When One Group’s Ascendency Must Prevent Another’s
It’s fascinating to hear people who wish to radically alter the law and culture by any means necessary and silence their opposition attempt to explain why the other side is the home of oppression and closed mindedness. One specimen of the genre, oddly not apparently online, comes courtesy David Adams Murphy.
After introducing his subject as a response to Providence Bishop Thomas Tobin’s “anti-secularist blather,” in a prior op-ed about Governor Lincoln Chafee’s apparent aversion to public prayer, Murphy explains the First Amendment as intended, in part, “to keep any one faith from having ascendancy over another in government.” How this is to be accomplished — that is, how the worldview of a majority of Americans (whatever that might be) is to be suppressed so as to give it equal weight to the worldview of a minority — he does not detail. Instead, Murphy elides all evidence that the Founders were religious believers, some of whom stressed the importance of religion if a democratic republic could hope to survive. He then whips out the secularist’s cheat-sheet list of Christians’ improprieties and atrocities.
Finally, Murphy presumes to declare Tobin’s true purpose:
Why does the bishop call for religious influence on government? Because he desires a power to influence he doesn’t deserve, but nevertheless enjoyed over Governor Chafee’s nitwit predecessor. The unelected leader of this diocese, selected by the pope (who is nothing less than a bureaucratically appointed monarch), seeks to form public policy from his pulpit, dictate laws that conform with his interpretation of scripture, and doubtless funnel public monies to his church’s coffers.
Doubtless. Of course, the fact that some sort of prayer has been a tradition long preceding Governor Carcieri does not come up for consideration. It would be far too much to expect the likes of Murphy to ponder the significance of the fact that a religion’s political power, such as it is, derives mostly from its ability to persuade voters that its assessment of reality is correct and applies to a particular issue in such-and-such a way.
Murphy’s central concern is clearly to disallow Christians to bring their religion to the table for public debate or even, one can justifiably suppose, into the voting booth. He therefore must paint their spiritual leaders as power-hungry descendants of barbarians and dictators and stir up the specter of insidious corruption in the modern day.
If Mr. Thomas Tobin, resident of Rhode Island, were Murphy’s actual target, his string of vitriol and hostility would be manifestly inappropriate. One can conclude, therefore, that it isn’t the bishop himself that Murphy fears and loathes, but the electoral majority that might agree with him. David Adams Murphy’s declaration of “disgust” points mainly at the rest of us, and his insinuation is that we, his fellow Rhode Islanders, are mere op-eds or homilies away from burning witches and Joan D’Arc. We must be stopped. We must be prevented from hearing the seductive lure of clerics who ask us to acknowledge that political leaders are only human beings in need of guidance and humility about the extent of their authority.
In other words, Murphy’s tones are those of the totalitarian, not Tobin’s.