highest" on its courthouse lawn. The Foundation and various regional media were unable to uncover any permit for the display, or approval by the Manitowoc Public Works Committee, or even written guidelines about public displays. They filed suit on Nov. 26, 2008, in federal court against the City of Rancho Cucamonga, Calif., for taking actions which led to the censorship of its "Imagine No Religion" billboard. The Foundation filed a federal lawsuit on Oct. 3, 2008, broadly challenging the federal law designating a National Day of Prayer and requiring a National Day of Prayer Proclamation by the President. They launched a challenge to the religious phrase "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance on Oct. 31, 2007.
As can be seen, the goal of advocates of non-establishment of monotheism is to limit the scope of government actions to the issues of governing in accordance with the rule of law principle. We want to eliminate obstacles to equal participation by non-theistic minorities that are unfairly erected by our government with our government's imprimatur on behalf of monotheists. Government bias for monotheism over atheism interferes with the opportunities for the atheist minority to participate as equals in the civic affairs of the nation. The democratic process itself needs to be uncontaminated by bias between monotheistic and atheistic perspectives to be truly democratic and therefore government, as the sole administrator of that process and, more generally, as the sole administrator of our laws, has a responsibility to exhibit neutrality.